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Fantasy Friday: Rookies making noise early on

by Matt Cubeta / NHL.com

Two days are in the books for the NHL and fantasy hockey owners. Despite the small sample size, we've seen plenty of exciting action so far.

Here are the most notable takeaways from a fantasy standpoint.

TOP STARS

Joe Pavelski, Zach Parise and Daniel Sedin are the top fantasy skaters to this point. Pavelski and Sedin each had one goal, two assists, a plus-3 rating and seven shots on goal in their first games on Wednesday. Parise had the seasons first hat trick, scoring three goals on six shots in the Minnesota Wild's opener against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. There's no doubting Pavelski's abilities after what he did last season (37 goals, 70 points), but it's good to see Sedin get off to a good start. As for Parise, he was the 22nd best fantasy player in Yahoo leagues last season and could be primed for another big season.

ROOKIE SENSATIONS

FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE

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We all know about Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. McDavid was held off the scoresheet in his debut for the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday but looked electric at times. Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres scored his first NHL goal against the Ottawa Senators. McDavid is owned in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues as expected, but surprisingly, Eichel is at 88 percent ownership. Like McDavid, he should be owned in just about every league. But how about the rest of the rookies? Through two days of NHL games, eight rookies scored their first NHL goals. In addition to Eichel, Oscar Lindberg (New York Rangers), Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks), Joonas Donskoi (San Jose Sharks), Nicolas Petan (Winnipeg Jets), Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues), Viktor Arvidsson (Nashville Predators) and Mattias Janmark (Dallas Stars) also scored. Not a bad start for these youngsters.

INTERNATIONAL EFFECT

Donskoi, a Finnish native, had 9:46 of ice time for the Sharks in their game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, but 90.63 percent of that came on the top line with Pavelski and Joe Thornton, according to dobberhockey.com. He finished the game with one goal, a plus-3 and two SOG. He's available in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues and could be worth an add if he sticks on that line.

Panarin, who came over from the Kontinental Hockey League this offseason, also scored a goal in his NHL debut against the Rangers on Wednesday. The majority of his ice time (82.86 percent of his 16:50) was on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, which helps. He looks like an extremely talented player capable of filling Patrick Sharp or Brandon Saad's role and could end up scoring 20-25 goals this season. Panarin is available in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Arvidsson and Janmark appear to have smaller roles for their respective teams. Arvidsson skated on Nashville's third line while Janmark was on Dallas' fourth. Each player shouldn't be owned unless they get a bump in lineup placement.

THE NEW VRBATA

Last year's version of Radim Vrbata could be Brandon Sutter this season if Wednesday night proved anything. Sutter skated on the top line alongside the Sedin brothers (70.24 percent of his ice time came with them) and he finished with a goal and an assist to go along with a plus-3 and three SOG. Sutter also was on the team's top power play unit along with the Sedins, Radim Vrbata and Alexander Edler. As for Vrbata, he skated on the second line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi.

FLAMES EXTINGUISHED

Dougie Hamilton had a rough first night with the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. While he was paired up with Mark Giordano, he ended up finishing with a minus-2; Giordano was a minus-3. Sam Bennett, a popular sleeper pick this season, played on the team's third line (with Josh Jooris and Michael Ferland) and finished with 13:08 of ice time and one SOG. I'd like to see Bennett end up somewhere among the team's top six forwards. Until he does get the line promotion, you're probably best off benching him if he's on your team.

TOUGH TIMES FOR TUUKKA

Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 0-1-0
GAA: 5.00 | SVP: .839
Tuukka Rask fantasy owners have to be slightly concerned after the Bruins lost to the Jets 6-2 on Thursday. The defense looked a bit shaky throughout the night and with no Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg (each injured) and Hamilton in Calgary, there could be more nights like this ahead. Rask stopped 26 of 31 shots in the loss, but several of the goals against weren't his fault. While it's only been one start, I'm not convinced the Bruins have a strong enough defense to help Rask this season. A smart fantasy move might be to hope Rask puts together a string of a few good starts and then look to sell him high after that.

INTRIGUING THIRD LINES

Despite being relegated to third line duties for the Rangers in their debut against Chicago on Wednesday, popular breakout pick J.T. Miller finished his first game with two assists and a plus-2 rating in 12:16 of ice time. He skated on a line with Lindberg and veteran Viktor Stalberg, who finished with one assist. Usually I'm against owning third-line players in fantasy hockey, but Miller, available in 96 percent of leagues, is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

A couple of other third-line players worth monitoring are Alexander Burmistrov and Drew Stafford in Winnipeg. They combined for two goals and two assists in their 6-2 win against Boston. Burmistrov was a plus-4 on the night and Stafford, who looked great for the Jets after they acquired him last season, was a plus-2.

READY TO ROLL

Despite appearing in just two preseason games because of a broken tibia, Max Pacioretty didn't miss a beat in his regular season debut. He finished with two goals on five SOG (one an empty-net goal) and could push for 40 goals this season. Make sure he's in your lineup every time the Canadiens play.

NOTABLE TEAM DEBUTS

Veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was a minus-1 with four penalty minutes in more than 20 minutes of ice time in his Kings debut against San Jose on Wednesday, but led the team with 6:21 of power play ice time in the game. Ehrhoff, a two-time 14-goal scorer and former 50-point scorer, could be someone worth monitoring. He's owned in 79 percent of leagues.

Another defenseman making his debut with a new team was Francois Beauchemin of the Avalanche on Thursday. He finished with three assists (two primary) and a plus-1 rating in more than 22 minutes of ice time. He only saw 20 seconds of power play time and I don't expect Beauchemin, who hasn't scored more than 28 points since the 2005-06 season, to have many other performances like this in the future. You don't need to add him in your league.

Brad Boyes, a 43-goal scorer in 2007-08, made his debut with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. He skated on the top line with James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri. Boyes finished with two SOG and a minus-2 rating in 17:02 of ice time, including 1:52 of power play time. Kadri led the team with five shots on goal in 17:17 of ice time. I don't expect Boyes to be worth owning in the majority of fantasy leagues this year.

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