Predicting rookie success and likelihood at contributing on the power play.
Hey guys. FP Don with the second annual rookie sleeper article. Similar to last year, I left out the "big" names. No Zegras', Byfield's, or Drysdale's on this list.
I think this was my favourite topic from last year’s crop of articles. Identifying sleepers is the best part of fantasy sports in my opinion, and I’m here to try my luck again with some more names for a new season.
The aim of this series is identifying potential rookie sleepers that will make a contribution to their team via the power play, a key measurement when drafting fantasy rosters. Looking back at last year’s five players, let’s see how I faired with identifying PP success for us.
To evaluate my success I’ll look at the PP time per game and points and compare it to the overall season. For reference, the rookie PP TOI leader was Kirill Kaprizov with 3:14 per game. PP TOI% is the percentage of team power play time per game. Kaprizov also led rookies at 61.7%!
Overall, I’d be confident saying I was right on three of the five names. One never played and the other was on the best team of this list in Florida. Harder to make an impact on the PP when there’s too much talent ahead of you. The best name was Ty Smith, who put up 7 power play points as a d-man and had the best season out of this list. Zadina and Hayton, as well as Smith all had enough PP time during their seasons to make an impact, but Hayton’s never materialized.
On to this season we go.
FantasyPuck likes the Rangers this season. Last season was filled with unnecessary drama and inconsistent play for the franchise, so a fresh season is exactly what they need. Vitali Kravtsov is this year’s rookie that I’m hoping will break the recent trend of New York forwards failing mightily in year one. Kravtsov had a cup of coffee in the NHL last season where he appeared in 20 games with sheltered minutes (13 games under 13 mins. TOI). He was also coming straight from the KHL where he scored 16 goals and 24 points as a 20-year-old. Aside from his first international tournament, Kravtsov has hovered around a point-per-game in his 29-games.
The offense is there for Kravtsov which is why I see no reason for NY to not give him a good shot on the PP. The Rangers have also lost Pavel Buchnevich (STL) and Colin Blackwell (SEA) this offseason meaning they are down two wingers who were contributors on the power play. Currently Kravtsov is slotted on the third line with Goodrow and Chytil. Not super exciting, but that RW side is very volatile with Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko underperforming to this point in their careers. Will Kravtsov move up in one of them or both of them continue to struggle? I could definitely see so. Any opportunity to play with Panarin or Zibanejad is music to my ears.
New York is no stranger to giving rookies these power-play opportunities. Lafreniere and Kakko both saw PP time in their rookie season as did Norris-winner Adam Fox. Kravtsov has proven he can play with men so adjusting to the North American game is all that should stand between him and fantasy relevance.
What a confusing season it was last year for Vancouver. COVID-19 issues aside, there was some very high expectations for the team that they did not live up to. Don’t even get me started on the “not being able to afford Tyler Toffoli” but shortly after signing Tanner Pearson.
The Canucks committed to making their team stronger by adding sniper Conor Garland, once all-star Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and bottom-six utility forward Jason Dickinson. The most important factor for this team will be how they are defensively. Quinn Hughes holding out might actually improve their defensive stats as bad as it sounds to say. Vasili Podkolzin is the rookie I see making an impact on this team. Strictly looking at his stats, nothing jumps out, but Podkolzin’s 2020-21 playoffs with SKA St. Petersburg is what should have signaled he was ready for the NHL. 11 points in 16 games as a 19-year-old. I’ll admit I have not watched a ton of Podkolzin video but if he can handle himself in his own zone and with positioning, the offense should be able to come naturally.
The other bright side for Vasili is that you shouldn’t need to worry about defense on the power play. I am slightly concerned with the crop of forwards that Vancouver has to choose from for their PP. They have about 7-8 forwards I would feel comfortable with on the PP so even if Podkolzin begins the season on one unit, there will be others right behind him ready to take over if things go sour.
I am higher on Kravtsov than I am on Podkolzin but we saw how offensively-focused the North division was last year. The Pacific division will not be too challenging with the likes of Anaheim, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Jose, and Calgary.
Arguably the team I am most unsure about this season, the Wild, who were once an aging team always on the cusp of playoffs, now appear to be ready to play their young guns. If names like Marco Rossi and Matthew Boldy are let loose, I can see this team finishing second or third in the division this season.
