Many of you may still be bitter after your fantasy season losses this past year, and if you won, you may be patting your back still. Don't hurt yourself because you have another season to start thinking about. This article is going to break down Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel (while touching on a couple other prospects as well) and predict where they should be taken in your upcoming fantasy draft. So let's get to it!
Connor McDaviid - 6'-3/4" 195 lbs
The Oilers are getting arguably the highest rated prospect since Sidney Crosby. Many of his comparisons have been to Crosby, not due to where he is from or what league he plays in, but because of point production. In in 47 games, McDavid put up 44-76-120 (2.55 points/game) and for comparison, in his draft year, Crosby put up 66-102-168 in in 62 games (2.71 points/game). In Crosby's rookie year, he put up 102 points. McDavid won't do that.
In my opinion, it is hard to predict what McDavid will do. The Oilers are top heavy on offense with what may look like all of their elite/very good players on the top line (Hall, Eberle and RNH). On that second line, it looks like Yakupov and Pouliot will be on his wings. It will depend on how McLellan eases McDavid in to the NHL. Does he get the MacKinnon treatment and get some third line minutes to ease in, or is he thrown to the wolves right away on the first/second line with big minutes and hoping that he's talented enough to succeed?
I think McDavid will slot into that second line and play with Nail Yakupov and Pouliot on his wings. This will be good for McDavid as it will take some of the pressure off of him, as well as hopefully giving Yakupov some talent to work with and open his game up. Like most centers in this league, McDavid will struggle in the faceoff dot, and defensively. His size is average, but should be nothing that holds him back. McDavid is a player that makes others around him better, so expect some higher numbers for Pouliot and Yakupov. That being said, I don't think he will come in and light the world on fire like Crosby did during his rookie year. I predict 25-43-68.
Jack Eichel - 6'2" - 196 lbs
Jack Eichel is continually saying the right political things by leading sentences with "If I end up in Buffalo"... bro, you're going to Buffalo. Finding a comparable for Eichel is a little tougher and something that is a bit tougher to research as well. The best freshman season I can think of, is that of Paul Kariya, where he put up 25-75-100 in 39 games. He didn't even go to the NHL the next year. In Eichel's freshman year, he put up 26-45-71 in 40 games. In Kariya's rookie year, he put up 39 points in 47 games.
In Buffalo, il will be a battle for time between Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons, Sam Reinhart, Mikhail Grigorenko, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. A couple of these players are moving to the wing, with Eichel being a solid candidate in year one. On the wings, the Sabres also have Matt Moulson and Evander Kane with definite spots in the top six. I can see a top six with Girgensons, Kane, Ennis, Moulson with two spots open for camp. It will depend on if Bylsma wants Eichel to start on the wing and Reinhart at center, or vice versa.
In Buffalo, I believe Eichel will be eased in, as Buffalo's offense isn't all that top-heavy and there's no need to expose him to top defenses yet. He could either slot in on the wing on the second line, or centering the third line. If it is the latter, it will eventually end up the former later on in the year, and if not, possibly centering the third line. Eichel has good size so he shouldn't be pushed around much, but college is quite different than the NHL. Buffalo's offense will look very different this year, with Kane coming back from injury, as well as Reinhart joining the team. I predict 25-35-60.
The Fantasy Draft
So where do you take them in your fantasy draft? Man that's tough. If it's a non-keeper league, take these predictions and slot them right in with players with similar production. Know that the ceiling could be higher for both of these players during the year, but I think that's the case more with McDavid than Eichel because of the the Edmonton power play. Taking either of them too early is a risk, like most fantasy picks, but even more so because they are rookies.
The tricky leagues will be the keeper leagues. You will first need to see how many people actually have their first and second round picks. Based off of that, see how many picks are in between your first and second. To be honest, both of these players may not be worth a first round pick in a regular league, but in a keeper, you will be keeping both McDavid and Eichel for the next 15 years. Because of that, both of these players are worth a first round pick, and if you can get one of them in the second, that's even better.
Dylan Strome is going to be a very exciting player to watch in the coming years. This past year, he proved that he can produce at a similar rate in Junior without McDavid. He will likely go to Arizona, where it will be initially tough for him to produce at a great rate. I expect he will be a solid depth player somewhere in the 30-40 point range.
Noah Hanifin will be a great defender to come, likely for Toronto. In non-keeper leagues he may be the last or second to last defenseman you take, depending on the size. In keeper leagues, he may be a mid-round pick in looking towards your future. He very well may get another year at college, it may depend on how Toronto wants him to develop.
Mitch Marner is the fantasy wild card. He very likely may go fourth or fifth to either Toronto or Carolina. He put up some great numbers in Junior, racking up 126 points in 63 games. But, at the combine, he was measured at 5'-11" and 160 lbs. That's pretty light for the NHL so he very well may spend another year or two in Junior (at least that's the smart move in my opinion), but that will depend on how Toronto/Carolina want to handle his development and how he looks at camp.