This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.
For the final column of the year, we switch up the format a bit. Rather than Risers and Fallers, the article focuses on nine players to watch for next season, emphasizing younger players who showed they have potential to be fantasy studs as soon as next season.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, MTL – Kotkaniemi, a mild surprise with the third pick in last year's draft, has proven he can play in the NHL. At 6-foor-2, Kotkaniemi has more than the requisite size and skill to succeed, but he needs to add weight and strength to fully utilize all his assets. Kotkaniemi benefits from having Max Domi in front of him at center and should slide into the No. 2 role, ahead of Phillip Danault, before too long.
Robert Thomas, C, STL – Thomas, drafted 20th overall by St. Louis in 2017, has uncanny agility and an elite hockey sense, racking up 24 goals and 75 points in 49 games in the OHL last season. Despite having his ice time capped and at times playing sheltered minutes, including on the fourth line, Thomas has still notched nine goals and 23 assists in 67 games. Thomas plays wing, but he projects to be a center in the future, possibly as early as next season.
Brady Tkachuk, RW, OTT – Ottawa could have traded last year's pick to Colorado and maintained