2013 Fantasy Hockey: Rookie Report
Every season, a new crop of players break into the NHL looking to make their mark. For the players listed below, their impact will be felt on the score sheet and your fantasy team.
Players to own…
Aleksander Barkov, F, Florida Panthers: The Finnish-born Barkov will be expected to play top-six minutes in Sunrise. Last season for Tappara (Finland), Barkov posted 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games. He is coming off of shoulder surgery, but will be available once the season starts.
Nathan MacKinnon, F, Colorado Avalanche: The first overall pick in the 2013 Entry Draft has been pegged as Colorado’s third-line center, according to new head coach Patrick Roy. While the “checking” line is not an attractive spot for a scorer, it will give MacKinnon the chance to play without facing the opponent team’s best line(s) every shift. He will also get his fair shake on the power play. If MacKinnon succeeds early, expect him to play on one of the top two lines sooner than later.
Mark Scheifele, F, Winnipeg Jets: With Scheifele, it will be all or nothing. He has missed breaking camp twice, and a third is not out of the question. Winnipeg wants to make sure he is ready to contribute from day one. If he does make the team, he will have a say in the Jets’ offense. Third-line minutes should be expected early on, but if someone like center Olli Jokinen flops (which is expected), Scheifele will be in line for a fantasy boost.
Sven Baertschi, F, Calgary Flames: The rebuild is on in Calgary, and he is one of the key cogs on offense. Baertschi can score in bunches, but could also disappear for games. The lows will be worth the highs.
Jonathan Drouin, F, Tampa Bay Lightning: If any player is paired with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, then he would be an automatic “must” in fantasy, right? Good thing for Drouin, he is expected to start on the top line and play on special teams immediately. He could very well be the top scorer for rookies if he takes advantage of his time with two of the best scorers in hockey.
Valeri Nichushkin, F, Dallas Stars: Dallas retooled in the offseason, and drafting Nichushkin was one of the best decisions made by new GM Jim Nill. Valeri headed to America shortly after being drafted to work on his English and get accustomed to his new surroundings. That is a good sign for fantasy owners looking for a young guy wanting to make an impact immediately.
Filip Forsberg, F, Nashville Predators: Nashville traded forward Martin Erat to Washington to obtain Forsberg. While the trade may have benefitted the Caps immediately, the Predators should have the last laugh. The Swede will play an immediate role on a team starved for scoring. It will be interesting to see if coach Barry Trotz’s stuck-in-the-mud defense prohibits Forsberg from breaking out in 2013-14.
Rookies to watch…
Seth Jones, D, Nashville Predators: Young defensemen are tough to gauge, as the game can be tougher to adjust to on the blue line. That being said, Seth Jones will be given the opportunity to work through his growing pains with a very young defensive group. He is a must-own in keeper leagues, but should be drafted no sooner than the later rounds in standard leagues.
Ryan Strome, F, New York Islanders: In order to crack one of the top lines, Ryan Strome may have to move from his normal center position to a wing position. If he makes the move, he could very well play on the top line with John Tavares. Strome’s shot is quick and packs a punch, and he has speed to burn. I have a hard time seeing him taking up a fantasy roster spot unless he is with the top group, but I hope to be wrong.
Nick Bjugstad, F, Florida Panthers: Bjugstad will be expected to play on the second line, potentially centering fellow rookie Aleksander Barkov. That pairing could fail, or give Florida fans something to look forward to for the next handful of seasons. Bjugstad’s size suggests a niche role clogging the area in front of the net on the power play.
Sean Monahan, F, Calgary Flames: Monahan will be looked at as the center of the future for the Flames. The 6th overall pick in the 2013 Entry Draft added 11 pounds in the off-season, making him a healthy 200 lbs. If he does spend time with the big club, it will be on the third because oh his two-way play and knack to score. Monahan scored 31 times in 78 games in juniors last season.
Brandon Pirri, F, Chicago Blackhawks: The rich keep getting richer. Pirri is the favorite to center the second line in between two of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Brian Bickell. If he cannot wrangle in the center job, he would lose his value as a late round pick in fantasy hockey. His competition is fellow youngsters center Marcus Kruger and left winger Brandon Saad, who is getting looks in the middle.
Tyler Toffoli, F, Los Angeles Kings: While not a lock to make the Kings opening roster, Toffoli should. If he can sneak on to one of the top two lines, Toffoli could be a major steal in your draft.