Ready Rookies: 1st Year Players Who Will Make a Fantasy Impact

Updated: October 13, 2017 at 7:50 pm by Brock Seguin


Every year there is a new crop of rookies getting ready to break into the NHL and fans get excited about their new young talent and hope that they can transform their franchise.

Not every first-year player is a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews, but every year there are at least a handful of rookie who make a sizeable fantasy impact. Let’s take a look at some names I think you should consider on draft day or put on your Waiver Wire watch list. I’ve also included my projections for them this year as well as their current Yahoo! average draft position (ADP) so you know when you should be targeting them.

First, here are the regulations that classify an individual as a “rookie.”

A player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league –


Dylan Strome – C – Arizona Coyotes


Yahoo ADP: Undrafted Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 70 21 37 58

During a seven-game cup of tea with the Coyotes to start the 2016-17 season, Strome looked like a player who could use another year in junior hockey and it served him well. The 2015 No.3 overall pick had a tough time getting anything going in the NHL, but went back to Erie (OHL), where he annihilated the league, picking up 22 goals and 53 assists (75 points) in 35 regular season games. He also added 34 points (14G / 20A) in 22 playoff games to give him an impressive 109 points (36G / 73A) in just 57 games (1.91 points per game).

Now one year older, the 20-year-old is back in NHL training camp and appears poised to make the roster out of training camp—especially when you consider he is currently battling with the like of Mario Kempe, Zac Rinaldo and Emerson Etem for the spot. Strome has plenty of offensive upside, but head coach Rick Tocchet also doesn’t want Strome playing 10 minutes a night on the fourth line.

This is positive news for fantasy owners who are thinking about investing in Strome, because it sounds like if he’s in the lineup he will be playing a prominent role. If he gets a full season, Strome could produce at a high-level. He is a fantastic playmaker with a plus-shot, making him a 20-goal, 30-assist candidate right off the bat—given the right circumstance of course.

 Mathew Barzal – C – New York Islanders


Yahoo ADP: Undrafted Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 75 15 40 55

Like Strome, Barzal also broke camp with the big club last year, but only lasted two games before being shipped back to Seattle (WHL). Similar to Strome, Barzal lit up the junior league, collecting 79 points (10G / 69A) in 41 games. The former No.16 overall pick (2015) appears to be locked into an opening night roster spot, making him one of the safer rookie options.

Barzal has excellent hands and great playmaking ability, but he’s unlikely to score a tonne of goals in his rookie campaign. Islanders head coach Dough Weight was not hesitant to give fellow rookie Josh Ho-Sang big minutes during his call-up last year, so look for Barzal to play a large role right away and a full season could see him between 30-and-40 helpers.

Nolan Patrick – C – Philadelphia Flyers


Yahoo ADP: 161.2 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 70 24 30 54

During the year leading up to this summer’s draft, Patrick looked like the surefire No.1 overall pick, but an injury plagued campaign saw him drop to the Flyers at No.2. That will probably help Patrick from a fantasy perspective, because the New Jersey Devils, who took Nico Hischier first overall, aren’t really known for their goal scoring.

Following the offseason trade of Brayden Schenn (to STL), Patrick looks like a lock for significant minutes in his rookie season. The Flyers have  a blend of veteran and young talent and Patrick will likely be used as the second line centre behind Claude Giroux, who has seen his production fall off drastically over the years.

Patrick is lauded for his size (6-foot-2, 198 lbs.) and hockey I.Q. and if his preseason fight with David Krejci is any indication, he’s going to be a fan favourite in Philadelphia.

Nico Hischier – C – New Jersey Devils


Yahoo ADP: 158.1 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 72 24 29 53

Hischier, who is one of the more creative rookies heads to a team that isn’t really known for their offensive creativity. Can the dynamic centre change the Devils’ identity? Perhaps. He has had an outstanding preseason and head coach John Hynes believes the first-year forward is ready for a top-6 role right away.

Hischier didn’t start training camp there, but has worked his way up the depth chart and looks poised to battle for the rookie scoring title. Hischier likely won’t start the season on a line with Taylor Hall, but doesn’t that duo sound like some fun? Hischier might be the safest rookie selection and his upside is as high as anyone’s as well.

Clayton Keller – C/LW – Arizona Coyotes


Yahoo ADP: 166.3 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 71 21 32 53

Keller is an undersized center, who is expected to break camp on the wing. The No.7 overall in the 2016 NHL Draft has exceptional hands and has drawn comparisons to Mitch Marner, who had a pretty good rookie season you might remember. Keller turned pro after just one season at Boston University and picked up two assists in a short three-game stint with the Coyotes last season.

The key to Keller’s success, like all rookies, will be his ice-time. However, if training camp is any indication, Keller might start the season on the Coyotes’ top-line. Keller has been skating on the right wing with Derek Stepan and Max Domi, which has the potential to be a dangerous line for Arizona. Stepan is the No.1 centre they’ve been lacking and Domi is a great playmaker from the wing, so Keller should have plenty of goal-scoring opportunities right out of the gate.


