Defensemen with Upside (Smith, Buckvist, Merkley) – DobberHockey

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way. This week, we’ll be taking a look at three young defensive men from the 2018 draft who are on the verge of proving themselves as rising stars at the back end.

One traded, another signed a three-year contract, and the latter saw a major hurdle to playing time cleared by trade. All three are intriguing to the imagination because they offer an excellent scoring high at such a modest price. We’re far enough now from the 2018 draft that the hype on these guys has pretty much died out and that fantasy directors, spoiled by instant Blue Line stars like Cale Makar and Moritz Seider, are generally feeling impatient with their development. Now is the time to buy at a low price if you can wait for two more seasons.

Ty Smith

Smith’s fictional value got a much-needed boost through his trade of penguins to John Merino. Smith, who has been one of the game’s most exciting defensive prospects, has been seemingly lost in shuffling attacking New Jersey defenses over the past two years while scoring 43 points in his first 114 NHL games.

The 31-point pace is decent for a young player, but I think the Fantasy managers expected more – given an astonishing 201 points in 172 WHL games – and also worried about his role in the Devils organization in the long run: Power play time, and Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec studs on the way, it wasn’t clear where Smith would fit in moving forward.

These two factors have largely obscured the fact that Smith performed well in his first two NHL seasons. He jumped straight from a novice to the NHL in his 3+ draft, which isn’t easy to do, and he managed to play fairly big minutes, especially for a leaner defensive man. However, there was a noticeable decrease in both ice and driving time playing in 2021-22 versus his rookie campaign. It averaged two and a half minutes less and was less effective with a puck despite receiving a similar protected deployment in both years.

It’s important to remember that Smith was primarily paired with Severson and Beck Subban during his time in New Jersey, both of whom play a similar hasty and offensive style to him and are not necessarily defensive announcers. Although Chris Letang will now rule Pittsburgh’s roost until he turns 40 and new acquisition Jeff Petrie also has a deft attacking touch, both are in their mid-30s and will inevitably slow down in the coming years just as Smith steps in. He will reach his 200-game breakthrough limit at the start of 2023-24 assuming he plays the full roster this year. Plus he might partner with Petry or strong defensive player Marcus Pettersson, Marino’s former racing teammate, and either would allow him more freedom to play his natural risky game.

Unlike in young New Jersey, the potential vaults of penguins are not completely bare, which means that Smith only has Pierre Oliver Joseph to handle for the long haul. Joseph is a talented player but has never been a prolific goalscorer, even at a young age. Once Smith adjusts to his new language, look for his numbers to rise slowly but surely. It’s time to inquire about it because its value will never decrease.

For a more detailed analysis of Smith’s first few years in the league and what to expect from him going forward, see Alex White’s article in Dobber Prospects’ column, The Century Mark.

Adam Bockvist

What do fantasy directors have at Bukvist? It’s part of the same 2018 draft category as Smith and has been produced at a similar rate (mid-1930s) on a similar number of games. It’s hard to put him on the list at the moment because he doesn’t score consistently or contribute much besides points, but he has certainly shown a high ability in recent times.

Boqvist’s speed, shot and anticipation in particular stand out as important assets. The offense will flow more steadily for him as he adjusts to that level and sees more icy time in both equal strength and man advantage. Next season he will need to stay healthy and tighten his defensive and transition matches, including passing the ball out of the defensive zone more often rather than always doing it himself.

Although Zach Werenski has indefinitely powerful Columbus, Jake Bean lurks, and his Jackets have just forged two high-powered offensive buttons into David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk, Boqvist still seems to have a future in this. the team. Columbus recently expressed their faith in him by signing a three-year bridge deal.

Boqvist has a development curve very similar to Vegas star Shea Theodore, who broke into over 50 territories in his fifth season shortly after hitting 200 BT. If Bockvist follows a similar trajectory, which is the best-case scenario for its fictional companions, its eruption will arrive in 2023-24, just in time to establish itself firmly before Jerichek and Matichuk’s arrival.

Ryan Merkley

Now that Brent Burns and his 26:00 minute mark each night have moved to the Carolinas, Merkley should have more room to work at the back end in San Jose. Although he scored 147 points in 123 games in the junior class, he was incredibly slow to translate his superb offensive instincts into the major tournaments. Due to Merkley’s well-documented position issues in his OHL days, sliding into the final third of the 2018 draft, the majority of Fantasy owners have lost patience with the mercury blue streaks now.

On the bright side, in addition to being no longer obscured by Burns, Merkley finally showed flashes of high-end production at the AHL last year. He ended up with 19 points in 30 AHL games in 2020-21, including ten in power play, but the majority of those points came over a period of close to one point per game before being called up to the Sharks again.

While with the Sharks for 39 games, Merkley was primarily paired with steady Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Although the youngster played limited minutes and was very protected, playing with Vlasic seemed to agree with him as he spread positive metrics for driving play relative to his teammates.

Merkley scored just six points during his starter campaign, but the stage appears set for him to make an even bigger impact on the Sharks’ scoring sheet in 2022-23. For one thing, he should have more than 15 minutes of equal strength and 34% of the available strength playing time he’s seen last year, and his creativity will have room to shine with that extra space on the man’s advantage. He’ll still have to contend with Eric Carlson but the Swede is often injured, which means Merkley could have the chance to appear in PP1 at times this year alongside Thomas Hurtl, Logan Couture, Timo Mayer and (hopefully) William Ecklund. The Sharks have outlived their time due to a proper rebuild but can still boast a solid skill at the top of the lineup.

Of the three young, dynamic men out here, Merkley is probably the cheapest in fiction. If he can maintain the scoring momentum from his successful run in the AHL last year and capitalize on when Carlson inevitably wastes time, he could also face the best chance of the three. Keep in mind, though: He’s nearly 100 NHL games behind Smith and Bucqvist, so he’ll need a longer runway to show his actual upward trend. Look for him to post modest totals this year (say, in the 1920s) and slowly build on that in the coming years as he tries to hit his 50-plus cap.

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