20 NHL prospects to stash for fantasy hockey keeper leagues in 2024-25 (2024)

Fantasy hockey redraft leagues are winding down. Many have already played out their championships and many more will in the next week or two. Players in these one-off formats can soon shift their focus to baseball, golf, gardening, whatever they want.

But for players in keeper and dynasty formats? The work is not done. The busy offseason looms. And it starts with a crucial juncture: keeper declarations. The process ranges from the easiest calls, such as retaining superstars like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, to agonizing choices between mid-tier veterans if your league limits the number of keepers per team. Many rebuilding franchises, especially those that sold at the trade deadline, will begin constructing new foundations around phenoms such as 18-year-old Connor Bedard.

But there’s one more little loophole in the process that can score a savvy GM an advantage over their fantasy rivals: NHL-affiliated prospects. Some, such as the Dallas Stars’ Mavrik Bourque, only just broke into the bigs and still have low ownership numbers in many leagues. Now is an ideal time to stash them. Even better: for the “not in my league” elitists claiming every decent prospect was scooped long ago, there’s an ever better loophole to exploit: college players about to turn pro. None of them, from Will Smith to Cutter Gauthier, appears in standard fantasy leagues such as Yahoo just yet. They can’t until they sign NHL contracts –but they might in the coming days depending on how their fates play out in the NCAA Frozen Four and whether they decide to turn pro. In many leagues, you’ll have a sudden opportunity to grab some potential 2024-25 Calder Trophy candidates off the wire before the month is up should their teams give them final-week cups of coffee.

With those potential advantages in mind: here are my favorite 20 NHL-affiliated prospects to stash in keeper leagues for next season.

Before we start, some key disclaimers:

– This is NOT a comprehensive breakdown of the best prospects in the league. I’m ranking them on their ability to contribute in fantasy hockey next season. Matvei Michkov would sit at the top, for instance, but he’s under contract in the KHL through 2025-26, so he’s still years away from making his first splash in fantasy hockey, hence his omission.

– Yet-to-be drafted prospects such as Macklin Celebrini or Zayne Parekh don’t count. NHL-affiliated only.

– If you’re a non-fantasy fan just looking for prospect rankings, these are not those. Purely fantasy talk in this particular piece.

– If an NCAA prospect makes this list, it means I’m projecting him to turn pro by next season, albeit things can change quickly.

– Prospects who have already broken through, accrued 10 plus NHL games and appear entrenched long-term in their teams’ lineups don’t qualify. Example: the Stars’ Logan Stankoven, the Red Wings’ Simon Edvinsson and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Brendan Brisson.

1. Cutter Gauthier, LW, Anaheim Ducks

Philadelphia Flyers fans will forever vilify him after his breakup with the team that drafted him in 2022, but Ducks fans will soon rejoice. Gauthier is a monster, averaging almost a goal per game for Boston College – again, that’s a goal per game, not a point per game. He’s ready for the NHL if he decides to go pro. Joining an emerging Ducks core that includes Leo Carlsson and Mason McTavish, Gauthier arguably would enter next season as a top-two Calder Trophy favorite alongside Celebrini. Gauthier should be a top-150 fantasy asset at worst in his first NHL campaign.

2. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Minnesota Wild

The runway is clear. Pending UFA Marc-Andre Fleury, 39, carried himself with the air of someone on a farewell tour this season and is a candidate to retire this summer. The Wild, eliminated from postseason contention, recently promoted Wallstedt with the intention of giving him some NHL work down the stretch. He’s arguably the top goaltending prospect on the planet, and the Wild are likely giving him reps in anticipation of installing him in their crease for 2024-25. Given how much Filip Gustavsson’s game regressed this season, the door is open for Wallstedt to steal the No. 1 job. And if Fleury decides to return, Gustavsson could be an offseason trade candidate. Wallstedt has multiple paths to playing meaningful minutes next year. He has top-10 upside at his position as soon as next season. And as a keeper? Fuggedaboutit.

3. Will Smith, C, San Jose Sharks

Could the Sharks inject their 2024-25 lineup with two franchise centers next autumn? They’re all but a lock to win this year’s NHL Draft Lottery and will have better than a 25 percent chance at drafting Celebrini. But don’t sleep on their 2023 first-round pick: Smith, the driving force on college hockey’s best line at Boston College alongside Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault. Smith managed to lead a team that had Gauthier on it in scoring, by the way. As my colleague, DFO prospect Steven Ellis, has indicated repeatedly, Smith is the one making his elite linemates better, not the other way around. In other words, Smith is enough of a creator that he’ll be immediately fantasy relevant even with minimal help in San Jose. Now he just has to turn pro.

4. Matthew Savoie, C, Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres regressed badly on offense this season, particularly with the man advantage. Perhaps the puck wizard Savoie can remedy the problem. He missed his shot to entrench himself on the Sabres roster to open 2023-24 because he hurt his shoulder in the Prospects Challenge in September. He got into one game in November once healthy and played just 3:55 before returning to major junior. He lapped the field between Wenatchee and Moose Jaw in the WHL this season, putting up 30 goals and 71 points in 34 games. His skill set screams top-six forward, so if he cracks the big club for next season, he should do so in a scoring role and rank among the rookie leaders in points.

5. Brandt Clarke, D, Los Angeles Kings

Almost two points per game in major junior last season. Almost a point per game in his AHL debut this season. And he’s a defenseman. Clarke has also made it into 16 NHL games this season but hasn’t been able to overtake Jordan Spence for the third-pair righty role. That’s also because the Kings have been wanting to let Clarke cook and ensure he plays alpha minutes on their farm. They still have big plans for him. He remains the long-term successor to Drew Doughty as the Kings’ top offensive defenseman and has little left to prove in the AHL. Look for Clarke to establish himself as a full-time NHLer next season and work his way into meaningful power-play deployment in short order.

