Obviously Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are going to have immediate impact in fantasy hockey, but unlike fantasy football or baseball, rookies are often of little value. It's just the way hockey works. McDavid and Eichel are the rarest of gems made of the most remarkable of minerals... and they just so happened to have come in the same draft class. It's like getting two first edition Charizard Pokemon cards in the same pack! (I don't know, I had to look it up). Point being, there are few rookies that hold potential fantasy worth when the puck drops Wednesday night. But they do exist, so I thought perhaps I'd write about a handful.
With that said, this isn't a definitive Top 5 Rookies list. These are just 5 guys that I will be keeping my eye on as the weeks progress. I listed them in order of who I think will be the least useful to most useful.
Pavel Zacha (C-NJD) - 2015 6th overall
As Devils fans, we're really champing at the bit to see what Zacha has to offer. Truthfully, that's the main reason I have him on here. As we've said on here time and time again, if he pans out like we hope, then it means a slightly shorter rebuild time. If he stumbles (like most of the Devils' picks over the last 10 years), then it means, well, we still suck at drafts and we will still suck on the rink. He's sticking around New Jersey for the time being (as of me writing this, anyway), so that bodes well regarding what the organization has seen from him, but I think much of his roster spot is simply because we stink. And also we're a little short up front until Patrik Elias comes back. I wish Zacha would stick around, but unfortunately, it seems likely he'll be packing his bags soon. I actually almost drafted him with my final pick in a fantasy draft simply because. But I didn't.
Mikko Rantanen (RW-COL) - 2015 10th overall
Rantanen turned pro in 2012 in Finland, so he isn't eligible to play junior hockey. Because of that, the Colorado Avalanche's options were keep him, send him to the AHL, or send him to Finland. As of writing this, they've chosen the first one. The Avs have been known to give their rookies the trial by fire treatment (Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon), which I don't think was a mistake in any of these cases. I don't think it is here, either. In fact, Rantanen is arguably in a better position than all of those guys were their rookie seasons, considering his size and experience. I like this guy a lot and he was who I hoped the Devils were going to draft with the 6th pick. I think he could find himself as high as the low 40 point range this season if he sticks around.
Anthony Duclair (LW-ARI) - 2013 80th overall (Rangers)
Does he count as a rookie? No one knows the rules on this (read: I don't know the rules on this and should probably look it up). He played just 18 games last year for the Rangers before being sent down, but made enough of an impression that the Arizona Coyotes asked for him when they sent Keith Yandle to the blue shirts (although they may have been more impressed by his 50 Goals and 49 Assists in 59 games for the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL in 2013-14 and him being a key reason for Canada's gold medal at the World Junior). Duclair is set to see a lot of time on the 2nd line for the Coyotes, as well as the 2nd PP unit. That's a nice spot to be in for a rookie(?). He could be a nice fill in from time to time in fantasy if things are going well for him in the desert. I'm thinking 16 goals for a point total of 39 is a reasonable expectation from him this year. While that is pretty decent numbers for a rookie, I do Duclair (get it?!) his fantasy career will always be as a fill in guy.
Noah Hanifin (D-CAR) - 2015 5th overall
It seemed likely from the moment he was drafted, the 18-year-old Boston, Mass native would be with the Canes right away. Not just because he's an elite prospect and the first defenseman off the board in the 2015 draft, but mostly because the Hurricanes are likely one of the worst 3 or 4 teams in the league (much like the Devils and Zacha). He's not going to hurt them, so why not bring him in right away? You shouldn't expect him to have as tremendous of an immediate impact as Aaron Ekblad, but he's obviously a talent worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses. I'd put his rookie season expectations somewhere in the middle of Ekblad's and Seth Jones's. He's currently set to skate on a #3 pair, but he could easily climb to a #2 spot. Justin Faulk is the only lock for a nightly top pairing, with James Wisniewski currently slotted next to him. Wizzy gets hurt a lot, which means a couple defenseman will have to slide up. I think Hanifin will be one of them.
Max Domi (C-ARI) - 2013 12th overall
This is the rookie to have. Well, Eichel and McDavid are the rookies to have, but this is the one to have if you don't have Eichel and McDavid. He's slotted in on the right side of the 2nd line with Antoine Vermette at center and his best buddy and above mentioned Duclair on the other wing. He'll also see a decent amount of power play action. Unlike his dad, he has the offensive ability to make an impact (32 goals and 70 assists for OHL London last season, I'm not sure what that adds up to, but it's a lot). There is zero risk in drafting him or grabbing him from the waiver wire today. He'll be with the 'Yotes all season and the scouting reports express that good things are in store for him. I predict he will be in the running for the Calder Trophy with 21 goals and mid-50 points.
What other rookies can you guys and girls think of that could have fake hockey value this season? Please do comment below with your thoughts. Since the real and fake hockey season starts Wednesday, next Monday will be the kickoff of the weekly features I mentioned in my introductory post.