(as published in the 2006-07 SportsBlurb.com Hockey Sourcebook)
Most fantasy hockey owners are going to do a modicum of research, and will probably bring in anywhere from a few cheat sheets to a ream of statistics from last year. How can you gain an edge on someone who knows that Chris Kelly tied for the most short-handed assists last year (six) and Philippe Boucher had the best out-of-division +/- (+29)?
In the three years before last season, only two rookies (Dany Heatley, Michael Ryder) cracked the 60 point barrier, with only two besides them even cracking 50. Last year alone there were thirteen who broke 40, five who broke 50, and two who you can put in the top five rookie seasons in NHL history. Hockey fans were treated to the greatest rookie class in history last year due in part to two years worth of rookie talent in one year, but also due to the strict interpretation of interference rules, which gave much more room on the ice to move (as well as a lot more power play time). We shouldn’t expect an equal influx of raw talent this year, but it’s hard not to get excited about a bunch of potential rookies this year – some who had a cup of coffee in the bigs last year and some straight out of junior or
Evgeni Malkin –
You’ve already read enough about Malkin and if you’ve been lucky enough to see him play you realize that the hype is legitimate. Unfortunately the hype is so great that in many leagues Malkin may not only go early in the first round, but first overall. That might be a bit extreme for a one-season deal, as Malkin will almost certainly go through growing pains, as well as play with a few wingers who are nearly twice his age (John LeClair, Mark Recchi). Just because at this point before the season the Calder is “his to lose” doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll win it (see last year’s Ovechkin/Crosby race) but he will be the first rookie drafted in every league in
Alexander Radulov –
The chants of “Raduu! Raduu!” that have cascaded through the ancient halls of Le Colisee in
Patrick O’Sullivan –
Coming over in the trade for veteran scorer Pavol Demitra, this is a deal that is going to make Kings’ fans happy for years to come. In addition to getting 10 years younger and nearly $4 million more room on the payroll, they have a vastly talented scoring forward who can play wing or center and has simply dominated every league he’s been in, from the US National Team through four years of junior with Mississauga (OHL). His first professional season was spent in Houston (AHL) last year and he merely scored the most goals in his career (47), en route to the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Simply put, at age 21 he’s ready for the NHL and is virtually guaranteed a spot on the team. Strong Calder candidate.
Jiri Hudler –
Hudler had a brief taste of the NHL over the last two years, having played in 16 games, but now with the departure of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan it’s time for new blood in the Motor City – Hudler’s time is now. The Czech winger has gradually been groomed by the Wings, as he spent the last three seasons with Grand Rapids (AHL) learning the North American pro game, and last year he exploded with 36 goals and 96 points. His only knock is that he’s a finesse player who’s on the small side (5’9”, 178lbs) so will need to learn to find the open ice in the NHL.
Wojtek Wolski –
After winning the Ontario Hockey League’s MVP award (128 points in 56 games), this 20 year old from Poland was called up by Colorado and immediately made an impact, scoring six points in nine games, and adding four more in the playoffs. Wolski improved every year with the Brampton Battalion and by his final two seasons exhibited a great confidence in all zones. Wolski will get every opportunity to play on the top two lines for the Avalanche and will get a huge boost in production if he earns a spot with Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk.
Matt Carle –
Upon winning the Hobey Baker Award for
Phil Kessel –
His stock slipped over the past year, as one year ago Kessel was considered the heavy favourite to go number one overall in the 2006 draft. The Bruins aren’t convinced of that, and may end up having the steal of the draft – Kessel is only 18 years old but is ready for the NHL, having been dominant at each level including only one year at
Anze Kopitar –
The Calder wildcard – the only reason Kopitar won’t be among the top rookie scorers is if he’s bumped off the top two lines (and might be due to the Kings’ other hot rookie prospect, Patrick O’Sullivan) – it’s very likely he’ll start the season in the minors but this is the Kings’ future number one center, and he has the skills to score right now. This past May at the World Championships he notched nine points in only six games, the best per-game production of any player. Kopitar is a star in the making; the only question is where he starts the season – in the minors or with
Dustin Penner –
Penner bounced back and forth last year between
Gilbert Brule –
Only 19 years old,
Magnus Kahnberg –
Kahnberg is off most people's radars when it comes to this upcoming rookie class due mostly to having spent his entire career in
Eric Fehr –
Eric Fehr may take some time to develop into a regular scorer but if Caps fans get a glimpse of what he’s delivered to the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) over the pas four seasons, they’ll have reason to hope for the future. Fehr gives a great combination of grit and a killer scoring instinct, scoring 50 goals in each of his last two junior seasons, while not shying away from physical play.
Jarkko Immonen –
Immonen was acquired by the Rangers in the deal that sent Brian Leetch to the Maple Leafs, and for a change the Rangers made the wise move in looking to the future. Now at age 24, Immonen is a center who covers the entire ice well but also is a skilled playmaker who scored 70 points for Hartford (AHL) last season. He has proven himself at a high level, being one of the stars in the top Finnish league SM-Liiga, and should be given a chance on a Rangers team that badly needs scoring depth.
Robbie Schremp –
There is no doubt that Robbie Schremp will be a valuable scorer for the Oilers in the near future, the only question is whether it’s this year or not. Schremp just missed making the team last year and was sent back to junior where he absolutely cleaned up the OHL with the London Knights, scoring a league-high 145 points in just 57 games. Over the past three seasons Schremp has been an integral part of the Knights’ powerhouse club and with nothing more to prove there, will turn pro this year. With Jarret Stoll and Shawn Horcoff ahead of him on the center chart, if he does make the Oilers out of camp there’ll have to be a position move for him to get on one of the scoring lines. Watch this situation carefully and if Schremp is in the right situation he could be immediately valuable.
This brilliant scoring machine is still only 18 years old so the chances of him being sent back to his junior team in Barrie (OHL) are fairly strong. However, he warrants an honorable mention here because if he does manage to impress in camp and make the team he would immediately be the most talented center on the Thrashers.