Brock Boeser – RW – Vancouver Canucks


Yahoo ADP: 160.8 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 72 25 27 52

The Boeser hype train started last season when he made a late-arrival to the Canucks and scored four goals in nine games down the stretch. The University of North Dakota product posted 94 points (43G / 51A) in 74 games with the program. Entering his first full season, Boeser is a ray of light in an otherwise bleak Canucks’ lineup.

Boeser was the No.23 overall pick in 2015 and has taken the preseason by storm and enters the season as a favourite to take home the Calder Trophy. It’s a small sample size, but the 20-year-old averaged 2.78 shots per game during his brief time with Vancouver. If you look at that kind of shot volume over a full season, Boeser would be on-pace for 228 shots, which makes him a 20-goal candidate right away.

Josh Ho-Sang – RW – New York Islanders


Yahoo ADP: 172.9 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 72 12 37 49

The Islanders have had some trying times with Ho-Sang, but it looks like he has matured and is ready to become a full-time NHLer in 2017-18. Ho-Sang earned a late-season call-up last season after compiling 36 points (10G / 26A) in 50 AHL games and he picked up 10 points (4G / 6A) in 21 games with the Islanders.

As I already mentioned, Weight was not afraid to use the 21-year-old winger, who averaged 16:27 TOI/GM, including 2:24 PP TOI/GM. If that kind of usage carries over into this season Ho-Sang is going to rack up some points in a hurry. Like his teammate Barzal, Ho-Sang is known more for his playmaking, but he should still be a double-digit goal-scorer.

Alex DeBrincat – LW – Chicago Blackhawks


Yahoo ADP: Undrafted Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 72 24 23 47

DeBrincat is a high-risk/high-reward draft pick. As it stands right now, the 19-year-old comes to the Blackhawks with three-consecutive 100-plus point seasons in the OHL, so you know the kid can score. Add the fact that he is skating with Patrick Kane in the preseason and now everyone is excited. We saw what Artemi Panarin did in two year’s on Kane’s line, so why can’t DeBrincat do the same?

To be honest, I was shocked to see he was going largely undrafted on Yahoo! but that could change over the course of the weekend. I think in most 12-team leagues, there’s going to be someone who reaches for DeBrincat and that’s why he’s high-risk. The high-reward is obvious. He has 332 points (167G / 165A) in 191 OHL games and he could play an entire season with Kane. He makes the Blackhawks better, but will he make the team?

Sonny Milano – LW – Columbus Blue Jackets


Yahoo ADP: Undrafted Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 72 15 25 40

Here’s another case of “will he make the team?” Milano has great hands and is coming off of a nice AHL campaign, collecting 47 points (18G / 29A) in 63 games with Cleveland. One thing that is working heavily in Milano’s favour is the fact that Josh Anderson is not in camp and has reportedly asked for a trade. That opens up a spot on the wing for Milano. The 2014 No.16 pick doesn’t play a power-forward game like Anderson, but he makes up for that with great speed. He’s a rookie I would leave to the waiver wire to start the season, but if he lands a fairly prominent role, the undersized winger could make some waves.


Thomas Chabot – D – Ottawa Senators


Yahoo ADP: 167.5 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 72 10 29 39

Chabot has all of the tools necessary to be a great NHL defenseman in year-one. Chabot plays a strong two-way game, which will earn him extra minutes on the Senators’ blueline. He is a heady player with great skating and passing ability and a lack of defensemen with offensive upside in Ottawa are limited. He should play top-4 minutes with ample PP-time behind Erik Karlsson, making him the top rookie defenseman option.

Charlie McAvoy – D – Boston Bruins


Yahoo ADP: 147.0 Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 71 6 32 38

If you watched the Bruins in the playoffs last year, you already know that they love McAvoy. Despite never playing in a regular season game, the Bruins thrust the rookie defenseman into over 26 minutes per night. The American-born defenseman did not look out of place and will likely be asked to log huge minutes from the first puck-drop this season.

McAvoy plays a safe game in his own end and has enough offensive ability to make those massive minutes count. He’s not the most offensive rookie in this group, but he’ll likely play more than the rest of them. Volume matters in fantasy hockey.

Madison Bowey – D – Washington Capitals


Yahoo ADP: Undrafted Games  Goals Assits Points
2017-18 Projections 73 9 23 32

There are two spots available on the Washington blueline and Bowey looks like he will claim one of them. Bowey is a former second-round pick (2013) and is extremely mobile and brings some physicality and offence to the Capitals’ back-end. Injuries limited him last year, but with Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner gone, there are a lot of minutes that are unspoken for right now. It might be best to let Bowey go undrafted, but don’t forget his name as the season goes along.

Alex DeBrincat, Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy, Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Josh Ho-Sang, Madison Bowey, Mathew Barzal, Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, Sonny Milano, Thomas Chabot