Rookies can make a huge impact on fantasy teams and can lead to long-term success in dynasty/keeper leagues. Last season we had eight players from the 2012 NHL Draft class play in either a regular season or playoff game. That group was made up of Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko, Scott Laughton, Stefan Matteau, Tom Wilson and Tanner Pearson, although the latter two only played only in the postseason.
But the Calder Trophy finalists were all members of either the 2010 NHL Draft (Brendan Gallagher) or 2011 NHL Draft (Jonathan Huberdeau and Brandon Saad), showing that rookie production doesn't just come from freshly-drafted players. But if previous seasons are any indication, some members of the 2013 Draft class should play a big role in fantasy.
Here are some of the 2013 draftees most likely to make their presence felt:
Nathan MacKinnon - Selected first by the Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy and Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic both expect MacKinnon to crack the lineup this season. This should not come as a surprise, considering the last six first-overall picks have played immediately in the NHL. The group of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane averaged 69.5 games played, 20.8 goals and 49.5 points in their rookie season. Those are the types of numbers that you should expect from the latest member of this exclusive club.
MacKinnon has top-notch speed that should fit in well on a team that already includes speedster Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog , PA Parenteau, Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly. A third-line center role is where the Cole Habour native should start his NHL career, possibly on a line with Steve Downie. But we do not expect that is where the Memorial Cup champion will finish the season. He should be targeted in rounds 10-12 as your third or fourth center.
Jonathan Drouin - Selected third by the Tampa Bay Lightning
Mackinnon's Halifax Mooseheads teammate landed in a perfect spot to have an immediate impact for fantasy owners, as he is already turning heads at the teams recent development camp. The dynamic forward is coming off a career-high 105 points and was named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's MVP, Best Professional Prospect and Personality of the Year.
Now he joins a team that was third in the League with 3.06 goals per game and features last season's top two scorers in Martin St Louis (60 points) and Steven Stamkos (57 points). Listed at five feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 186 pounds, the wing can look at St. Louis (5'8'', 180 pounds) as a model of how to be successful in Jon Cooper's fast-paced offense. The Canadian Hockey League's Player of the Year could potentially see time on the top line with Stamkos and St. Louis, but will definitely be among the Lightning's top six forwards. Drouin should be drafted in most formats ahead of MacKinnon in rounds eight through 10 and be targeted as your second or third wing, as we expect him to have an immediate impact and be a favorite for the Calder Trophy.
Seth Jones - Selected fourth by the Nashville Predators
Thought by many to be the most NHL-ready prospect, Jones fell to the Predators with the fourth pick in the Draft and, like Drouin, couldn't have found a better fit. The Predators dressed nine different defensemen last season and have seven with NHL experience currently on their roster. Regardless, Seth Jones will play immediately for the defensive-driven Predators and could see significant minutes on the second pairing as well as time on special teams.
Jones led all Western Hockey League rookie defenseman with 56 points and was a big part of Team USA's 2013 World Junior Championship team, posting seven points and a plus-8 rating. Jones will have competition for ice time from other young defensemen who have been biding their time, like Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Victor Bartley. But none of those other young blueliners have the pedigree and skills of Jones.
Nichushkin, a candidate to fill a top-six forward role as a rookie in Dallas, can benefit from the team's offseason addition of veteran Russian blueliner Sergei Gonchar. (Photo: Getty Images)
Only one rookie defenseman had more than 20 points last season (Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers had 27) so we do not suggest targeting Jones early in a non-keeper league. Rounds 13-15 are a perfect place to pick up Jones and make him your third or fourth Dman.
Valeri Nichushkin - Selected 10th by the Dallas Stars
You have to applaud the immediate impact new Stars general manager Jim Nill is having on the team. One of the main pieces acquired this offseason was the 6-foot, 4-inch Russian winger. Nichushkin has stated his desire to play in North America and the Stars also added Russian defenseman Sergei Gonchar this offseason, who is from the Nichuskin's hometown of Chelyabinsk and could help the forward adjustment to NHL life. The last Russian prospect Gonchar mentored was Evgeni Malkin, and things worked out alright for him.
The left-handed wing should see time on the second unit with either Shawn Horcoff or Rich Peverley at center and possibly Erik Cole or Alex Chiasson on the other wing. Keep in mind, Jeff Skinner was the seventh pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and went on to lead all rookies with 63 points in 82 games on his way to winning the Calder Trophy. If anyone outside the top five has a chance to repeat this feat, it is the Stars Russian, so target him in the last two rounds as a definite sleeper pick to have on your bench.
Others 2013 draftees to keep an eye on in 2013-14: Aleksander Barkov (Panthers), Sean Monahan (Flames), Bo Horvat (Canucks), Max Domi (Coyotes)