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Fantasy: Rookies to monitor for keeper status

Sebastian Aho, Jesse Puljujarvi among players nearing 10-game threshold

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

We're at the point in the season where teams must make the difficult decision of whether to keep rookies on the roster or send them down, either to the American Hockey League or Canadian Hockey League. After a rookie plays more than nine games, his entry-level contract kicks in, so when a player makes it past that mark, it's a good indicator of his ability to provide more value in a keeper league.

There are plenty of rookies who have already played 10 games this season and are heavily owned in Yahoo leagues. Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets headline the class and have been two of the most productive fantasy forwards. Matthews has six goals and 10 points and Laine has six goals, four on the power play. Matthews' teammate William Nylander leads all rookies with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 10 games. Although Nylander still maintains rookie status, he did play in 22 games last season (six goals, 13 points), which activated his entry-level contract.

Here's a list of relevant rookies who have eclipsed the nine-game mark:

Mitchell Marner, C/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (32 percent owned in Yahoo)

Stats: three goals, five assists, minus-2, 12 PIM, 29 SOG

Video: TOR@BUF: Marner beats Lehner for second of the game

 

Travis Konecny, C/LW, Philadelphia Flyers (17 percent)

Stats: two goals, six assists, one PPP, minus-1, six PIM, 26 SOG

 

Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers (17 percent)

Stats: five assists, minus-9, eight PIM, 14 SOG

 

Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Calgary Flames (7 percent)

Stats: three goals, three assists, plus-5, 10 PIM, 17 SOG

Video: CGY@SJS: Tkachuk scores off Vlasic's deflection

 

Tyler Motte, C/LW, Chicago Blackhawks (3 percent)

Stats: three goals, two assists, plus-4, 10 PIM, 17 SOG

Others worth noting: Brayden Point, C/RW, Tampa Bay Lightning; Nick Schmaltz, C, Chicago Blackhawks; Josh Morrissey, D, Winnipeg Jets; Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Montreal Canadiens

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Rookies who have not played 10 games

Zach Werenski, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (57 percent owned)

Stats: two goals, six assists, four PPP, even, two PIM, 24 SOG

Werenski leads all rookie defensemen in every statistical category, is tied for fourth in points with Laine and Marner, and tied for third in PPP with Matthews. He is fourth on Columbus in time on ice per game (21:52) and first in PP time on ice (2:07). His four PPP is tied with elite defenseman like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators and Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens. It's difficult to imagine a scenario where the Blue Jackets don't keep Werenski around considering he's been arguably their best defenseman this season. The 19-year-old is still available in most Yahoo leagues despite being ranked 70th overall and ninth among defensemen. The Blue Jackets start a back-to-back set Friday, which means Werenski likely will hit the 10 game mark on Saturday.

 

Sebastian Aho, LW/RW, Carolina Hurricanes (27 percent owned)

Stats: five assists, minus-1, two PIM, 19 SOG

Should Aho play against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, he'd hit his 10th game. He's been working on the third line with Teuvo Teravainen, who has struggled so far in his first season with Carolina (three points in nine games). Aho has slowed down since getting all five of his assists in his first five games, going scoreless in the past four. That doesn't help his prospects of sticking around, but despite his recent play he's still looked better than Teravainen and forwards Joakim Nordstrom and Elias Lindholm. Aho played overseas so he would be sent to the AHL, which could be a better situation for him to develop rather than stick with a poor Hurricanes team. If Carolina decides to scratch Aho on Saturday, that could be the writing on the wall. If not, he's worth adding in a keeper league since he'd likely get a shot at more minutes if the Hurricanes season becomes a lost one by the New Year.

 

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmonton Oilers (20 percent owned)

Stats: one goal, two assists, plus-1, 24 SOG

Although he only has three points in nine games, Puljujarvi is tied for seventh among rookies with Werenski in shots on goal. He's only playing 12:29 per game, but 1:44 of that is on the man-advantage. Puljujarvi, like Aho, would have to be sent to the AHL, which could be the smartest move for the Oilers, who have been successful so far this season and wouldn't drop off much without the Finnish rookie. Still, Puljujarvi is skating on the second line and coach Todd McLellan could be easing him into that role. If Puljujarvi is in the lineup Saturday against the New York Islanders, he'd be in Edmonton to stay. That would make him an automatic add in almost any keeper league with the potential to spend the entire season in a top six role on a top 10 offense.

Video: CGY@EDM: Puljujarvi scores first career goal

 

Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes (4 percent owned)

Stats: one goal, two assists, plus-2, 21 PIM, nine SOG

The Coyotes have already said they plan to keep Chychrun past nine games, so there isn't much to debate on his front. He's provided some offense, but his main contribution has been penalty minutes, where he is tied for fifth among defenseman. Defenseman Michael Stone is day to day with an upper-body injury and had major knee surgery in April. Chychrun could stick on the second pairing for much of this season and his playing time should increase as he gains the trust of coach Dave Tippett. For now, Chychrun is only a PIM specialist, which adds to his risk since he's 18 years old. He would have to provide more offense to become a viable keeper option.

 

Pavel Zacha, C, New Jersey Devils (3 percent owned)

Stats: one goal, three assists, even, four PIM, 13 SOG

Zacha scored his first NHL goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. He had gotten an opportunity to center the Devils' top line with Taylor Hall, but was ultimately placed on the third line where he's been one of New Jersey's more productive forwards. Zacha is at nine games played and isn't old enough to be sent down to the AHL, so there's a very small chance the Devils decide to ship him to Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League. With regular time on the power play and an increasing role, Zacha is another intriguing rookie center who has potential to land in the top six this season and for the immediate future.

 

Anthony Beauvillier, LW, New York Islanders (2 percent owned)

Stats: one goal, four assists, plus-3, two PIM, eight SOG

Beauvillier hit the nine-game mark Tuesday and the Islanders scratched him Thursday to give themselves more time to make a decision. He had seen some time on the first line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey, but didn't see much on the power play. Beauvillier's production at even strength is encouraging and the Islanders don't have many quality wings to play with Tavares. New York could opt to send Beauvillier back to Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and recall either Michael Dal Colle or Joshua Ho-Sang from the AHL. If he stays or goes, Beauvillier isn't more than a fringe keeper league asset in deep formats.

Video: SJS@NYI: Beauvillier battles for first NHL goal

 

Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Minnesota Wild (2 percent owned)

Stats: two goals, three assists, plus-3, seven SOG

Eriksson Ek has nearly been a point-per-game player despite seeing 10:51 of ice time on average over six games. The Wild have until Nov. 13 to make a decision on Eriksson Ek, so the next three games could be very important. Left wing Zach Parise is week to week with a lower-body injury, which helps Eriksson Ek's chances of sticking for the rest of the season, and Minnesota doesn't exactly have great depth at center (Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal). Considering those factors, Eriksson Ek should stick around past nine games and is a sneaky keeper option as the Wild's future top-line center.

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