6. Shane Wright, C, Seattle Kraken

It appears the slow-cooking process for Wright is complete. Since Seattle drafted him fourth overall in 2022, he’s competed in a World Junior Championship and Calder Cup and played a full season in the AHL. The Kraken regressed badly in 2022-23, none more than reigning Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers. Last season’s veteran-laden group made for a fun story, but it’s time for Seattle to correct course and start breaking in its next-gen talent. Wright’s four goals in seven NHL games this season suggest he’s found the touch necessary to be a difference maker in Seattle’s top nine next season. He’s known for his two-way smarts, but his goal-scoring release is sneaky good. He’s a candidate to snipe 20 in his first full NHL campaign next season.

7. Mavrik Bourque, C, Dallas Stars

The good news: Bourque is NHL ready. When Dallas promoted him last week for his NHL debut, he sat atop the AHL scoring leaderboard with 73 points in 67 games. Not bad for a 22-year-old. It’s a near certainty he opens 2024-25 as an NHLer. The only thing working against the promising playmaker: the depth chart. The Stars are absolutely stacked. Whether Bourque finds an immediately fantasy-relevant role will depend on what GM Jim Nill does with big-ticket pending UFA forwards Joe Pavelski and Matt duch*ene. The Stars do have more than $69 million committed already and only have one goalie and three defensem*n signed, so it’s possible they have to let a key veteran forward walk, opening up playing time for Bourque and Stankoven.

8. Yaroslav Askarov, G, Nashville Predators

Blocked no more? Askarov, an all-world prospect, has spent the past two seasons as one of the AHL’s better netminders, stuck behind Juuse Saros and Kevin Lankinen at the NHL level. But Lankinen is a UFA this summer, and Saros could emerge as a trade candidate again if the New Jersey Devils resume their “big game” goalie hunt. On paper, Askarov has a similar situation to Wallstedt’s. But while Wallstedt is set up for a significant role in almost any scenario, Askarov’s depends more on what happens with Saros, who is one of the league’s top workhorses. Do the Preds want Askarov, 21, playing only 20 games in a backup role? That wouldn’t give him significant fantasy value. He’s clearly good enough to be an instant star, and he’ll play in the NHL next season, but it’s too early to know how much.

9. Jagger Firkus, RW, Seattle Kraken

The Kraken caught lightning in a bottle with Firkus at 35th overall in the 2022 Draft. The young man is a goal-scoring machine, posting a laughable 61-65-126 stat line in major junior this season. He doesn’t have any pro seasoning yet aside from a single AHL playoff game appearance, but the Kraken ice the league’s 28th-best offense this season. They need a spark. If Firkus shines in camp, do they get aggressive and instal him in their opening night lineup? He’s at least earned a nine-game look and will carry nice fantasy sleeper potential.

10. Ryan Leonard, LW, Washington Capitals

Leonard can finish, he’s a punishing physical player, and he’s played against men with BC this season, so he has the makings of a pro-ready guy who could apprentice under power forward Tom Wilson in D.C. Because Leonard’s rugged game suits him to play on any line, he has better odds than pure-finesse prospects of jumping from college directly to the NHL. He could make a nice rookie contribution in banger formats – similar to what Will Cuylle (13 goals, 243 hits) has delivered as a rookie with the New York Rangers this year.

11. Dalibor Dvorsky, RW, St. Louis Blues: Very little pro experience and retooling Blues don’t have to rush him, but they need an injection of offensive skill, and he’s shown it in spades with OHL Sudbury.

12. Conor Geekie, C, Arizona Coyotes: Because he’s so big (6-foot-4) and strong, he has a chance to bypass the AHL with a good showing in camp.

13. Lane Hutson, D, Montreal Canadiens: If I ranked this list on long-term potential, he’s half a dozen spots higher, but the dazzling puck-mover may need more time to develop given his small frame.

14. Devon Levi, G, Buffalo Sabres: The No. 1 job isn’t his to seize right now. Not when Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen won it so convincingly with his breakout 2023-24 season.

15. Collin Graf, C, San Jose Sharks: He’s already signed and has gotten a look to end this season. Graf will have opportunities in spades, but he doesn’t have nearly the ceiling of a prospect like Smith.

16. Jiri Kulich, RW, Buffalo Sabres: Someone needs to score goals in Buffalo, and Kulich has done that two years running in the AHL. He just has so many other good young forwards to leapfrog for NHL minutes, though.

17. Rutger McGroarty, RW, Winnipeg Jets: He’ll be an impact forward in Winnipeg someday, but they’re a win-now operation with good forward depth in their top six, so I’m not convinced he’s a high-impact rookie immediately even if he turns pro and makes the team.

18. Logan Mailloux, D, Montreal Canadiens: Hutson is the better prospect, but could Mailloux make a fantasy impact sooner given he has a year of strong offensive production in the AHL under his belt?

19. Isaac Howard, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts are constantly looking to inject their lineup with a new wave of entry-level AAV forwards. The playmaker Howard could be their next should he go pro.

20. Danila Yurov, RW, Minnesota Wild: His KHL contract is expiring. He’s a proven scorer in one of the best leagues in the world, and he’d have an instant mentor in Kirill Kaprizov. A major sleeper if he crosses the pond. It’s a big if, though. It’s still possible he re-signs in the KHL.

Also considered…

Marco Kasper
Jonathan Lekkerimaki
Scott Morrow
Bradley Nadeau
Gavin Brindley
Fabian Lysell
Jackson Blake

One more year of seasoning?

Frank Nazar
Easton Cowan
Gabe Perreault



20 NHL prospects to stash for fantasy hockey keeper leagues in 2024-25 (1)


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