Rossi is definitely the flashier and sexier player. Many of us know him from his insane 120-point season in 2019-20 with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. I would be foolish to not mention Rossi and his potential, but the above stat is the exact reason why I believe Matt Boldy makes a bigger impact this year for the Wild. We haven’t seen Rossi play real pro hockey yet (aside from the Swiss League) and for a forward on the smaller side (5’9”) I personally find that concerning. But this isn’t about the negatives of rookies this season. Rossi has produced nearly everywhere he has been from the Swiss Junior leagues to the OHL. I have no doubt that Rossi will be able to contribute at the NHL level, but don’t be surprised if Minnesota continues to take his development slow.
Boldy, on the other hand, is where I get excited. He is probably my Calder pick as of right now. An NCAA product, Boldy had two very productive seasons at Boston College after a couple of years with the U.S. National Development Program. In addition to Marco Rossi being forced to take nearly a full season off from hockey due to health issues, Boldy has also played some games of North American pro hockey in the AHL. Only 14 games, but he collected 18 points in those games in a season where the AHL featured a lot better talent than usual.
On to the power-play opportunity. If I had to pick one of these two studs to put on my PP1, it would be Rossi. Not only the point totals from the past, but his flashiness and puck skills are two areas he probably has over Boldy. But this will ultimately come down to who is in the lineup and who Dean Evason trusts more. I do not see a world where either of these players are in the lineup and not on the power play. Minnesota just doesn’t have enough pure offense to weed these two out of both units. The team’s forward make-up consists of lots of gritty and defensive forwards like Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek.
Rossi is a center and Boldy is a left winger. Neither of which are particularly stacked, but definitely sold. We saw how a special talent was able to make his way onto the top line and ultimately become the team’s main offensive weapon in half of a season. I do question the use of Kevin Fiala who could draw comparisons to Rossi. Evason and the Wild do not seem to like playing Fiala in the top-six despite being a notable scorer.
Don’t let a coach scare you off of a player (unless it’s Torts) because of both of these are safe bets to contribute this year on the power play.
I originally had Moritz Seider here from Detroit, but I couldn’t pass up Yegor Chinakhov. Many of us probably haven’t even heard of him, but I was debating mentioning him last season when I heard rumblings of him having a shot to make the Blue Jackets out of camp. That didn’t happen and he went on to have a respectable season in the KHL. 17 points in 32 games in a league where rookies are known to get limited ice time.
I have zero faith in Columbus this season, the only positive for the team is John Tortorella is gone. An older style of coach, I could see Torts and Chinakhov not getting along similar to what we saw with fellow European Patrik Laine. The randomness of the lineups last season was troubling and confusing for fans to follow as it seemed like no one’s spot was guaranteed. Hopefully this season, good play and production will secure your spot in the lineup. I think Chinakhov has a chance to crack the team and make an impact on a power play unit that contains unthreatening names like Emil Bemstrom and Jack Roslovic.
Keep an eye on him leading up to the regular season. Maybe watch list in your league as he was arguably the best player at the team’s most recent Prospect’s Tournament with a booming shot and determination to prove doubters wrong.
My bonus player kind of defeats the purpose of the article as he is a goalie, but I couldn’t post a rookie article without mentioning him.
I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t trust Matt Murray as the Senators’ net minder. With that being said, they do have a plethora of young goalies around the AHL level right now. Filip Gustavsson was one of those players last year. He got a taste of the NHL during the middle and the end of the season and put up a more than acceptable 5-1-2 record with a 2.16 GAA and .933 SV%. Ottawa likes Gus so much they left fellow goalie prospect Joey Daccord exposed in the expansion draft and lost him to Seattle.
It would not surprise me to see Murray begin the season as #1 in an attempt to make that five-year contract not look like a failure. But if the play goes like it did last season, look for Gustavsson to emerge as the guy in Ottawa.
Gus has been learning and developing since coming to North America from Sweden. Rather unimpressive play in the AHL delayed any chance at seeing any NHL action. We’ve seen plenty of goalies take a bit longer to develop, and at 23, I still consider Gustavsson young, but ready to get a full season under his belt in the NHL.