by Andrew Fiorentino, RotoWire Writer
Think, just for a moment, like you're Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray. Your team is 10-11-1 and, outside of mainstays Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, doesn't have a single forward on pace to reach even 50 points. The Sens average 2.48 goals per game while allowing 3.19, so you're lucky even to be treading water as you are. In their last five games, your team has scored two, one, one, two and three goals. It's clearly time for a tuneup.
Enter Bobby Butler. A 2010 Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of New Hampshire, Butler racked up 29 goals and 53 points over 39 games in his senior year, went undrafted, and signed a two-year deal with the Senators in March, seeing limited minutes in two games at the end of last season.
Fast-forward to the fall, and despite being probably the third-best offensive player Ottawa's got, the young winger gets sent to Binghamton of the AHL, where all he's done with his sniping skills is rack up an AHL-leading 14 goals (21 points in all) over his first 20 games.
Eventually, Murray's going to wise up, promote Butler, and tell coach Cory Clouston to give the kid the ice time that's currently going to disappointing high-end talents like Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek. When he does, it's not unreasonable to expect instant production, particularly if he's used to energize the team's middle-of-the-road power play. You don't need to stash Butler except in very deep leagues, but keep a close eye out for when he gets promoted.
Here are a few other youngsters with star potential whose talents shouldn't be wasted in the minors any longer:
Zach Boychuk, C, CAR - Unlike Butler, Boychuk has pedigree, having been taken 14th overall by the 'Canes in 2008. He also has more NHL experience, as he had a 31-game trial with the big boys last year (and, like Butler, two games the year before), collecting nine points. The former junior hockey standout has elevated his game this year, collecting 23 points (8 G, 15 A) in 22 games for Charlotte of the AHL this year. When you look at Carolina's depth down the middle, Brandon Sutter, Jon Matsumoto and Jiri Tlusty don't really jump out at you. The Hurricanes, languishing in fourth place in their division, could use a shot in the arm; maybe Boychuk is it.
Linus Omark, LW, EDM - The Oilers are already struggling with a young, talented group of players, so why bring up yet another kid who needs to get acclimated to the NHL game? If you answered "because Ryan Whitney, a defenseman, is leading the team in points," you're absolutely correct! Edmonton's young forwards haven't been able to finish much, as the team is averaging just 2.58 goals per game and has been outscored by 28 so far this year. Finishing hasn't a problem for the talented Omark, who posted point-per-game production, including 23 goals, for Lulea HF of the Swedish league two years ago and another 20 goals in the KHL last year. This year, he's racked up 12 goals and 11 assists in 20 games. Omark has more goals, a better plus-minus and more shots on goal than any Oilers forward. There's no way the Swede should be sitting in the minors while guys like Ryan Jones and Zack Stortini do nothing in the NHL. Bring him on up, Steve Tambellini - he certainly can't be any more disappointing than Taylor Hall.
Andrew Gordon, RW, WAS - The Caps are, of course, stacked with high-level scorers in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and so on. They're a pretty deep team, too. One position they're weak at, however, is right wing. After Semin, it's a mishmash of the ineffective (Matt Bradley, Eric Fehr), and the old and ineffective (Mike Knuble). Gordon isn't a young prospect anymore (he's 25), and even after racking up 37 goals and 71 points in the AHL last year, he still has just three NHL games under his belt. Well, he's upped the ante even more this season, racking up 12 goals and 13 assists in just 19 games, good for second in the AHL in scoring. There's no reason for a kid with this kind of talent not to be earning his keep in the NHL.
Kevin Poulin, G, NYI - The Islanders are in a three-way tie for third-most goals allowed this year. Dwayne Roloson: 41 years old. Rick DiPietro: horrible. Poulin, the Isles' fifth-round pick in 2008, is doing his best to show that he's a better option than either. Through seven games for Bridgeport of the AHL, the acrobatic goaltender has got a .929 save percentage and 2.23 GAA, thoroughly outplaying last year's second-round pick, Mikko Koskinen. With DiPietro's injury history and Roloson'a age, it's quite reasonable to think Poulin might get a chance this year. Once considered the best goalie in his draft class, maybe he'll be the guy to buck the years-long trend of Nassau Coliseum being home to the division's worst goaltending.
Given sufficient opportunity, any of these young players has the talent to be a fantasy kingmaker down the stretch - and except for Boychuk, they're all flying well under the radar, which means you might be the only guy in your league who knows about them. Now that's something to give thanks for this holiday season.