The risk of reaching rookies in the fantasy hockey draft


It’s round nine of your fantasy draft, William Nylander is still on the board, and an overly excited owner just exclaimed he’s landed « Flight of the Night » in the rarely active secondary chat. Juraj Slafkovsky was taken by the league’s self-proclaimed « prospects guy ». While he may be complaining about the length of the snake draft, Josh Norris and Filip Forsberg have been quietly picked up by owners who have watched team after team get burned by first-year players in the past. It’s a trend seen in fantasy lobbies year after year, with rookie players hurting drafters reaching first-year trumps while proven, top-notch talent is still waiting to be picked.

Since 2010, Mathew Barzal’s 85-point rookie campaign in 2017-18 is the only season to eclipse the 80-plus-point mark by a first-year player since Evgeni Malkin burst into the league with a season of 85 points in 2006-07. Going even further, Artemi Panarin was the only other rookie to break the 70-point mark since 2010, aged 24 in 2015-16. There were 50 lone players in the 2021-22 fantasy season who topped the 70-point mark (and 55 in the last 82-game season in 2018-19). That said, your chances are noticeably higher of getting a much better production from a well-known fantasy veteran than from a rookie.

With names like Owen Powers, Mason McTavish and Slafkovsky staring every fantasy owner in the face on draft day, we’re approaching Cole Caufield’s first birthday averaging 103 in Yahoo League drafts. A pick that would end up decimating many fantasy owners’ seasons early on as he sadly struggled to find his footing and would later claim a spot in the AHL. It’s just a year after we’ve all seen owners get burned to the highest degree by Alexis Lafrenière after spending their mid-term picks on his supposed NHL-ready and therefore fantasy-ready potential.

2021-22 rookie points leader Michael Bunting of the Toronto Maple Leafs was a fantastic free agent standing out at the end of the year, but his 63 total points were still good enough to put him in 70th rank of point scorers in the NHL. Fellow rookie Trevor Zegras may hold the record for most flashy goals in an opening season, but his 61 points put him outside the league’s top 75 goalscorers, while his 23 goals l ranked 95th in the league. Tanner Jeannot, the rookie scoring leader, finished with a solid 24 goals, which still only placed him 83rd and on the cusp of a worthy fantasy throughout the season.

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First board recruits by ADP in previous three versions + subsequent notable recruits

(ADP provided by Yahoo Fantasy)

Premier Rookie ADP 2021-2022: Cole Caufield (103 ADP) 23 Gs, 20 Aces, 43 Pts, 188 Shots, -24 in 67 games.

Notable later ADP:

  • Joe Pavelski (107 ADP – 81 points)
  • Vladimir Tarasenko (110 ADP – 82 pts)
  • Tomas Hertl (126 ADP – 64 pts)
  • Jordan Kyrou (142 ADP – 75 pts)
  • Timo Meier (149 ADP – 86 points)

First recruit 2020-2021: Alexis Lafrenière (129 ADP) 12 Gs, 9 As, 21 Pts, 67 S, -7, in 56 games

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Notable later ADP:

  • Anze Kopitar (134 ADP – 50 points)
  • Ondrej Palat (160 ADP – 46 pts)
  • Nikolaj Ehlers (152 ADP – 46 pts)
  • Bryan Rust (162 – 44 points)

First recruit 2019-2020: Kaapo Kakko (113 ADP) 10 Gs, 13 As, 23 pts, 109 S, -26 in 66 games

Notable later ADP:

  • Andrei Svechnikov (127 ADP – 61 pts)
  • Kyle Connor (130 ADP – 73 points)
  • Anze Kopitar (155 ADP – 62 pts)

When it comes to other options when drafting in the middle rounds, look for players who are known as power-play products, high-minute eaters, and those who tend to put a lot of pucks on the net . These are three essential parts of the game that many rookies don’t usually provide when adjusting NHL games. Players like Anze Kopitar, Timo Meier, Nikolaj Ehlers and Tomas Hertl stand out as players from several previous projects, which have been vetted for younger and less productive talent. With the ability to lock more than 60-70 points from a stable veteran or an up-and-coming player with 25+ games played, big picks in these rounds can tip a fantasy team off the average; relevant very quickly.

That said, rookies are some of the best ways to improve your fantasy agent roster through the free agent pool, so you shouldn’t be worried about them taking up a late draft pick or space in any way. free agent if they fall behind in a draft. A season ago, players like Matt Boldy proved that to be accurate as a mid-season pickup.

So this year, when you’re hit by your 90-second draft timer, looking at the pick of Owen Power (ADP 111.7) or Thomas Chabot (ADP 114.8), go for the name that shows a averaged 11 goals and 43 assists (54 points) per 82 games, rather than betting on Power to become the fourth rookie defenseman to reach the top 50 in points since 2000.

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