So, I know what you are thinking.
You read the headline of this article and thought “Is that really a hockey story ?”
Well, I am thinking the same thing.
But here we are, it’s the middle of August, daily temperatures where I am here in Texas are still in the mid 90’s with a heat index making it feel like is over 100 degrees, but yes, this is a hockey story. We are getting into the stretch run of the baseball season with a very interesting wildcard playoff fight shaping up, and we are watching preseason NFL football and having our fantasy football drafts, but yes, this is a hockey story.
That being said, it is things like this, writing and posting hockey stories in August, and you reading hockey stories in August, that separate the winners from the losers in their fantasy hockey leagues.
I know it’s early, but I am going to give you a list of some young players to keep your eyes on for the upcoming 2017-18 NHL season.
The guys on this list of rookies have the potential to make a difference for their team and be this season’s version of guys like Auston Matthews, William Nylander, or Patrik Laine. The guys I have on this list, have the potential to help you this year, if you are in a redraft fantasy hockey league, but may be even more impactful as long-term players for those of you in keeper or dynasty leagues. I am not putting these players in a specific order, they are all players that are worth looking at and have the potential to be standouts as rookies for this upcoming season. Enough with my rambling, let’s get to the players.
I am going to start with the forwards. I am going to give you four names to watch this year. Before I get to those names, I am going to tell you that I am leaving this years top two draft picks, the Devils Nico Hischier, and the Flyers Nolan Patrick off of my list. Both of these players definitely have the potential to be impact players for the long-term but I am focusing my list more on this year, so I am leaving these guys off for now. I think that if they do end up playing at the NHL level this season, and they likely will both have an opportunity to do so, I am not sure they will have as big an impact as the other players I am naming. I know The Fantasy Jester will flip out, if I don’t at least mention his New Jersey Devils top draft pick. With that out-of-the-way now too, it’s time to get serious.
Forward number 1 is the Winnipeg Jets Kyle Connor. Kyle is 20 years old and was the 17th pick in the 2015 NHL draft. Connor did play in 20 games for the Jets last season and scored 5 points(2 goals, 3 assists) in that span. He also played 52 games with Manitoba in the AHL where he scored 44 points(25 goals, 19 assists). In the previous season(2015-16) he played at the University of Michigan where he scored 71 points(35 goals, 36 assists) in 38 games. Connor is expected to be given a shot to play with the Jets again this season and is likely to stay this year.
The 2nd forward to watch is Josh Ho-Sang of the New York Islanders. The 21-year-old Ho-Sang was the 28th pick in the 2014 NHL draft. He had a decent year playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL last year, 36 points(10 goals, 26 assists) in 50 games, before getting the call up to the Islanders late in the season. Once there, Josh scored 10 points(4 goals, 6 assists) in 21 games. It is expected that he will stay at the NHL level this season and play on the Islanders second line as well as being given a chance to play on the powerplay team.
Forwards number 3 and 4 are teammates with the Arizona Coyotes. I will start with Clayton Keller. Keller is only 19 years old and was the 7th pick in the 2016 NHL draft. Keller spent most of last season playing for Boston University where in 31 games he scored 45 points(21 goals, 24 assists). He also played 3 games with the Coyotes to finish off the season. He scored 2 points, both assists, in those 3 games. With the Coyotes now having a very young team and going with a number of young players at their core, expect Keller to be one of the players that at least gets a shot to play at the NHL level this year. Once he is given the opportunity, it will up to him to make the most of it and show that he deserves to stay.
Number 4 is Keller’s teammate in Arizona, Dylan Strome. Strome is 20 years old and was the number 3 pick in the 2015 NHL draft. Another player in the youth movement going on in Arizona, Strome does not have much NHL experience yet, he played in 7 games last season scoring 1 point(an assist). He spent most of last year playing for the Erie Otters of the OHL where he played the previous 3 seasons as well. Last year, in 35 games he scored 75 points(22 goals, 53 assists) for Erie in their regular season. He also added another 34 points(14 goals, 20 assists) in 22 playoff games for Erie. That is a total of 109 points(36 goals, 73 assists) in 57 games. There is a big difference between the OHL and the NHL but Strome’s ability to score should translate at the NHL level. It may not be immediate, but when given the opportunity, Strome looks to have the potential to be an impact player at the NHL level.
Moving on from forwards to the defensemen. I am going to give 2 defensemen that are likely to be high impact players to watch this year.
Player 1 is Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins. McAvoy is 19 years old and was the 14th pick in the 2016 NHL draft. McAvoy has already made an impact in the NHL when he made his Boston Bruins debut last year in the NHL playoffs. He played in 6 playoff games and scored 3 points(3 assists) during his stint in Boston showing that he definitely has what it takes to play at the NHL level. Prior to his call up, McAvoy played 4 games with the Providence Bruins of the AHL scoring 2 points(2 assists) with 4 penalty minutes and a +3 plus/minus rating. He spent most of his year playing college hockey at Boston University where he scored 26 points(5 goals, 21 assists), had 51 penalty minutes, and a +9 plus/minus rating in 38 games. It would be a surprise if McAvoy does not start this season with the Boston Bruins. McAvoy should pick up where he left off after his playoff appearance with Boston and have a big impact in the NHL this year and for years to come.
Player 2 is Mikhail Sergachev who was traded in the offseason from Montreal to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sergachev is a 19-year-old who was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 9th pick in the 2016 draft. He played 4 games with Montreal last year scoring 0 points and had a +1 plus/minus rating. He spent most of his season playing for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL where he played 50 games. Sergachev scored 43 points(10 goals, 33 assists), was a +22 plus/minus rating, and had 71 penalty minutes. Montreal traded Sergachev in the offseason to Tampa in exchange for Jonathan Drouin. Tampa likely give Sergachev a bigger opportunity to play at the NHL level this year. If he can stick with the big club after training camp, it may take a little time for him to adjust fully to the NHL game, but he has the ability and potential to be an impact player with Tampa for now and for the future.
Last but not least, I want to share 1 goaltender to watch. That 1 goalie is Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators. Yes, Saros played in 21 regular season and 3 playoff games last season in a role as Pekka Rinne’s backup but it is likely that role will be expanded this upcoming season. Saros is 22 years old and was the 99th pick(4th round) in the 2013 NHL draft and even though he played last year, he is still considered a rookie for the upcoming 2017-18 season. He went 10-8-3 as a starter last year with a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average. While Saros is likely to enter the season as Rinne’s backup again, it is possible that he is given more starts this year as Rinne is now 34 years old and may need a bit more rest during the course of an NHL season. With the way that Saros has performed in that role and in the playoffs last year, the Predators are more likely to give him that opportunity to play more and if an injury were to occur to Rinne, Saros would be a virtual lock to take over for him. With a team in Nashville coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, Saros is someone to keep on your radar for this year at only 22 years old, for years to come.
That is my list of rookies to watch for now, but stay tuned here at fantasyjestersports.com for more hockey previews from me over the next few weeks.
I am sure there are others that I left off this list so feel free to let me know who else you think should be on the rookie watch list by leaving a comment below. Or if you think someone on my list shouldn’t be, let me know that as well.
Thanks for reading and check out The Fantasy Jester Show, to hear what the Jester and JT think of my list.
Until next time.