About a third of the way through 2013-14 and we're starting to get a fix on what we have when it comes to this year's rookie crop. Poolies around the world draft unproven youngsters late in hopes they scoop a nice sleeper, to varying degrees of success. In keeper leagues things are easier, as you can often afford to wait several years on a rookie, but one-year leagues need the help here and now.
Let's take a look at the 15 best from a fantasy perspective (sorry, Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones fans) so far.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Although in a three-way tie for second in scoring among rookies, MacKinnon will be tops in the end if he stays healthy. He's getting his points regardless of linemates and other than a five-game slump in late October he has been steady. His ice time has been great and he should pick up the pace to finish in the 60s for points.
2. Torey Krug, Boston
Tied with MacKinnon among rookie scorers, Krug has been a savior for fantasy owners. Defensemen are so hard to acquire once the season starts, so drafting Krug late or even getting him off the wire is a fantasy coup. He's on pace for 48 points and frankly I don't see him deviating from that, making it one of the best seasons for a rookie defenseman in years.
3. Chris Kreider, Rangers
Also tied for second, Kreider seems to have found the magic that allowed him to make such a splash during the 2012 post-season. After a terrible season in 2012-13, Kreider is back, he's productive and he's getting gobs of ice time. He has enough to become the third-best rookie in fantasy hockey come April. He has 15 points in his past 18 games, with 14 PIM, 46 shots and a plus-9 rating.
4. Tomas Hertl, San Jose
The rookie-scoring leader has 21 points in 27 games, but I have him falling to fourth in predicted fantasy value at the end of the season. The reason for this is the fact that he had four of his points in his third game and seven points in his first three games, which means just 14 points in 24 since. He'll slow enough to end with about 55 points. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but the above three youngsters will surpass him in terms of fantasy value.
5. Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles
Jeff Carter returns and Toffoli sees his ice time cut to nine minutes per game. And with half of Carter's ice time, Toffoli still has three points in five games (tied with Carter). Toffoli is the better player, but Carter has the big contract and a solid track record. Toffoli will continue to chip in points from a depth line, eventually working his way back up the lineup. The Kings need his offense and won't be able to hold him back much longer.
6. Eric Gelinas, New Jersey
New Jersey needs a puck-moving defenseman badly. So desperate are the Devils that they're still actually putting faith in Marek Zidlicky, even though he left his puck-moving instincts behind years ago. But this also spells opportunity for Gelinas and he's taken full advantage of it. He has six points in his past nine games and has yet to go more than four games in a row without a point.
7. Marek Mazanec, Nashville
After being merely “average” in his first three appearances, Mazanec has since gone 5-3-1, with a 1.67 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. Very Nashville-like numbers. And Mazanec will continue to do this…until star starter Pekka Rinne returns. Despite the likelihood of seeing very few starts after December, Mazanec will still end up a top fantasy performer strictly based on his awesome November and December.
8. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay
Johnson has been a scoring threat with Steven Stamkos sidelined and he's seeing ice time that frequently approaches 19 minutes a game. He's learning as he goes and that should lead to a final point total of around 45.
9. Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas
Although he hasn't been the ninth-best rookie in fantasy hockey up to this point, he’s showing signs of improvement. He often gets shots on a line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and each time he gets a shot there he does better. Potentially, he could finish with 20 or 25 points, but I suspect we'll see something special in the second half.
10. Sean Monahan, Calgary
Along with Hertl, Monahan was one of the best rookies in October and he's destined to be a staple on the first line and a leading scorer for Calgary for years to come. But since October he has just five points in 12 games and is now out with a hairline fracture in his foot.
11. Brandon Pirri, Chicago
Has been a crushing disappointment to fantasy owners who had high hopes for him back in September after being cut from the squad. After leading the American League in scoring last season, Pirri had nothing more to prove. The Hawks recalled him and he had 11 points in 24 games, before going point-less in his past eight and being sent down. He could flirt with 40 points by the end of the campaign if he’s recalled.
12. Alex Chiasson, Dallas
Other than Hertl, Chiasson has been the biggest surprise among rookie forwards, especially in October when he began the year with nine points in his nine games. He since has just six in 17 and is slowly fading out of fantasy usefulness. A good one for the future, no question.
13. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim
If only Andersen wasn't the No. 3 goalie, because he'd sure be a gem. But limited playing time could see him end the season with a record not unlike what it is now (7-1-0). The Ducks will need to do something about their goaltending situation before Andersen has any consistent fantasy relevance.
14. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton
With Sam Gagner out of the lineup and Arcobello anchoring a scoring line, Arcobello was actually the more productive player. But Gagner has the contract, the pedigree and the track record so he'll continue to get the linemates and the minutes while Arcobello flounders on a checking line.
15. Michael Bournival, Montreal
Hands up if you had Bournival anywhere near your draft list back in September. I thought not. His ice time increase and subsequent impact came as a result of Max Pacioretty's injury. But with Pacioretty now healthy, Bournival is seeing his ice time reduced to nothing and he has just two points in his past 10 games. But if another injury strikes, you'd be wise to reclaim Bournival off the waiver wire.
Honorable mentions: Mark Scheifele, Danny DeKeyser, Nick Bjugstad, Radko Gudas, Sami Vatanen, Richard Panik, Hampus Lindholm and of course the aforementioned Jones and Rielly.
Looking for the perfect Fantasy Guide to supplement your THN Ultimate Pool Guide? Take a look at Dobber's eighth annual Fantasy Hockey Guide!
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.