In the early weeks of October 2016 Pavel Buchenevich took the Fantasy world by storm. The year before it was Oscar Lindberg, and for both players; within a month they were among the most dropped players league wide. There is always a rookie or unknown name who comes flying out of the gate and gains a ridiculous amount of fantasy adds regardless of if they should or not. While I’m never against riding the hot hand in fantasy sports, it is nice knowing what statistics are truly warranted and which are soon to fade into the deserved fantasy expectations. As in past years after the first week of games we have seen some new names emerge as fantasy rookie steals, just like we saw a season ago with Zach Werenski and Mitch Marner. Inspired by a segment from the DailyFaceoff Podcast, below we will look at what players are truly legit to be rostering in fantasy and which are just an optical illusion riding the hot streak of an early season run.
*Players have been rated on how legit they would be to roster for a standard 12 team league by standard rules.
Jakub Vrana (Washington Capitals) – Legit-ish
Vrana has earned his legit status strictly as a product of the environment around him, slotting in on one of the most lethal lines in the league. Vrana is currently playing the right wing alongside seven-time 50 goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, and playmaking center Evgeny Kuzentsov, who managed nearly a point per game in his last 51 regular season games (48 points).
If the 2014 No.13 pick can continue being a nice fit on the all star filled line, he could be in for a very productive, assist filled year compared to only six points through his first 21 games a season ago.
Monday night’s performance may seem like an alarming sign of things to come as Vrana recorded a season low 12:59 TOI—this is after averaging nearly 16 minutes through his first two games. This seemed more like an off night all around for the Caps top line and as mentioned should be brushed off for now. Vrana is a legit roster-able piece in most leagues as long as he’s playing alongside such talented players and offers the nice option of both right and left wing eligibility. Ovechkin looks poised for another great scoring year, and Kuznetsov could be in for the breakout season many expected last year after a 77 point 2015-16 campaign. Vrana could easily be on way to a 50-55 point season, much like we witnessed from veteran Justin Williams, who averaged 23 goals and 50 points across two seasons in the Capitals top-6
Jesper Bratt (New Jersey Devils) – Not Legit
Bratt is currently the most added forward in Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and after five points in two games, deservedly so. There is no other players showing signs of being this year’s Buchenevich more than the Devils’ Bratt.
Slotted in on New Jerseys top line for the time being, Bratt’s hot start has been fueled by an unheard of, perfect 100% shooting percentage. (Three shots, three goals)
For the time being, the 2016 steal of the draft (6th round, No.162 overall) may make a sneaky DFS play, as well as pick up for the week. But he is almost sure for regression as the season continues and with the return of regular top liner Kyle Palmieri (lower-body) in the upcoming days, Bratt is sure to return to his third line role as expected out of camp. He will not warrant a roster spot for long, so unless you are in need of immediate help, you would be better off overlooking the week one sniper for now.
Jake DeBrusk (Boston Bruins) – Not Legit
The first few games this season resembled a coming out party for previous first round picks as 2014’s No.14 overall pick, DeBrusk followed suit with an impressive two point debut with the Bruins.
With David Backes on the IR for three to four weeks with diverticulitis, DeBrusk is likely to get an extended look in Boston’s top-6. However, the Bruins are not an offensive powerhouse like we see with Chicago and Washington making Debrusk’s position in the line up not nearly enough to warrant dropping anyone for him at this point in the season. A steady, but not elite WHL scorer through his three seasons (185 Pts in 205 GP) DeBrusk looks to be more of a third or fourth liner for the remainder of the season while the Bruins slowly get return to health. With just 13:30 TOI through his first two games, for the interim, there are certainly safer bets to have at the end of your fantasy roster. Taking a shot on any of the other names throughout this post would probably be a better fantasy choice than DeBrusk. That being said, he has proven that he can play in the top-6 when needed and if the Bruins get hit by the injury bug like we saw last year, he could make for a sneaky pick up on nights where he can crack the top powerplay if need be.
Will Butcher (New Jersey Devils) – Semi-Legit
Winning a Hobby Baker award is no small feat and something that should always be considered when looking at players making the leap from the NCAA to the NHL.
Butcher’s coming out party may have been fueled by a bit of revenge as he torched the Colorado Avalanche with three powerplay assists. The Avs drafted Butcher No.123 overall in 2013 and then failed to sign him to an entry level contract, leading to Butcher coming to terms with the New Jersey Devils prior to the 2017-18 season. Butcher has all the right tools to be a top-pairing defenseman alongside Damon Severson on what is starting to shape into a team full of young talent in New Jersey.
Devils 1st star Gm 1: rookie Will Butcher
Devils 1st star Gm 2: rookie Jesper Bratt
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) October 9, 2017
If the Devils can work Butcher into higher leverage situations and continue to bump up his overall playing time, he is sure to carry fantasy value as a No.4 defenseman. That is if he can continue to see power-play time like he has through the Devils’ first two games. His ceiling is fairly high so he is certainly a name to keep an tabs on if your fantasy back-end is looking weak out of the gate. Keep an eye on how New Jersey uses him and if the production continues for even two more games, look to add him immediately.
Jan Rutta (Chicago Blackhawks) – Legit
The last time Chicago had a mid-20s rookie it turned out pretty well. In fact, so well it turned into a Calder Trophy, 77-point Artemi Panarin. Now I am not saying Rutta is going to make a fantasy splash in any way close to what Panarin did. Keep in mind Panarin played forward alongside a 100-point Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane, but, Jan is still a very Fantasy intriguing player who seems to be fitting in rather nicely on what is looking like a very talented Blackhawks roster yet again. Although Rutta’s four points through three games may seem like his most impressive stat; his 18:95 average time on ice, while also seeing minutes on the second powerplay unit, may be what stands out the most early on.
While a point-per-game campaign may not be in the books for the 27-year-old coveted Czech player, if he can continue to be a puck moving, shot friendly defender, he should have no trouble earning himself enough points to warrant a late roster pick up. With both Duncan Keith (34) and Brent Seabrook (32) moving into their veteran years, and the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson in the offseason, the Hawks will be looking for someone to step up and eat bigger, important minutes. At this point, Rutta is looking like that guy and is certainly worthy of a fantasy add in majority of leagues.
Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) – Very Legit
With a goal and an assist in his regular season debut, 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy had Boston fans screaming like they’d found their next Ray Bourque.
The 2016 No.14 overall pick made his NHL debut in last year’s playoffs logging a team high 24:11 TOI in what was an eye opening first showing under one of the biggest spotlights in hockey. McAvoy’s early success is no fluke, which he has shown at every level of hockey throughout his career. He has all the tools to be a legitimate All-Star defenseman for the Bruins sooner rather than later. Currently lining up on the Bruins 3rd defensive pairing and second powerplay unit, the American is a sure bet to fly up the Boston depth chart with only Adam McQuaid and Brandon Carlo in front of him.
If McAvoy is still somehow available in your league, or you were one of the owners who trusted him out of the gate; he will almost undoubtedly be the most reliable newcomer on fantasy bluelines this season as he makes a push for the Calder Trophy in his first NHL year.