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Fantasy rookies to watch in 2019-20

Hughes brothers, Kakko likely to make immediate impact; Makar, Comtois among other intriguing prospects for next season

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com identifies the top 10 rookies for fantasy hockey in 2019-20. Value has been quantified based on factors including but not limited to past production in the NHL (if applicable), other leagues and/or tournaments and projected lineups for next season. For more fantasy hockey coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Sleepers | Deep sleepers | Breakouts | Bounce-backs | Top 250

 

NOTE: Forwards Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the projected top two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, are listed below despite being excluded from NHL.com's top 250 for now. Other rookie-eligible players are listed in order of rank, if applicable

 

Jack Hughes, C
Age: 18
Eligible for 2019 NHL Draft

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound center is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 NHL Draft. Hughes broke left wing Alex Ovechkin's scoring record with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in seven games at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship and also had three assists in seven games for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. If Hughes is selected with the No. 1 pick by the New Jersey Devils, he would likely be a fixture in their top six and first power-play unit with potential exposure to elite left wing Taylor Hall and/or right wing Kyle Palmieri.

 

Kaapo Kakko, RW
Age: 18
Eligible for 2019 NHL Draft

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound right wing is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters for the 2019 draft. Kakko led Finland with six goals at the 2019 IIHF World Championship to help his country win the gold medal. Kakko had 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists) for TPS of the Finnish League and set the record for most points by an under-18 player, one more than Aleksander Barkov in 2012-13. If selected with the No. 2 pick by the New York Rangers, Kakko could skate in the top six and on the first power play alongside valuable center Mika Zibanejad.

 

Quinn Hughes, D, VAN (NHL.com rank: 128)
Age: 19
No. 7 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

The Vancouver Canucks defenseman had three assists in his first five NHL games and could be among the 25 best fantasy players at the position next season. Hughes had 33 points (five goals, 28 assists) in 32 games as a sophomore for University of Michigan of the NCAA and had three assists in eight games for the United States at the World Championship. Hughes could have the highest ceiling of all rookies at the position next season with power-play exposure to valuable forwards Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat.

 

Cale Makar, D, COL (NHL.com rank: 183) 
Age: 20
No. 4 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The Colorado Avalanche defenseman had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Makar skated on the third pair with Samuel Girard, bringing exposure to elite forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog at even strength. Before making his NHL debut in the postseason, Makar won the Hobey Baker Award with the University of Massachusetts of the NCAA after having 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 41 games. With an instant impact in the playoffs and exposure to some of the top names in fantasy, Makar is worth drafting in mid-to-late rounds for next season.

 

Thatcher Demko, G, VAN (NHL.com rank: 212) 
Age: 23
No. 36 pick in 2014 NHL Draft

The Canucks goalie was 4-3-1 with a .913 save percentage in nine appearances this season and likely would have played more games if not for an undisclosed injury that landed him on injured reserve. Vancouver re-signed Demko to a two-year contract April 24, and he should have the opportunity for increased starts next season after backup goalie Anders Nilsson was traded to the Ottawa Senators prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. Jacob Markstrom is likely their No. 1 goalie to start the season, but Demko could find himself in a timeshare situation or better as early as next season and carries late-round fantasy upside.

Video: VAN@STL: Demko makes great pad save on Schenn

 

Max Comtois, LW, ANA (NHL.com rank: 230) 
Age: 20
No. 50 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The Anaheim Ducks left wing was fantasy-relevant with seven points (two goals, five assists) and 27 hits in his first 10 NHL games but sustained multiple injuries and spent the rest of the season playing for Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had 48 points (31 goals, 17 assists) in 25 games and five goals in five games for Canada at the World Junior Championship. Comtois and fellow rookie Sam Steel are expected to stay in the NHL next season and could skate with bounce-back candidate Ryan Getzlaf and/or Rickard Rakell under new coach Dallas Eakins, who coached Comtois, Steel and other Ducks players for San Diego of the American Hockey League.

 

Erik Brannstrom, D, OTT (NHL.com rank: 239)
Age: 19
No. 15 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The Ottawa Senators defenseman had no points in two games after being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights prior to the trade deadline. Brannstrom spent the majority of the season playing in the American Hockey League, where he totaled 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 50 games for Chicago and Belleville. With young forwards Brady Tkachuk, Colin White and elite defenseman Thomas Chabot expected to be fantasy-relevant, Brannstrom and the Senators have sneaky appeal next season.

 

Filip Zadina, LW/RW, DET (NHL.com rank: 246)
Age: 19
No. 6 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

The Detroit Red Wings forward had three points (one goal, two assists) in nine NHL games this season and 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 59 games for Grand Rapids of the AHL. Zadina could land a full-time role with the Red Wings next season alongside fantasy-relevant skaters Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, fellow rookie Taro Hirose, Mike Green and Filip Hronek.

 

Victor Olofsson, LW/RW, BUF (NHL.com rank: 247)
Age: 23
No. 181 pick in 2014 NHL Draft

The Buffalo Sabres wing was a late-season streaming option with four points (two goals, two assists), two on the power play, in six games. He got a trial on the top line and first power play with elite center Jack Eichel and valuable forward Sam Reinhart and could be a hidden rookie gem next season. The Sabres could benefit from new coach Ralph Krueger, and Olofsson is worth a flier in late rounds with likely top-six lineup placement, even after they re-signed Jeff Skinner to a eight-year contract.

 

Eeli Tolvanen, LW, NSH (NHL.com rank: 250)
Age: 20
No. 30 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The Nashville Predators wing had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 58 games with Milwaukee of the AHL and two points (one goal, one assist) in four games with the Predators. Tolvanen didn't find a consistent spot in the lineup but could provide a much-needed spark to Nashville's top six and power play, which was worst in the NHL at 12.9 percent.

 

Other rookies with fantasy upside: Mackenzie Blackwood, G, NJD; Drake Batherson, RW, OTT; Ryan Poehling, C, MTL; Owen Tippett, LW, FLA; Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, WPG; Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones, D, EDM; Carl Grundstrom, RW, LAK; Martin Necas, CAR; Alexandre Texier, RW, CBJ; Adam Boqvist, D, CHI

 

Read: Fantasy hockey rookie tracker for 2018-19

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