As ESPN's fantasy hockey season winds down, the majority of dynasty league managers already are looking forward to next fall. With this view ahead, here's a roundup of one player to invest in now from each team. This medley of assets ranges from experienced veterans to prospects who have yet to play a single NHL contest. The only criteria is that they're already present in the ESPN game (with one exception below) and widely available. Let's dive in.
Altogether inconsistent in his second NHL season, Kase has swung between depressing, unproductive ruts and captivating, highlight-worthy, goal-scoring presentations. Through it all to date, the 22-year-old has 18 goals and 16 assists though 58 games. Experienced hockey insiders are seemingly impressed. A regular top-six role with the Ducks in 2018-19 should promise a possible 60-point campaign.
Endeavoring to earn a fresh contract as Arizona's No. 1 goaltender, Raanta is making a solid case for himself with an 8-2-0 record and .952 save percentage since Feb. 12. After a horrid start to the campaign, the Coyotes as a whole haven't been that awful either, running 16-10-6 since the new year -- better than Los Angeles, St. Louis and Dallas. Already significantly more popular in just the past week, Raanta has dark horse scribbled all over him ahead of 2018-19. Jump on him now.
Even before suffering an upper-body injury earlier this month, DeBrusk never commanded the fantasy respect he deserved through his first NHL drive. This season's introduction to top-six play should translate into a similar role for the rookie forward next campaign. With it, expect an increase in the 21-year-old's current production of 0.61 points per game. The Bruins drafted DeBrusk 14th overall in 2015 for a reason.
Assuming Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen are spoken for, there isn't much else to get our fantasy blood pumping from Buffalo's current roster. Veteran Kyle Okposo merits attention as a rebound candidate, as the power forward has scored too many goals in this league to ignore. Otherwise, Nylander still boasts immeasurable upside. Although he has yet to consistently sparkle in the AHL, the 2016 eighth overall draft pick is showing signs of warming up with 15 points in 15 recent games. He was listed at No. 22 on Chris Peters' recent list of the top 50 prospects. The 20-year-old also could make an NHL appearance before this season concludes.
It's difficult to believe Bennett is still only 21 years old. That's one reason we're not yet ready to toss in the towel on the 2014 fourth overall draft selection. Another is that the Flames are, once again, giving him reps on a top scoring line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. With his current contract expiring after next season, Bennett is entering put-up-or-shut-up territory. The underachieving winger may be worth at least one last roll of the dice in deeper dynasty competition.
After ripping off 32 goals and 20 assists in 61 games with the Charlotte Checkers, the 22-year-old is earning a late-season shot at strutting his stuff at the NHL level. An eventual full-time top-six role with the Hurricanes is hardly out of the question for the 2013 second-round draft pick. Also, dynasty managers with additional patience shouldn't sleep too long on hot forward prospect Martin Necas (0.0 percent), who may or may not (but probably will) play with Carolina next season.
There's no blaming DeBrincat for the Blackhawks failing to earn a playoff spot for the first time in forever. The now-20-year-old wasn't even favored to make the squad out of camp. Twenty-five goals and 21 points in 74 games later, and the rookie winger has established himself as a top-six/power-play contributor moving forward.
By skating their 10th overall draft pick from 2016 out on a second scoring line and the top power play with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, those running the Avalanche are clearly testifying their faith in Jost. We've only gauged the tip of the iceberg from this just-turned 20-year-old.
That extra year in junior hockey appears to be paying off for Dubois and the Blue Jackets. Habitually jammed in between wingers Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson on Columbus' top scoring line, the 19-year-old has 15 goals and 22 assists in 74 games. He's just getting started. Most dynasty owners are advised to grab up the 2016 third overall draft selection if he's available.
How's this for a knuckleball from out of left field? After two seasons in the KHL, Nichushkin is loosely expected to return to his NHL club in 2018-19. If so, it'll be interesting to see what the now-23-year-old (more mature, more experienced) will bring back to the Stars' table. Imagine if the 2013 10th overall draft pick rejoins Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on Dallas' top line, allowing for the flexibility in skating Alexander Radulov on the second unit. Food for fantasy thought, at the very least.
