Rookie Rankings Update
(1/19/13) Training camps have broken and there are a number of questionable rookies who have made their opening night rosters. Be careful though, not all of them will stick with the big club, and some will only last for a 5-game tryout. However there are also some names that you may not know, but who are poised to stick all year. Here is a breakdown of the post-camp freshman surprises, and what we foresee in their near future.
Note: our updated Top 50 Rookie Rankings are found in the 2013 Draft Guide and the Last Minute Pack, available here for purchase.
Cory Conacher (L - TB): An NCAA hockey product, Conacher was the AHL's MVP last year, as he led that league in scoring and also led his team to the Calder Cup. As we initially speculated in the draft guide, Conacher has beaten out JT Brown for a spot with the Lightning and will start the season at left wing on the second line with Purcell and Lecavalier. Conacher is 22 years old and he has nothing left to prove at the lower levels. We've moved him up to #9 in our overall Rookie Rankings. He should play the whole season in Tampa Bay.
Mikhail Grigorenko (C - BUF): Grigorenko returned to the QMJHL during the lockout and continued to tear it up, with 29 goals and 50 points in just 30 games. He's very young (18) - but not small (6'3", 200) - and, from a fantasy perspective, he represents a bit of a dice roll. If he gets it going, he could be rookie of the year. He could also get sent down after his 5-game tryout. If you draft Grigorenko, draft a backup for your rookie spot. Grigorenko is currently ranked #18 in our rookie ratings.
Alex Galchenyuk (C - MTL): Much the same can be said for Galchenyuk, except he fared even better back in juniors during the lockout, with 61 points in just 33 GP. Don't forget, we are talking about juniors where the cream seems to rise far above the surface, but regardless Galchenyuk is going to be a star in the NHL. The question is whether or not it starts now? The Canadiens have him penciled in on the fourth line, so his job is to stay relevant when the club calls his number. He could stick, but he is just as likely to get sent down after 5-games. Draft a backup rookie. Galchenyuk sits #17 in our post-camp rookie rankings.
Brendan Gallagher (R - MTL): Gallagher is our January rookie surprise, as we didn't have him tapped in our initial rookie rankings, but he's gone ahead and made the Habs' roster out of training camp. Gallagher starred for the Vancouver Giants in 2011-12, where he posted 41 goals and 77 points in 54 games, along with 6 points in 6 games at the 2011-12 World Juniors. At 20 years old, he isn't some young guy and, despite the fact that he could start the season in the press box, he could also wind up staying in Montreal longer than Galchenyuk. However, Gallagher also represents a roll of the dice. We currently have him ranked #20, but he could easily drop in the coming weeks. He had 20 points in 36 games for Hamilton (AHL) during the lockout.
Jaden Schwartz (L/C - STL): Another US college product, Schwartz is attempting to make the jump straight from college... well sort of. The lockout was good for Schwartz, as he got 33 GP in the AHL, posting 9 goals and 19 points. He currently projects as the third line left winger for the Blues. Hitchcock is reportedly impressed and, additionally, planning on using three power play units. Tarasenko remains St. Louis's top rookie; we have Schwartz rated #15.
Reilly Smith (R - DAL): Smith was named the AHL's rookie of the month for December with 14 points in 14 games (11 goals, 25 points in 37 games all told in Texas), but he's gone and done himself one better by tentatively capturing the right wing spot on Dallas' fourth line to start the season. Although not a center, Smith may be benefiting from the Jamie Benn hold out and his spot is tenuous. That said, he's another US college product (Miami) and he's already 21 years old. If Smith gets hot early - or in the very least plays a solid depth role at the bottom of the roster - he could stick with the big club. To us, he has more potential long term than any of the other 4th liners in Big D.
Peter Holland (C - ANH): Yet another US College hockey player, Holland just turned 22 years old. He played for Norfolk of the AHL during the lockout and tallied an impressive 12 goals and 31 points in 34 GP. Holland (as well as Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Devante Smith-Pelly, and rookie Patrick Maroon) represent the Ducks' youth movement, and there is really no reason for him to get sent back to the minors. We have him ranked #22 at the outset of the season, but if some of the more prominent names around the NHL get sent back to juniors or the AHL, Holland could easily finish top ten by the time the season finishes. The thing is, with Holland looking like a fourth liner bubble boy, we would be willing to roll the dice on a player like Galchenyuk or Grigorenko first, and then stash Holland on our reserve bench.
Mark Scheifele (C - WPG): After ripping it up in the preseason a year ago, Scheifele disappointed a number of fantasy GMs when he was sent back to juniors following a 7-game tryout that made him look outmatched in the NHL. He had another terrific year in juniors, and he then followed that up with an outstanding start to this season with 22 goals and 49 points in just 30 games for the Barrie Colts (OHL). He's still young at 19, and the Jets are slotting him on the 4th line again, but this one could go either way. It's really up to Scheifele to prove he's ready, or whether he needs a further year of development in the AHL. Without preseason action, he could flounder coming straight from juniors. Just be sure to draft a backup here. We currently have him ranked #23.
There you have a run down of the the most prominent rookie developments coming out of training camp. For a full breakdown of all the top freshman, including our updated top 50 rankings, purchase your copy of the 2013 Draft Guide or Last Minute Pack today. Fantasy Hockey Standard is the premier hockey pool draft guide available anywhere.