Well there we have it. The 2017-18 is nearly in the rearview mirror (an inconsequential BOS/FLA makeup game awaits tonight), and it was an absolutely fantastic year for rookies. Barzal hit 85 points, blowing everyone's expectations away, and Vancouver has a new local legend in Brock Boeser (seriously, he's everywhere here now). But now its time for playoffs, and not all of these talented kids will be included. Some teams got knocked out, and some stronger teams will be a lot less generous with their ice time now that games amtter again. So let's do a quick run-down of the kids we may or may not see more of in the playoffs:
With Carlyle coaching, dont expect forwards like Roy, Terry, or Kossila to be in the lineup unless multiple injuries occur. Similarly, the current third pairing of Petterson and Welinski will only hang around until Fowler and Bieksa are ready to return (second or third round). I'm expecting minimal TOI all around.
Here we go – a team with real contributing rookies. If anything, McAvoy's 22 minutes/game will go up once the games start to really matter, but to save his energy I also expect him to see minimal powerplay time. Donato has played far fewer games than anyone else on the team and I expect that freshness will give him a boost. No reason he should slide off PP1 until Rick Nash returns. Meanwhile, DeBrusk and Heinen are holding down the 2nd line and swap in and out of PP2. With most teams sheltering their kids, Boston deserves our DobberProspects respect for letting them do their thing to the fullest.
Speaking of big-game rookies, who saw Sam Girard's performance last night with the teams playoff hopes on the line?? He stepped up to the plate and will be expected to do so even more with Johnson injured. Its very possible they lean on him on the PP to help keep Barrie rested. Kerfoot continues to bring streaky productivity to the 2nd line alongside a solid (but not top-level) Jost. Compher currently sits on the 4th line but moves up and down the lineup a lot and is a good candidate to be "that bottom six guy" that every team has that seems to step up in the playoffs.
Dubois' hype was rewarded this season as he steadily rose to the #1 centerman position. Him and Milano hold down spots on the top ES line and PP1 unit, and the Jackets have exactly the type of defensive players needed to let them take the OZ starts. This could be a perfect situation for the two rookies to rack up the points whie Letestu and Dubinsky take care of DZ starts. If you believe in Columbus to upset in the first round, these two are your fantasy targets. Kukan is on the 3rd pairing right now but barely sees any TOI so dont worry about it.
Despite being regular-season standouts, Kempe and Iafollo just dont have the linemates or TOI to be as productive as they were during the injury-riddled regular season. Kempe on PP2 is still a good chance for a few points, but Iafollo is off my draft list completely. Expect Ladue and Brickley to be ushered aside with Muzzin and Forbort's returns. Amadio could turn into a 4th line hero that LA loves to churn out, but there are safer bets to make.
The Wild bottom-six is centered by fantasy-relevant freshmen in Greenway and Eriksson–Ek. Neither exacly lit it up before now, but both play a complete, heavy, playoff-ready game and could easily break out. Kunin had surgery and is dunzo. Catastophic hits to the back end mean Seeler is on the second-pairing, but there isn't fantasy value there.
Eeli Tolvanen. Ultimate sleeper, pure sniper. Incredibly high payoff potential.
Top line center Hischier and winger Bratt will be getting lots of attention, but luckily they're also on PP1 so we can still expect them to be producers in some capacity. Speaking of PP1, Butcher is still a point machine and worth keeping in mind if you believe in the upset potential. Coleman has been useful all year and is one of the depth producers that atter in the playoffs.
Patrick settled into the 2nd-line C role just in time. The Couturier line will likely go head-to-head with the opponents top line, meaning Patrick wont see the toughest competition. If they weren't the sizable underdog, I'd take a waiver on him. Sanheim doesn't see enough minutes on the back end to make me think he'll be relied on much, but has the potential to prove me wrong. Same with Lindblom up front.
Aston-Reese is the only roster survivor right now and his 11 minutes TOI dont excite me, but if injuries hit, keep an eye out for Simon to jump back into that spot beside Crosby that he filled decently at times this year. Anyone playing with Crosby or Malkin is a prime fantasy target, but right now the spots are veterans' to lose.
Ryan has been paired with Brett Burns for most of the year. Granted, its to be the defensive yin to his offensive yang, but just being on the ice with the beast provides some mild value. Sorensen on the 4th line is a longshot to produce but could be moved up if (when) Boedker disappoints above him.
Obviously Gourde has been a great story, plays a perfect games to translate to the playoffs, and should be high on your draft list, but newcomer Cirelli has quietly put up 11 points in 18 games. Dont sleep on this sneaky value as he will be playing with strong linemates. On the back end, Sergachev can produce but it might be limited to the PP now that he's on the 3rd pairing.
Komarov's return from Injury means Johnsson is out of the lineup for the time being. But he impressed the coaches so expect a short leash on Komarov should he get skated around too many times. Kapanen is locked in on the 4th line but his speed will make him the most dangerous 4th-liner in the playoffs. Dermott has become a mainstay but hasn't been relied on for offense.
Tuch sees time on the top line and PP1, so if you believe in the Vegas miracle run then you may as well take a chance on this rookie. Maybe Karlsson will share his secreat sauce with him.
Faith I have that Vrana will be given the chance to actually be productive: 1/5. Stephenson doesn't have much to work with on the 4th line o I'm passing on that. They picked up lots of depth D at the deadline so that Djoos could be sat out until the offensive struggles hit, and Bowey is still a work in progress. Overall, I'm not a fan of any rookie options on this squad, based only on the poor utilization.
Possible the most valuable rookie pick ni the playoffs – Connor continues to play alongside Schiefele and Wheeler and score more than enough to earn that spot. The stars will go fast in the drafts but the sidekicks are always the true value. Poolman is technically in the lineup but you dont need to be a fantasy guru to decide he's not worth taking a flyer on.
Time for my last 1st NHL Goals segment of the season:
First on the list because of his all-star hair game, Sami Niku trickles one through for his first;
Spencer Foo gets to the right place and it pays off.
Some nice instincts from d-man Ethan Bear to sneak down low for the backdoor pass
Been a tough year for Alex Nylander but sometimes the tips go your way. Just gotta stick with it.
Thank you for reading, and best of luck in your playoff pools!
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