Ryan Dadoun

Fantasy Nuggets

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Fantasy Nuggets Week 25

Thursday, March 30, 2017


With the Detroit Red Wings' streak of 25 consecutive postseason appearances officially over and the Edmonton Oilers making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, I can't help but connect it to the importance of high-end draft picks in the salary cap era.

 

Clearly, you need more than just a first overall pick to be success.  Edmonton is an easy example of that as the Oilers had three straight first overall picks and that didn't save them.  At the same time a lot of the Oilers' current success can be traced back to Connor McDavid and the only way to get a player of his caliber nowadays is through the draft given that are almost never traded or reach the free agent market while they're still in their prime.

 

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It's why Detroit for years has been dying a slow death.  Since the Red Wings last won the Cup in 2008 they've lost Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Dominik Hasek to name a few and for the most part those players haven't been replaced because Detroit wasn't in a position to replace them.  A victim of their own success, the Red Wings haven't had access to a McDavid-type player for a while.  It used to be that the Red Wings could get around that by finding diamonds in the rough like Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the later stages of drafts, but getting that kind of talent late in drafts is becoming increasingly rare.

 

It's a problem with any team that is reluctant to rebuild through the draft, preferring instead to continue to compete for a playoff spot while trying to get younger.  That might lead to some short-term success, but it likely will deprive those teams of the long-term help they need.

 

Going back to Edmonton, it certainly does matter when a team has its down years.  Getting McDavid was a game changer for Edmonton and similarly, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have provided the Maple Leafs and Jets respectively with big boosts.  The 2017 draft is looking as promising though, which means that teams near the bottom of the pack this time like New Jersey, Colorado, Arizona, Vancouver, and - ironically - Detroit, might not get the kind of help that floundering teams in recent years enjoyed.  That might in turn lead to more sustained periods of ineffectiveness as the help they get from this draft fails to meaningfully move the needle.

 

And yes, just to drive the point home, a first overall pick, even a good one is just a starting point, but not the ending one.  Taylor Hall isn't as good as a player as McDavid, but the Oilers could have probably built a better team around him than they ultimately did.  The Islanders haven't been able to take full advantage of John Tavares thus far despite him being a superb talent.  Then there's the Washington Capitals, who have enjoyed plenty of regular season success with Alex Ovechkin, but haven't been able to win a championship yet despite having the superstar for over a decade now.

 

Moving past building through the draft and the fruits of recent drafts, the 2016-17 rookie class is looking like a very strong one.  Part of the reason why I say that is because of the players that are getting lost in the crowd in the battle for the Calder Trophy.

 

It's likely going to come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, with Matthews currently holding a one goal and one point edge, but Laine beating him in terms of points per game.  Meanwhile the Leafs other two big rookies, William Nylander and Mitchell Marner, are looking pretty good too with 58 and 57 points respectively.  But then you also have defenseman Zach Werenski, who has 47 points in 75 games, which makes him a possibility to become the first 50-point rookie blueliner of the salary cap era.  Shouldn't he be a major part of the conversation?

 

What about Matt Murray?  You could argue that his 45 games played isn't enough to justify him winning the Calder Trophy, but he has a 28-10-4 record, 2.40 GAA, and .923 save percentage this season.  Is that really not even good enough to warrant a finalist nod in this climate?

 

Having six strong candidates like this is pretty impressive.  Then you also have some players that aren't going to get serious Calder consideration, but have nevertheless had good rookie campaigns such as Carolina's Sebastian Aho, Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk, and the Rangers' Brady Skjei.  Obviously anything could happen, but I wouldn't expect next season's rookie crop to be as impressive in terms of high-end talent or depth.  So we may as well enjoy this battle while it lasts.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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