In deeper dynasty leagues, Bertuzzi could be of some use as early as next season. With nothing to play for to wrap up 2017-18, the Red Wings recently have skated the rookie forward consistently on a top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. Investing in tomorrow, the club is allowing the 23-year-old the opportunity to figure things out and make mistakes. For Bertuzzi, it's a rehearsal of sorts that could pay out productive dividends down the road.
When others floundered midseason, Nurse was one of the few members of the Oilers to earn public praise from coach Todd McLellan. In his third NHL campaign, the 2013 seventh overall draft selection is still developing, while also establishing himself as a top-pair defenseman. If Oscar Klefbom (29.9 percent) isn't available, Nurse presents as an attractive secondary fantasy prize from Edmonton's blue line. While earning significant minutes, he'll put up better scoring numbers next year.
A collection of three goals and one assist in six games with the Panthers isn't too shabby for a franchise debut. Eight shots on net versus the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday also was a nice touch. That's with Vatrano mostly filling a supporting role up front with his new squad. A restricted free agent this summer, the 24-year-old winger is expected to fight for top-six minutes alongside either center Aleksander Barkov or Vincent Trocheck next fall, if not much earlier during Florida's potential pending postseason run.
This might ring as a tough sell since Kempe slots in third on the club's depth chart behind fellow centers Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. However, the young versatile forward has plenty of scoring talent and also can be used on the wing, for which the Kings have already shown an inclination. A total of 16 goals and 19 assists through 73 games in what amount's to the 21-year-old's first real NHL campaign strikes as impressive enough. Drafted in the first round in 2014, Kempe presents as one of L.A.'s building blocks for years to come. There's plenty of fantasy value to tap here in deeper, dynasty leagues.
Finally feeling like his old self, Parise is shooting on net and scoring goals again. Specifically, he's registered six goals (and one assist) on 39 shots through 10 games this March. He rifled seven shots on net in two of his past four contests alone. The 33-year-old may have another 30-plus goal season or two in him if he can stay healthy. As long as Minnesota doesn't enjoy too extended of a playoff run, a solid summer's worth of rest and workouts will do Parise a world of good in prepping for next year and beyond.
One of the league's more polarizing figures, fantasy and otherwise, Galchenyuk is either an overrated draft bust or a still-untapped talent misdirected under current circumstances. If your views rest in the latter camp, stash the 24-year-old winger away in hopes 2018-19 brings yet another new dawn in Montreal -- or somewhere else. After all, GM Marc Bergevin has big summer plans. Plus, a little top-six/power-play action to conclude this campaign isn't doing Galchenyuk any harm.
The numbers aren't there yet, but they will be. One of Nashville's building blocks up front, the 24-year-old won't be long for securing a spot in the Predators' top six as early as next season. Sissons already has given us a whiff of what he's capable, including last year's showing of six goals and six assists in the postseason. Fantasy managers in dynasty leagues should secure the 2012 second-round draft selection before he showcases himself again this spring.
After collecting 29 points through the first half of his rookie season (43 games), Bratt dug into an unproductive rut, accruing only one goal and four assists since. Settling into a sophomore slump early perhaps? The 19-year-old ex-Swedish league skater has proved he can score in the NHL and might not experience the same burnout next year.
With a goal and six assists in six games, the young defenseman also can help your fantasy team right now. Look for the 23-year-old to campaign hard in maintaining his top-four slot and power-play presence at next year's camp. Right now, we like his odds.
A year with the Hartford Wolfpack in which he scored 11 goals and 20 assists in 44 games, combined with a brief taste of earlier action with the Rangers, should lay the foundation for Chytil's coming-out party next season. Still, after a full campaign in the pros, this kid's ceiling remains fuzzy since he doesn't even turn 19 until September. As such, the 2017 first-rounder makes for a potential dynasty manager's dream, particularly in deeper leagues.
