image courtesy of TSN
When it comes to breaking into the NHL, there’s a couple ways to do it. There’s the prototypical grinders who give 110% and help the team win any way they can. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are purely offensive skill players who can’t be denied a spot when they score enough. Trying to place players on a spectrum like this is silly, but my point is that when I’m evaluating a bunch of new players that I haven’t heard of, or I’m unfamiliar with how they play and all I have is a stat line, I take a look at how newbies are scoring their points.
Players who can contribute consistently at even-strength earn my faith that they are capable enough to be full time NHLers. Guys who can contribute on the powerplay also earn my faith that they will have a chance to score even if they are demoted down the lineup. Guys who historically only get ES points who suddenly show up on PP units later in the year (or their career) are the real sleeper fantasy picks – because all of a sudden they are straight up adding points to their stat line that did not exist before, without sacrificing prior contributions. So this is worth worrying about.
So, let’s look at the top rookies this year, and how their production breaks down:
All stats courtesy of NHL.com, collected Dec. 8th
- The bottom of this list interests me more than the top. Petterson and Tkachuk’s NHL futures doesn’t much matter when they are as good as they are. They should be 100% drafted in fantasy leagues regardless of the ES/PP split.
- There is one noticeable red flag here – Mittelstadt isn’t scoring at a great pace total, then half of those points are on the PP… if he gets dropped off that unit then his bubble fantasy value drops even more. He has tons of raw potential as a prospect, but the short-term fantasy value is hinging on a cliff. Beware.
- On the other hand, there’s some big names with some hope for a surge – I’m a noted fan of Thomas in St. Louis, who is only scoring at even strength so far, and has fewer games played than most on the list. If he gets on the top unit once in a while, all of a sudden his point pace could become immediately fantasy-worthy. Closer to the top of the list, Kotkaniemi and Cirelli and Howden are already putting up borderline fantasy-relevant numbers without being buoyed by powerplay tallies. All it takes is a hot PP2 for one of these names to start looking alot more appetizing, so keep an eye out for those lineups.