Freshmen explosion?

There are dozens of American League players who would be playing NHL games right now, but instead are plying their trade in the development league. With veterans mostly playing in Europe, it’s the youngsters who have been assigned to the AHL. We saw this happen before – eight years ago.

That was when Jason Spezza led the AHL in points, Mike Cammalleri led in goals and players such as Eric Staal, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek also made their mark. We know all about these players today, but in 2004-05 they were merely young players with potential.

Parise and Vanek would have been NHL rookies that season, but instead had that honor delayed by a year. Staal and Spezza would have been NHL sophomores, but instead had the chance to add to their development time and get some much needed opportunity to dominate at a level below. Cammalleri was somewhere in between the two. Officially, he would have been a sophomore, but he only played 31 games in 2003-04. Given the 25-game cutoff, that’s about as close to the definition of rookie as one can get without being classified as one.

In looking at the “rookies” who became rookies a year later than they otherwise would have, their NHL debut saw their point totals remain modest. Parise had 32 points in 2005-06. Vanek had 48, Cammalleri had 55 and Antoine Vermette tallied 33. Vancouver center Ryan Kesler had 23 points after the lockout in his first full campaign. Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown is another one – he had 28 points in his first full NHL season.

In fact, in almost every case where a player made the jump to the NHL a year later than he should have, his expected point production was merely pushed back a year. Almost none of them posted numbers that were eye-popping. The one exception was Brad Boyes, who had 69 points to make a huge splash as a rookie. But it’s safe to say that if you’re going to hitch your hopes on a rookie doing even better thanks to the lockout delaying his debut, you’re making a bad decision.

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Here are some players who fall into that category this time around. Not necessarily “rookies,” but close enough to the definition (much like Cammalleri and Brown).

Marcus Foligno, Buffalo
Luke Adam, Buffalo
Sven Baertschi, Calgary
Cam Atkinson, Columbus
Cody Eakin, Dallas
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota
Charlie Coyle, Minnesota
Chris Kreider, NY Rangers
Jakob Silfverberg, Ottawa
Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa
Eric Tangradi, Pittsburgh
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis
Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay
Nazem Kadri, Toronto
Zack Kassian, Vancouver

Most of these players would be in the NHL at this moment and the added time in the minors will probably add little benefit in terms of the numbers. That’s not to say that some of these players won’t thrive once the puck finally drops on the NHL season. But the reality is if they were going to post 50 points in 82 games without the lockout, they’ll still post 50 points in 82 games next year if the season is cancelled. Or at a similar points-per-game rate if a shortened season is played.

On the other hand, those players who have played a full NHL season already (or close to it) could stand to benefit greatly. That is, if the Staal and Spezza results tell us anything. Next week, FPL will take a look at the super-sophomores who make great candidates for a nice ‘pop’ when the NHL returns.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

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