It’s always difficult to trust a rookie when it comes to Fantasy sports. Some play well right away, while others can take years before the game slows down enough for their talent to show. In this column, we will take a look at nine rookies that are worthy of Fantasy consideration. The NHL has an award for the top rookie – the Calder Trophy – and while many of these names may be up for that prize also, we’re going to focus more on those first-year players that can help lead us to a Fantasy championship rather than the Stanley Cup.
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Barzal looked lost in the few games he played for the Islanders last season. Well, what a difference a year makes. Barzal has all the confidence in the world now, and one could argue that not only does he look like the best player on the ice for the Islanders most games, he’s also the main reason the team is tied with Tampa Bay for the most goals in the NHL this season. Barzal can skate like the wind and has given the Islanders a legitimate scoring second line that opposing teams have to worry about.
Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes: The good news for Keller is that he already has 11 goals and is on pace to pot about 30 this season. The bad news is that he hasn’t scored since Nov. 6, which spans 14 games. He does have six assists during this span, but Fantasy owners need and want more. The Coyotes don’t have many offensive weapons, and one has to wonder if opposing teams have just decided to take Keller out of the equation with their top pair of defenders and force someone else on Arizona to beat them.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks: Can Boeser really score 40 goals this season? That’s the pace he’s on, but he won’t reach it; not with a 19.7 shooting percentage. That number will certainly come down, maybe even cut in half. So, Boeser will either have to shoot more often or risk ending up with 25-30 goals. That’s still not a bad total for Fantasy owners.
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils: The Devils are one of the surprise teams in the NHL this season, but it’s really not because of the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Hischier may end up being one of the better players in the NHL, but that’s not going to happen this season. He’s also a center, a position that’s deep in Fantasy Hockey. If you’re still holding on to him and don’t play in a keeper or dynasty league, it’s time to move on.
Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia Flyers: The second overall pick in this year’s draft has gotten off to an extremely slow start to his NHL career. He only has two goals in 18 games, and although it’s unfair, he is one of the reasons that Philly has gotten off to an incredibly slow start to the season. The Flyers were hoping that Patrick could anchor their second line and give them two scoring lines. That hasn’t worked. The Flyers recently snapped a nine-game losing streak. Patrick, however, goes the way of Hischier.
Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes: This is Strome’s second season with Arizona, but he’s still technically a rookie as he didn’t reach the nine-game threshold last season. Hopefully, his return this year will not only see more production from him, but also another scorer that will take the offensive pressure off of Keller.
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: One of only two defensemen on this list deserves a spot on your Fantasy team, just not one of the top two defenders; not yet, anyway. McAvoy has all the tools to end up being a Top 10 Fantasy d-man, but that’s still likely a couple of years away.
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning: He is the player TB acquired when they dealt Jonathan Drouin to Montreal. He may also be just the player that the Lightning needed. They have plenty of scorers with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and company, but what they didn’t have was another top defender other than Victor Hedman. They do now.
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks are struggling to score as a team, but DeBrincat has been a pleasant surprise with 11 goals in 27 games. The problem is that he is currently on the third line and to keep up his Fantasy value, he needs to get more Top 6 ice time, which means replacing John Hayden as we know Patrick Kane isn’t going anywhere.