Fantasy hockey top 10 rookies to watch

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MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Offseason moves

Potential 2020 UFAs | RFAs | Draft picks, trades

 

FORWARDS

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, NYR
Age: Turns 19 on Oct. 11
No. 1 pick in 2020 NHL Draft

Lafreniere, because of his individual skill and the elite fantasy talent around him on the New York Rangers (Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin), has a ceiling of 65 points next season and could finish among the top 10-15 fantasy left wings if he plays in the top six and on the first power play. Lafreniere is worth reaching for inside the top 75 forwards and top 100 overall players in fantasy and among the top 10 overall assets in keeper / dynasty leagues.

READ: Fantasy projection for Lafreniere with NYR

Kirill Kaprizov, LW, MIN
Age: 23
No. 135 pick in 2015 draft

Despite the Minnesota Wild lacking center depth after trading veteran Eric Staal to the Buffalo Sabres, Kaprizov led the Kontinental Hockey League in goals (33 in 57 games) last season and joins fellow high-end fantasy wing Kevin Fiala. He is the perfect fantasy rookie alternative if someone else in your league reaches for Lafreniere as he plays for a much more sneaky team. Unlike Lafreniere, Kaprizov could be his team’s leading goal and/or point producer next season.

Grigori Denisenko, LW/RW, FLA
Age: 20
No. 15 pick in 2018 draft

The Florida Panthers have a second-line void behind the elite duo of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, and Denisenko has a chance to make an immediate impact, potentially even on the first power play, if potential unrestricted free agents Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman do not return. Denisenko, who had nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games for Russia at the World Junior Championship (T-6th in tournament), is a fantasy sleeper candidate who could play a prominent role upon his NHL arrival next season and benefit from the Panthers’ recent acquisition of Patric Hornqvist.

NOTE: Another potential impact forward prospect for Florida is wing Owen Tippett, who had 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 46 games for Springfield of the American Hockey League this season.

Quinton Byfield, C, LAK
Age: 18
No. 2 pick in 2020 draft

Alex Turcotte, C, LAK
Age: 19
No. 5 pick in 2019 draft

Byfield and Turcotte are the centers of the future for the Los Angeles Kings and could compete for their No. 2 role at the position behind elite veteran Anze Kopitar as early as next season. First power-play spots could also be up for grabs for one or both rookie forwards, which would bring exposure to Kopitar and top defenseman Drew Doughty for a rebuilding but overlooked team that has bounce-back appeal in fantasy.

READ: Impact of Kings drafting Byfield

Tim Stutzle, C/LW, OTT
Age: 18
No. 3 pick in 2020 draft

Although the Ottawa Senators have short-term fantasy concerns as a team, they do have talent at the top of their roster, including elite category coverage left wing Brady Tkachuk and defenseman bounce-back candidate Thomas Chabot (55 points in 2018-19; 39 this season). Stutzle, who can play wing but may have a higher ceiling at center given the Senators’ lack of a viable No. 1 option, could be their leading scorer with at least 50 points if he gets a chance on Tkachuk’s line but may be a plus/minus liability next season. Ottawa’s minus-52 differential was second-worst in the NHL this season.

NOTE: Another potential impact forward prospect for Ottawa is center Josh Norris, who finished tied for third in the AHL in scoring (61 points in 56 games).

DEFENSEMEN

Bowen Byram, COL
Age: 19
No. 4 pick in 2019 draft

After combining for 40 goals as a defenseman over the past two seasons for Vancouver of the Western Hockey League, Byram could join the League’s best young core at the position with Cale Makar and Samuel Girard for the Colorado Avalanche, one of the safest fantasy teams. With the defense position lacking much depth, Byram’s upside is most intriguing of any player outside the top 35, even if his role is mostly at even strength with Makar on PP1.

Evan Bouchard, EDM
Age: Turns 21 on Oct. 20
No. 10 pick in 2018 draft

Top defenseman Oscar Klefbom has a shoulder injury that may require surgery and put him out for some or all of next season. The Edmonton Oilers could turn to Bouchard, who was productive for Bakerfield of the AHL last season (36 points in 54 games), to fill a top-four and potentially first power-play void with exposure to the League’s top-two scorers in Leon Draisaitl (110 points) and Connor McDavid (97).

GOALIES

Igor Shesterkin, NYR
Age: Turns 25 on Dec. 30
No. 118 pick in 2014 draft

Shesterkin went 10-2-0 with a .932 save percentage, sparking a dominant run by the Rangers after he was recalled from the AHL on Jan. 6, and remains rookie-eligible for next season. Fellow young goalie Alexandar Georgiev, 24, is expected to compete for starts in any given week, but Shesterkin has a ceiling of finishing as a top-five fantasy goalie as early as next season, especially after the Rangers bought out the contract of veteran Henrik Lundqvist.

Ilya Sorokin, NYI
Age: 25
No. 78 pick in 2014 draft

With New York Islanders backup Thomas Greiss likely to become a UFA, Sorokin could be the perfect complement to starter and fellow Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was instrumental in their run to the Eastern Conference Final but has had inconsistent season-to-season performance in his NHL career. Sorokin went 134-64-22 with a .930 SV% and 44 shutouts in 244 career KHL games and is already among NHL.com’s top 25 goalies with the highest fantasy ceiling of any goalie in coach Barry Trotz’s tenure with the Islanders.

Other potential rookies to consider in fantasy: Trevor Zegras, C, ANA; Ville Heinola, D, WPG; Cole Caufield, RW, MTL; Alexander Romanov, D, MTL; Morgan Frost, C/LW, PHI; Gabriel Vilardi, C, LAK; Dylan Cozens, C, BUF; Alexei Melnichuk, G, SJS

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