Ottawa Senators: Thomas Chabot, D (3.3 percent)
Still only 21 years old, Chabot is already undoubtedly one of Ottawa's foundational blueliners around whom to build. The 2015 first-round draft selection has all the makings of a minute-munching, top-pair defenseman, with plenty to offer in the playmaking department to serve as a consistent power-play presence. He'll block shots for you, too. What else do you want from a dependable fantasy D-man?
Enduring a series of ups and downs as a top-six center in his rookie season, the 19-year-old is only going to get better and better. Forward-thinking dynasty managers will want to soon lock up the Flyers' 2017 second overall draft selection with reasonable aspirations of benefiting for years to come.
The 25-year-old might deserve another go after failing to live up to last season's 0.87-point-per-game campaign. Think summer reboot and all that. There's little else from Pittsburgh's medley of available assets that moves us much otherwise.
One of the kids tapped to take over the shop in San Jose once the older generation retires, Meier already offers sufficient flashes of his ability to put the puck in the net. Those at the Sharks' helm shall hope those flashes eventually spread out into more constant production. We believe that's how it eventually unrolls for the 2015 ninth overall draft selection. The sooner he lays undisputed claim to a top-six spot, the better. By the way, 20 goals in an inaugural NHL season is something special.
Assuming Fabbri's run of awful injury luck skids to a halt, this is a no-brainer in all but the shallowest dynasty leagues. While gambling on a perceived bad knee is never comfortable, Fabbri has 60- to 70-point potential as a gifted top-six forward. Before his ACL blew again, this was supposed to be his breakout season. On the upside, the 21st overall draft pick of 2014 has months to recover from October's surgery ahead of 2018-19. It feels like a good gamble.
Enlisted back into action this past Tuesday after an eight-plus-week absence, Palat won't be long for returning to his productive ways on a dynamic scoring line with center Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson (shifted back to the wing). Entering his prime, the 26-year-old winger is locked in with the Lightning until 2022, almost ensuring an enduring top-six role with the league's most productive offense.
As early as next season, Kapanen could find himself in a scoring role on a line with either star center Auston Matthews or Nazem Kadri, especially if the Leafs don't resign UFA James van Riemsdyk, as anticipated. This 21-year-old is fast and has plenty of upside. Drafted in the 2014 first round, Kapanen followed up last season's point-per-game showing in the AHL with a near similar ratio in this campaign before joining the Leafs full time at the end of January.
Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson, C/W (N/A)
Allow us one exception in discussing a player not yet available in ESPN's game. In his recent ranking of the top 50 prospects in NHL pipelines, Chris Peters graded Pettersson No. 1 overall, and not only because the teen won the Swedish Hockey League's scoring title with 56 points in 44 games, while also breaking the scoring record for players under 20.
"Pettersson made the most of his opportunities thanks to a deadly-accurate shot and a skill level that creates space for himself and his teammates," wrote Peters. "Concerns about Pettersson's physical strength are valid. He didn't disappear in more physical games at the World Junior Championships, like the ones against the U.S. and Canada, but the game definitely was tougher for him. Canucks fans are rightfully salivating, but they should afford Pettersson some time to adjust to the smaller rink and physical grind of the Western Conference. Once he gets there, though, he absolutely has star potential ..."
If you are able to add players not yet in the game, do so. Pettersson promises to make an impact.
Still only 22 years old, Theodore remains the Knights' top choice to anchor their No. 1 power play. A boost in tangible production will inevitably come with additional seasoning. Some long-game dynasty managers will want to clamber on board with the 2013 first-rounder (Ducks) in the here and now.
A restricted free agent following this season, Grubauer is understandably keen to secure a starting job in the NHL. The 26-year-old has proved capable of late, holding down the goaltending fort in place of an out-of-sorts Braden Holtby with a 7-2-0 record, .937 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against average since Feb. 15. Continued success in this vein could mean new digs for Washington's No. 2 goalie.
The rookie forward is finally garnering more interest of late, largely for scoring five goals in his past four games. Under the radar for most of this season, Connor has produced consistently on a top Jets line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Most players would love to generate 50 points in their first full NHL campaign, and the 17th overall draft pick from 2015 is on pace to hit that mark in fewer contests than the scheduled 82.