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Fantasy mailbag: Emerging rookies warrant lineup decisions

Boeser vs. Keller, Sergachev's value among waiver wire topics

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / Senior Fantasy Editor

Every Friday during the season, will answer your fantasy mailbag questions. Whether you're in a year-long league or play DFS, we'll answer the most relevant questions based on Yahoo transaction trends, DraftKings value and any other developments (production, lineup, injuries) around the League. Send your questions to @NHLJensen.


@JeffScully: Clayton Keller or Brock Boeser?

This is a really tough decision between two legitimate Calder Trophy candidates. Boeser (RW, 19 percent owned) has points in each of his first four games, totaling five points (two goals, three assists), two power-play points and 11 shots on goal after being scratched by the Vancouver Canucks in their first two games. Keller (C/LW, 30 percent owned) is fresh off his best game in the NHL; he had two goals, one assist, was plus-1 and had five SOG in a 5-4 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday. Keller, 19, may be the most dynamic forward prospect that the Arizona Coyotes have ever had, and has seven points (five goals, two assists) and 27 shots on goal in seven games.

Each rookie was better than a point per game in the NCAA, Keller in one season for Boston University and Boeser in two seasons at University of North Dakota. They are playing top-six minutes for their respective Pacific Division teams, but the Coyotes roster is a little more intriguing for the rest of the season (despite 0-6-1 start). The Canucks have a veteran-laden group that could take away from the long-term growth of their young players. Both teams are plus/minus liabilities.

In a one-year league, this decision boils down to your position of greater need; Keller offers dual eligibility in Yahoo. I also like Keller's linemates (Max Domi, Derek Stepan) and power-play quarterback (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) more than Boeser's supporting cast right now. If you look at the long-term scope of these two teams, the Coyotes are giving their prospects a chance to learn on the fly, while the Canucks are stuck in the middle of contention and a rebuild. I would go Keller right now, but not by much. Try to get both of these rookies on your roster if you can.

Video: VAN@OTT: Boeser punches in a PPG from the slot


@peter_t44: Jack Eichel for Brent Burns?

Eichel is producing despite the Buffalo Sabres' slow start, a great sign for his fantasy sustainability; he has nine points (two goals, seven assists), 19 shots on goal and is minus-2 in seven games. Burns has two points (no goals, two assists), 20 SOG and is minus-5 in his first five games. The San Jose Sharks look considerably worse than last season and their aging scorers, especially Joe Thornton coming off a major knee injury, could take big steps back fantasy-wise.

I would probably sell low on Burns for Eichel given Burns' struggles and the Sharks' lack of scoring help. Eichel, 20, has a chance to be a top 10 scorer playing with Evander Kane and Jason Pominville; the Eichel-Kane and Eichel-Pominville duos are tied for the fifth-most productive point pair League-wide thus far (each has six team goals with each player recording a point). Remember that Burns (Yahoo ADP: 6.7) was drafted only a few picks higher than Eichel (13.0) on average.

One thing to keep in mind is that patience could pay off in terms of position scarcity for Burns. It's still early, and Victor Hedman is not producing yet either (three points in eight games) despite the Tampa Bay Lightning's offensive prowess. Burns is the only defenseman League-wide who can sniff 30 goals, and is guaranteed to have an elite shot volume. You need to evaluate the depth of your fantasy defense and make sure you have strong depth outside of Burns.

Video: BUF@LAK: Eichel finishes his own rebound in tight


@PalomoJoseM: What do you make of Sebastian Aho: Worth the wait in a 2 LW/2 RW league or not? Considering dropping him for Mikhail Sergachev (need a defenseman)

It's been a strange start for the Carolina Hurricanes. They are quietly 3-1-1 with back-to-back road wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, but their offensive depth has led to balanced scoring rather than the explosive fantasy results many anticipated. I would definitely hold onto Aho for the next few weeks in a shallow league hoping he makes some adjustments in his second NHL season and gets back into his power-play groove. The 20-year-old is still averaging nearly three shots on goal per game (14 in five games), and should eventually snap his four-game pointless streak. He's playing big minutes (18:15 per game; 3:54 on power play) and covered four of the six standard categories well as a rookie (24 goals, 25 assists, 17 power-play points and 214 SOG in 82 games). He still has a high ceiling for the rest of the season and is worth hanging onto. 

That said, Sergachev (D, 16 percent owned) is worth adding in a deeper and/or keeper league, and is clearly scratching the surface in a one-year league as well. The 19-year-old defenseman scored his first two NHL goals against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road Thursday, giving him six points (two PPP) and 15 SOG in eight games. His ice time is low (12:03 per game; 1:16 on power play), but his offensive ceiling is high on one of the strongest second power-play units in the NHL with forwards Tyler Johnson, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. I would take a deeper look at the defensemen on your roster and see if there's any leeway.


@gossamer9799: Brent Seabrook or Cam Fowler for rest of season?

This is always a popular debate in fantasy circles: what's better, a middle-tier No. 1 defenseman or a higher-end No. 2 defenseman? If you're in a league that counts hits, you have to go with Seabrook (1,883 in 931 NHL games). The Chicago Blackhawks offense has cooled off lately, but they are still more potent than the Anaheim Ducks, who have been without center Ryan Kesler (hip) and defensemen Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm (shoulder injuries), and have missed Ryan Getzlaf (lower body; day to day) at points as well. The Ducks are also the only team without a power-play goal so far (0-for-21). I would lean toward Seabrook considering he has exposure to Jonathan Toews and/or Patrick Kane at even strength and on the power play. Fantasy correspondent Brian Metzer would likely agree based on his latest top 50 defensemen rankings.

Video: PHI@ANA: Fowler blasts shorthanded goal past Elliott


@skylarstroud: Malcolm Subban, Anton Khudobin, Jacob Markstrom or Michal Neuvirth? Who's the best goalie waiver wire pickup? W/SO/GAA/SV. No SV%

It's a great story to see the Vegas Golden Knights near the top of the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings, but their realistic chances of sustaining anything close to this level of success hinge on the health of Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion). Of the group of goalies you mentioned, I think the team with the best chance of contending for the rest of the season is the Philadelphia Flyers. Neuvirth (1.36 goals-against average in three starts) has looked much better than Brian Elliott (3.25 in four starts) so far, and their offense has returned to form with a young core of prospects emerging. This could end up being the best time-share in the NHL, and many fantasy owners may not realize they have that type of ceiling. Khudobin's value hinges on the severity of Tuukka Rask's concussion, a situation that is tough to gauge at the moment. Neuvirth (12 percent owned) is your best bet here.


@ohheydad: Dropped Alex Galchenyuk for Vladislav Namestnikov. Too soon?

I can't believe Namestnikov was still floating around on your waiver wire. This was a great move given his constant exposure to Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, the highest-scoring point pair in the NHL this season (10 team goals with each recording a point). Namestnikov (C/LW, 64 percent owned) has at least one point in seven of eight games this season, and also has three power-play points playing on a unit with those linemates and Hedman. Galchenyuk (C/LW, 47 percent owned) is stuck in a depth role for the struggling Montreal Canadiens right now, and is only worth holding onto in a deeper league in the hope that he's traded. He's been a breakout candidate in waiting for years, but is definitely droppable in standard formats given his lineup placement since Claude Julien took over as coach last season.

Video: TOR@MTL: Galchenyuk goes off pipe and in for PPG

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