In lieu of another monstrous week from Winnipeg Jets rookie Patrik Laine, it’s only right to give this year’s young blood rookie class some more love. Without question, the NHL is now a young man’s game – just don’t tell that to 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr. In fact, it’s crazy to think that about 10% of the league right now is eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy which is given annually to the league’s top rookie.
While the aforementioned Laine and Leafs centre Auston Matthews have been as advertised, there’s plenty of newbies who’ve made significant impacts earlier than expected.
Michigan native Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets has burst onto the scene. The 19 year old defenseman joined me on the Fantasy Fix Podcast.
Ever wondered if NHLers play fantasy hockey? Well, yeah they do.
“I don’t play it right now. I’ve played it in the past”, Werenski said. “I figured going into the year just to put some priorities aside and focus on hockey so I took the year off from fantasy hockey. When I did play, I loved it.”
So, that’s that. Also on the agenda – What’s it like to play for John Tortorella?
“I love playing for coach Tortorella so far. He obviously speaks his mind and is brutally honest so you have to be ready for that”, Werenski noted. “Sometimes you don’t want to hear it but you got to take the good with the bad and you got to learn from it.”
Without question, Werenski is off to a fabulous start tallying 12 points in his first 13 NHL games. For what it’s worth, he’s my Calder frontrunner at this point and time.
Patrik Laine – LW, RW – Winnipeg Jets
16 GP: 11 goals, 5 assists, 16 points, +2, 1.00 PTS/G
The flashy Fin is off to a dazzling start in his NHL career. We’re not even at the quarter mark of the season and he already has two hat tricks to his name – currently leading the entire league with 11 goals. While it’s egregious to suggest he’ll put up numbers like his countrymen Teemu Selanne did in his rookie campaign, it is conceivable that Laine lands around the 35 goal mark. He’s a pure sniper and that won’t change anytime soon.
Auston Matthews – C – Toronto Maple Leafs
15 GP: 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points, -4, 0.80 PTS/G
After a ridiculous four goal outburst in his first NHL game, Matthews has been pretty quiet offensively since opening night in Canada’s capital. He continues to play on an all-rookie line with William Nylander and Zach Hyman. While he’s poised to breakout again at any time, Matthews is currently mired in an eight game goalless drought. Don’t lose sleep over it. These things happen.
William Nylander – C, RW – Toronto Maple Leafs
15 GP: 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, -2, 0.80 PTS/G
Similar to his linemate, Nylander has had his issues offensively lately too. With that in mind, he’s still getting multiple opportunities a game and shooting the puck a ton. Furthermore, even Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock stated recently that Nylander is better than Babcock thought he was. That’s high praise from a bench boss who’s notorious for protecting his youngsters.
Mitch Marner – C, RW – Toronto Maple Leafs
15 GP: 5 goals, 7 assists, 12 points, -7, 0.80 PTS/G
Low and behold – another Leafs player in the top-10 of rookie scoring. After all, the average age of the team seems to be about 16. The only thing ugly about Marner this season may be his putrid plus-minus rating but whatever, he’s dynamic as hell. He’ll continue to dazzle.
Jimmy Vesey – LW – New York Rangers
16 GP: 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, +6, 0.69 PTS/G
The New York Rangers have been a remarkable story. Seemingly everyone counted them out before the puck even dropped for the 2016/2017 season. With 62 goals in 16 games so far, they’re routinely ruining the nights for opposing netminders and coaches. For a guy who took a lot of flak for his decision to leave the Nashville Predators organization, Vesey has been excellent thus far. We’ll see what happens when he inevitably faces some scrutiny down the road. The reaction to that is the most important part to growth.
Travis Konecny – C, LW – Philadelphia Flyers
16 GP: 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, -3, 0.63 PTS/G
On a nightly basis, the London Ontario native is making Philadelphia’s brain trust look like a bunch of geniuses. It’s a small sample size but considering what we’ve seen – it’s astonishing Konecny went 24th overall in the 2015 draft. His speed, determination and feistiness make him the total package. While it’s probably a stretch to suggest he puts up high-end point totals this year, he’ll most probably land in about the 35-45 point range. He does a lot of things well. It’s impressive.
Sebastian Aho – LW, RW – Carolina Hurricanes
14 GP: 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points, 0, 0.64 PTS/G
Perhaps it’s a byproduct of where he plays but Aho is quietly having a solid start to his NHL career. He doesn’t have the high end skill of say a Matthews or a Laine but similar to Konecny, his all round game is tremendous. It’s hard to believe he wasn’t a first rounder. Suffice it to say, good drafting by the Canes!
Brady Skjei – D – New York Rangers
16 GP: 0 goals, 9 assists, 9 points, +5, 0.56 PTS/G
It’s the running joke that the Rangers never have a first round pick. They always seem to trade it away. That being said, it’s safe to say that they nailed their 28th overall selection in the 2012 draft when they picked Skjei. As we know, most defenseman don’t hit their full stride until about their mid 20’s so this kid’s stock will continue to rise. These offensive numbers are good but certainly not sustainable. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Pavel Buchnevich – LW, RW – New York Rangers
10 GP: 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, +4, 0.80 PTS/G
After a slow start, this dynamic Russian is starting to find his game. It’s not a big surprise – he’s put up significant numbers everywhere he’s played. Buchnevich is probably the closest thing we have to Artemi Panarin this year. He’s 21 where most rookies are 18 or 19. His ceiling is through the roof. Let’s hope this recent back spasm issue is nothing major.
Alex Wennberg – C – Columbus Blue Jackets
Charlie Coyle – C, RW – Minnesota Wild
Paul Byron – LW, RW – Montreal Canadiens
Sam Gagner – C, RW – Columbus Blue Jackets
Conor Sheary – LW, RW – Pittsburgh Penguins
Episode Five of the Fantasy Fix Podcast was jam packed with content. David Satriano of NHL.com stopped by and so did Columbus Blue Jackets stud rookie defenseman Zach Werenski.
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