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Draft Guide

Roundtable: Rookie Standouts

by Corey Abbott
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

Hey, everyone. I'd like to welcome Kevin Brown to Rotoworld's Roundtable discussion this week.


You can follow us all on Twitter @CoreAbbott @kbrownroto @mfinewaxhockey and @RyanDadoun.


This week's topic is: Not counting Nashville's Filip Forsberg, which rookies have caught your eye this season?


Ryan Dadoun: There's been a fair number of rookies that have gotten off to strong starts this season and I'm positive we're going to talk about them, but before we get into that I want to highlight two guys that realistically don't have a shot at the Calder Trophy: goaltenders Scott Darling and Troy Grosenick.  Neither of these guys were safe bets to ever make the NHL and both had to wait until they were 25 to make their debuts as injury replacements.  They're not future stars, but they each of them stood tall in their first NHL game.  I'm a sucker for those storybook tales about guys that get their moment in the spotlight after taking the long way to their dreams.


Michael Finewax: Tanner Pearson is starting to pick it up again after a prolonged slump in which he went 11 games with only one assist. He has two goals in his last two games after starting the season with seven in his first eight contests. He just snuck into this contest as he played the full complement of 25 games last season as one more would have made him ineligible for the Calder Trophy. His peripheral stats of a plus-13 with 12 penalty minutes only help his cause and if he continues to play as a top-six forward with Los Angeles, and Forsberg slumps, he could be in the equation for rookie of the year.


Kevin Brown: Florida forward Vincent Trocheck has flown entirely under the radar (0 percent Yahoo ownership) because he started the season in the minors, but he’s been dynamite since he was called up earlier in the month, similar to Gustav Nyqvist last year. He has only played 10 games since he was summoned from San Antonio so his six points don’t jump out at you, but his 21 shots are evidence that he and teammate Jimmy Hayes have formed an unlikely connection, overshadowing more notable teammates Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. I’m not ready to call him a frontrunner for the Calder, but he certainly deserves more attention than he’s been receiving.


Corey Abbott: Very good picks.  Someone who has jumped on my radar recently is Dallas defenseman John Klingberg.  He's getting lots of ice time and recently was promoted to the Stars' top power-play unit.  He has also produced six points in seven games.  Klingberg is in Dallas to stay after starting the season in the minors and he's been an offensive threat everywhere he's played. 


Michael Finewax: I love Klingberg and think he is going to get picked up in many leagues. He reminds me of the start that Damon Severson had with New Jersey at the beginning of the season. Severson was just as hot as Klingberg is now but has cooled off considerably since. The one factor that remains for Severson is that he still leads the Devils in power play time on ice and should start picking up points again soon. He is a plus-two with eight points thus far.


Kevin Brown: I’m still on the Severson bandwagon as well, despite his recent slump.  It definitely helps that he has recorded 56 shots on goal, which is light years ahead of all other rookie blueliners. Sticking with rookie defensemen, it’s surprising how quietly Aaron Ekblad has notched 11 points considering he was the number one overall pick last year. Young rearguards often take some time to get acclimated to NHL life so his early success is very encouraging.


Ryan Dadoun: A significant part of Calgary's early success is the production they've gotten out of their rookies.  The big one there has been Johnny Gaudreau.  His skill wasn't in question going into this season, but people were concerned that he might take a while to adapt to the NHL given his small stature.  He had no points in his first five games this season, but since then he's been averaging roughly a point-per-game and his production has been pretty evenly spread out over that span.  He's still owned in just 29% of Yahoo leagues, so there's a lot of people that can still pick him up and benefit from what could be a great season.


Corey Abbott: Sticking with Calgary another player I recently took note of is Markus Granlund.  He's stepped for the Flames after injuries struck several of the team's centers.  He's another guy who started the season in the minors and he's generated nine points in 11 games as a top-six forward.  Switching gears, who among this year's first-year crop did you expect more from and do you think they will be more of a factor as the year moves along? 


Kevin Brown: I’ll grab the low-hanging fruit and name Jonathan Drouin here. Early-season injury aside, he hasn’t been as productive from a statistical standpoint as most believed he would be.  That said, I wouldn’t be the least bit worried if I owned him in a keeper league and I actually think I’ll be targeting him in redraft formats. He passes the eye test and since his ice time has been scarce his mark of better than 2.5 points/60 points to a coming breakout.


Ryan Dadoun: I had Drouin as my preseason Calder Trophy pick, so he definitely hasn't lived up to my expectations thus far, although I agree with Kevin that it's far too early to worry if you're in a keeper league.  I had high hopes for Evgeny Kuznetsov, especially seeing as there was an opening available for him with Mikhail Grabovski heading to the Islanders.  He's struggled to establish himself in Trotz's Capitals though.  He's averaged just 11:14 minutes of ice time this season and that number has only been going down.  Long-term, Kuznetsov could be a great top-six forward, but it seems the short-term will be painful.


Michael Finewax: Kuznetsov has disappointed me this season as he can't even cement a spot as a top-six forward. There are still a couple of rookies that I really like including Andre Burkovsky of the Capitals who in my opinion has surpassed Kuznetsov on the Washington depth charts and the first overall pick in this year's draft, Aaron Ekblad. Ekland on a poor Florida team has two goals and 11 points to rank fifth among rookies in points and he is a plus-three to boot.


Corey Abbott: Leon Draisaitl hasn't been lighting it up at the NHL level this season, with two goals and five points in 21 games. He's been averaging 12:30 of ice time per game and he has registered just 28 shots. I would've liked to see him get more time in the WHL, but the Oilers seem content to keep the third overall pick in 2014 on their roster. Buffalo's Sam Reinhart was returned to Kootenay of the WHL and he's been dominant after seeing limited minutes (10:21 per game) with the Sabres. The second overall choice in 2014 had one assist in nine contests at the NHL level, but he's accounted for four goals and 18 points in eight outings with the Ice. Both of them are great keeper league picks, who we should expect more from in the future.

Corey Abbott

Corey Abbott is an Editor for Hockey on NBC Sports Edge. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @CoreAbbott.