As we go through preseason, I continue to see players who are electric and showing immense talent across the board. As such, I decided to create a list compiling the player from each team who I'm most excited to watch this season. To be clear, this list is not a list of the best players on the team, it's a list of players who ‘could' end up being amazing by the end of the year. Some of these players are top prospects, some have had great preseasons, some were lower line guys who might be seeing top 6 or 9 minutes this year and some are players who had a great minor league season last year. If you are looking for a deep late round sleeper, some of these names could help out. While they could end up being a sleeper or free agent pickup which could help your team win, they could just as easily:
1. Not make the team
2. Get hurt early on.
3. Prove that while they were a great prospect, they need more time to develop
Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak (RW). He played in 46 and 51 games over the last two seasons, David has shown brilliant moments and struggles. I'm bullish on the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes and I guess that should create opportunities for the second line of Ryan Spooner, David Krejci and David Pastrnak as teams work to shut down that top line. He's scored a bit in preseason so far and I think we see a full season AND mid 40's in points for him almost doubling his previous highs.
Other player to watch: Frank Vatrano who is currently hurt and out for 3 months.
Buffalo Sabres: Jake McCabe (D). The second year vet out of Wisconsin had a solid rookie year scoring 14 points in 77 games. His value to fantasy lies in the "other categories" though. While I think his scoring could rise up to 20 points if he sees some power play time this year, he had 114 hits and 109 blocked shots last year. That was good enough to put him 62nd among defensemen for hits and 74th for blocked shots. I think we see his numbers across the board increase as he sees more playing time and builds his skills further.
Other player to watch: I've already been outspoken about Sam Reinhart.
Detroit Red Wings: Andreas Athanasiou (RW). I was big on him last year after watching his speed and grit during the preseason. He went on to play in 37 games scoring 9 goals and 5 assists amidst just 9 minutes of ice time. He's on the third line and I think he could prove justification to see some second line time as well as second PP time. I think with a full season of play time you could see him land in the mid 40's in points.
Other exciting prospect to watch: Evgeny Svechnikov who scored in the opening exhibition with the Red Wings.
Florida Panthers: Jared McCann (LW). The 24th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of the OHL Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Jared had a decent under the radar season with the Vancouver Canucks last year netting 18 points (9 goals and 9 assists) in 69 games. This isn't a person who is going to go nuts in the points department but it's early in his career and he's shown the ability to fight for the puck and score. He is currently projected to be on the third line for the Panthers with Nick Bjugstad and Logan Shaw, this young line will be fun to watch. They will see struggles but you might see flashes of creativity here.
Other player to watch: Jonathan Marchessault - the undrafted player out of Quebec City has continue to impress and
move up, he will likely get his chance on the 4th line this year and I'll be curious how he makes the most of it.
Montreal Canadiens: Artturi Lehkonen (LW). The rookie out of Finland seems determined to make the big leagues this year. He hasn't been the big point producer quite yet but he's show the skilled hands that have him sitting on the third line currently. Despite his slightly smaller size, he's shown no challenge battling for the puck and with his pure shot capabilities there is a good chance he sees second line time during the year. Current estimation puts him in the high 30's in points.
Other player to watch: Daniel Carr, the 24 year old left wing out of Union college has showed great puckhandling and quick hands so far.
Ottawa Senators: Curtis Lazar (RW). The 17th overall pick in 2013 has netted 15 points and 20 points with the Senators over his last two years. As his game progresses so should his point total. Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a good year last year and it wouldn't be absurd to see Curtis get to the upper 20's or low 30's in points this year. Especially with the initial injury to Mark Stone, there is a chance Curtis could see top 6 time for a few games.
Other player to watch: Ryan Dzingel - the Ohio State alum played just over 30 games last year and has some raw skill.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin (RW). It's somewhat the obvious answer, but the reason why he lands on here is that this is the year to own him. Time spent up down, trade rumors and drama aside, it looks like he's ready to play on the top line of Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn and be the 50 point producer that his skills preach. His passing game is elite so look for that to help both Stamkos and him but he will need work on his scoring touch if he's to reach the 50 point mark.
Prospect to watch: Tanner Richard had an excellent AHL season last year with 11 goals and 43 assists, he didn't make the cut but should see some time mid way through this year.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews ( C). I know this is the obvious answer but this team is going to struggle and I don't think there are a lot of scoring points to spread around here. I'll add in William Nylander, the 8th overall pick from two years ago scored 13 points in 22 games last year. He is a great puck mover and has great vision for open spots and scoring.
Other player to watch: Nikita Soshnikov, the 22 year old showed ability score in just 11 games last season. He didn't make the cut but should be up at some point this season.
Up next: Part II: Metropolitan Division