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Young fantasy players to target in keeper leagues

by Matt Sitkoff

We all know that keeper/dynasty leagues run differently and continue to get more creative in terms of which players you can keep and how long you can keep them. If you have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin on your team and rules allow you to, of course you are going to keep them as they will be near the top of fantasy rankings every year they are playing.

With that in mind let's examine 10 players currently in the NHL who will be 22 or younger at the start of the season but have at least two years of service in the League and can help you this season and beyond.


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C Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars)

The second player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft has had an entertaining start to his career. The 22-year-old has won a Stanley Cup (2011, with the Boston Bruins), led his team in scoring (2011-12), made another Stanley Cup Final appearance (2013, also with the Bruins), and been traded to a new organization and finished fourth in the League in scoring (84 points with Dallas in 2013-14). He's built great chemistry with Jamie Benn; they combined for 53 goals on which each player has a point. This budding superstar should be on the top of the keeper list for years to come.

LW Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers)

The first pick in the 2010 NHL Draft just barely makes this list; he turns 23 a month into the season and is coming off a quiet career year. Hall paced the Oilers with 80 points last season, shattering his career-high of 53 in 2011-12. The production was a League-high for a left wing, a notably weak position in fantasy hockey. Hall continues to produce with the man advantage; his 24 power-play goals in the past three seasons are tied for 17th in the League. As the Oilers get better, a 90-point season for Hall is not out of the question. Hall's stock continues to rise in keeper/dynasty leagues.

LW Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche)

The 2012 Calder Trophy winner followed an injury-riddled second season with a 2013-14 performance that statistically was better than his rookie campaign. The Avalanche are a team on the rise with a young core that includes Landeskog's linemate and 2014 Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon. They produced 24 goals on which both players had a point, and with MacKinnon's move to center those numbers can be expected to grow. Landeskog, 21, has built a reputation as a good two-way player, as evidenced by his career mark of plus-37 and PDO of 103.8 last season, good for ninth in the League.

LW Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes)

Jeff Skinner
Left Wing - CAR
GOALS: 33 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 54
SOG: 274 | +/-: -14
The 2011 Calder Trophy winner finally had his second 30-goal season, scoring a career-high 33 times in 2013-14. The 22-year-old is second in points (185) among players born in 1992 behind Seguin (205); his 92 goals and 26 power-play goals are tops among all players of his birth year. Skinner had one of the NHL's hottest streaks last season, scoring 17 goals in 17 games in a stretch from Dec. 3 to Jan. 9. The Hurricanes helped by putting him in a position to contribute offensively; his 66.7 offensive zone start percentage last season was the fourth-highest in the League. As one of 21 players to reach the 30-goal mark, Skinner is especially valuable when it comes to keeper/dynasty leagues.

C Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets)

After a breakout season, Johansen is primed to be a top fantasy picks for years to come. The fourth player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft finally showed off his potential with a 63-point outburst, a 42-point jump from his previous career-best in 2011-12. The 22-year-old played all 82 games for the first time in his NHL career and was a clutch performer with five game-winning goals. He's a restricted free agent this summer; keep an eye on his contract talks as training camp gets closer because if he misses any time he could fall in drafts and become a late-round steal.

LW Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis Blues)

The Blues have a pair of 22-year-olds who fueled the NHL's seventh-best offense (2.92 goals per game) in Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. What puts the 5-foot-10 forward ahead of his Russian counterpart is the durability issue; Schwartz played 135 of 140 regular-season games during the past two seasons, 32 more than Tarasenko. The 14th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft plays in all situations, was third in total ice time last season among St. Louis forwards (1,402:14) and contributed 13 special-teams points (10 on the power play and three shorthanded). Picking Tarasenko and Schwartz in the first round four years ago gave the Blues two building blocks for now and the future; picking both could do the same for your fantasy team.

C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 37 | PTS: 56
SOG: 178 | +/-: -12
The top pick in the 2011 draft followed his sophomore slump (24 points in 40 games played) with a productive third NHL season (56 points in 80 games). The 21-year-old was tied for the team lead with 20 power-play points and played in all situations during Dallas Eakins' first season behind the Oilers' bench. Nugent-Hopkins led all Edmonton forwards with 1,631:30 of ice time, was fourth with 2:59 per game of power-play time and also saw 1:14 per game on the penalty kill. As with Hall, the Oilers' offensive players should improve, thus making Edmonton a great place to find players for keeper/dynasty leagues.

D Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks)

Fowler fell to 12th in the 2010 NHL Draft, but was on the Ducks' roster when they broke camp that fall and put up 40 points in his rookie season. He managed a total of 40 points in 119 games during his next two seasons, triggering questions about whether he was a one-hit wonder. Those questions evaporated last season when the 22-year-old (he turns 23 in December) paced Anaheim's defense with 36 points, including 15 on the power play, earning him a berth on the United States Olympic Team. He's back to being a sought-out defender.

D Dougie Hamilton (Boston Bruins)

Dougie Hamilton
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 25
SOG: 114 | +/-: 22
The 21-year-old has been consistent in his two NHL seasons, averaging 0.38 points per game as a rookie and 0.39 in 2013-14. Playing alongside Zdeno Chara last season helped Hamilton's possession stats; he led all Bruins defenseman with a 56.3 Corsi-for percentage. Hamilton, the ninth player drafted in 2011, averaged 19:06 in 64 games last season and will have to prove he can carry a bigger workload through a full 82-game schedule before he is a top fantasy defender. However, he is worth that risk for the long term.

D Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes)

The 22-year-old leads all defensemen born in 1992 with 69 career points in 180 games played and is on the verge of being a top defender for fantasy teams. He had a career-high 32 points last season and played two games for the U.S. at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Faulk showed excellent chemistry with new partner Andrej Sekera, who had a career-high 44 points last season, and his 152 shots paced all Hurricanes defenders. If you are looking for a young, offensive-minded defender on the cusp of a breakout season, Faulk is a terrific candidate.


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