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Rookie class in NHL appears to be deep for poolies this season

Monday, 10.15.2007 / 2:03 PM / News

The Canadian Press

There doesn't appear to be a Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin in this year's rookie crop, but the 2007-08 freshman class certainly looks as deep as any in recent memory.

Several youngsters are making an early name for themselves in the NHL and would also be valuable contributors to fantasy hockey teams.

Most poolies probably know of the promising pair of rookies in Chicago. Forward Patrick Kane, the No. 1 pick in last year's entry draft, has points in four straight games and is showing savvy well beyond his 18 years.

Kane has been skating on the Blackhawks' second line with fellow freshman Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in 2006. The 19-year-old centre has three points in three games and is proving he's also ready to compete at the NHL level.

The Blackhawks aren't the only team with two young bucks. The Oilers were high on Sam Gagner when the season started and he's responded with four assists in five games. But it's Andrew Cogliano who has made an early impression on poolies.

Two goals and three assists to start the season have a way of making a mark.

Other rookies that bear watching are goaltenders Josh Harding of the Wild and Carey Price of the Canadiens. Defenceman Cory Murphy is stepping up nicely with the Panthers and winger Daniel Carcillo of the Coyotes will provide poolies with points and penalty minutes.

Because they can flash and crash in a hurry, rookies are always somewhat risky picks. Poolies should also be aware that first-year phenoms like Gagner might be returned to their junior team after nine games. That move saves the NHL club a full year on contract deals and means the demoted player would still need seven years before he's eligible for free agency.

Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals is considered the front runner for the Calder Trophy. Based on his skills and the fact he'll centre either Alex Ovechkin or Alexander Semin, poolies don't need to wait 10 games before grabbing this talented teenager.

Injury Update

Speaking of Semin, he's missed four of the first five games this season but is close to returning from an ankle injury. Poolies off to slow starts will also welcome Marian Hossa (groin) back to the Thrashers lineup. As usual in the case of high-impact players, his return will also boost the value of his linemates.

Kyle Wellwood (knee surgery) is back on skates and said after a weekend workout that he'll soon return to the Leafs. That good news might extend to struggling teammates like Darcy Tucker.

On the other hand, owners of goaltender Martin Gerber don't like the imminent return of Ray Emery (wrist) to the Senators. Expect the two targets to share time, even though Gerber has been stellar in Emery's absence.

Waiver Watch

Free agent acquisition Manny Fernandez was signed to be the Bruins No. 1 goalie this year but he's been taking a back seat to Tim Thomas. Thomas has a 1.34 GAA and a save percentage of .957 after three straight strong performances.

With Fernandez poking along at 5.00 and .796, Thomas has earned the right to more starts.

Young Devil Travis Zajac has received a heavenly job promotion. Not only is he centring the top line with Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias, but he's also scoring some decent time on the power play

It's power-play performance that has poolies falling over themselves to claim Jaroslav Spacek off the waiver wire. After a disappointing 21-point season in Buffalo last year, the Sabres defenceman is now on pace for 81 goals and 121 points. That's crazy talk, of course, but with four goals - three on the power play - and six points, Spacek is seriously worth owning in any hockey pool.

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Greg Dennis can be reached at theCanadianpress.pool(at)hotmail.com.

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Players to watch for your hockey pool

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Some players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week:

Who's Hot

1. C Brendan Morrison, Canucks. Three goals, two assists and back on the second line.

2. G Manny Legace, Blues. Two-game winner with 9.26 save percentage and 1.99 GAA.

3. C Robert Lang, Blackhawks. Top centre has successive two-point games on weekend.

4. C Phil Kessel, Bruins. Hat trick Friday hints at 20-year-old phenom's potent potential.

5. D Randy Jones, Flyers. Starting surprisingly well with four assists and plus-five rating.

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Who's Not

1. RW Miroslav Satan, Islanders. Minus-three with just one assist after first six games.

2. G Dwayne Roloson, Oilers. Average goalie on bad team is winless in past three starts.

3. D Roman Hamrlik, Canadiens. Rewards Habs for big contract with zero points to date.

4. RW David Vyborny. Blue Jackets. Top-line winger has only one assist on the season.

5. C Jordan Staal, Penguins. Sophomore battles early slump, gets his only point Saturday.

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic