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Talented crop of rookies has fantasy upside

by Matt Sitkoff / NHL.com

We've already broken down the 2014 draftees and who can have an immediate impact on the fantasy landscape. Realistically, any of these players could find their name on the fantasy rookie of the year trophy, as Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche did last season.

However, with two of last season's Calder Trophy finalists being an undrafted free agent (Tyler Johnson) and a seventh-round pick in 2011 (Ondrej Palat), we see that rookie production doesn't always come from freshly drafted players.

FANTASY HOCKEY ANALYSIS

The 2014-15 NHL season is drawing closer by the day, so NHL.com has you covered with all the fantasy hockey advice you'll need come draft day.

Here are some rookies to keep an eye on when creating your fantasy team.

Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Jonathan Drouin, one of my fantasy sleepers to watch this season and the top-rated prospect by NHL.com, is projected as our Calder Trophy favorite. He's expected to fill a top-six role with the offensively talented Lightning and should challenge Johnson's team rookie record of 24 goals last season. The 19-year-old left wing is the 81st-ranked player by NHL Fantasy and the 11th-ranked left wing.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals

The fantasy world got a taste of what this talented Russian forward can do during a 17-game audition last season. The 22-year-old contributed three goals and nine points as he finally begin his NHL career four years after the Capitals made him the 26th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Kuznetsov then went on to help his country win gold at the 2014 IIHF World Championship by scoring one goal and one assist in the 10-game tournament. The almost four-season wait for the Capitals, and fantasy owners alike, will be worth it. Whether he starts the season on a wing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, or as a second-line center, Kuznetsov (one of Pete Jensen's fantasy sleepers) has a chance to produce and be drafted in all league formats.

Teuvo Teravainen, C, Chicago Blackhawks

We last saw the NHL's rookie scoring leader start the season in the AHL in 2008-09, when Bobby Ryan didn’t make his season debut with the Anaheim Ducks until November. Despite the late start, Ryan paced all rookies with 57 points in 64 games played. We could see history repeated this season as Teravainen, a talented Finnish center, embarks on his first full season in North America. Teravainen got into three NHL games with the Blackhawks late last season and the 18th pick in the 2012 draft did not look out of place. With the signing of Brad Richards, the 20-year-old is likely to start the season in the AHL, but NHL.com's fifth-rated prospect will see time in the NHL this season. If Richards shows no chemistry with his talented linemates, expect to see the hashtag #FreeTeuvo pop up from fantasy owners. He should be drafted in dynasty/keeper leagues and stashed on benches in other league formats.

Filip Forsberg, C, Nashville Predators

Filip Forsberg
Center - NSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 5
SOG: 20 | +/-: -8
The Predators were ecstatic when they acquired Forsberg, the 11th player taken in the 2012 draft, from Washington for Martin Erat at the NHL Trade Deadline two seasons ago, but it may have been a bit hasty. The 6-foot-1 center was rushed into NHL action and has managed six points in his 18 career games. But after a successful 2014 World Junior Championship (12 points), a productive AHL season (34 points in 47 games) and with a new, offense-minded coach (Peter Laviolette), the time is now for the talented forward to produce. He was named MVP in the recent Predators rookie tournament after he had a point in each of the games played.

Griffin Reinhart, D, New York Islanders

The Islanders' top-ranked prospect by NHL.com finished his fourth season with the Edmonton Oil Kings by leading his team to a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup, and he looks like he's ready to make an impact on Long Island. The fourth player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft, he is the only player in the Top 5 not to play in the NHL; the Islanders have taken a more cautious approach with their prospects. The 20-year-old son of former NHL player Paul Reinhart finished his WHL career with 30 goals, 111 points and 164 penalty minutes in 209 regular-season games. He also had 28 points in 57 playoff games. At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, Reinhart is NHL-ready and, even if he starts his professional career in the AHL, he will make an impact on the Islanders at some point this season.

PLAY YAHOO! FANTASY HOCKEY

John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks

Right behind Drouin on the NHL.com top prospect list is the Ducks' 21-year-old goalie phenom. The Ducks are promoting their crease situation as an open and we expect that competition to be won by the 6-foot-3, 210-pound rookie. Gibson, the first goalie in franchise history to record a shutout in his Anaheim debut, and the youngest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his playoff debut, is the real deal. He can be a fantasy asset right away; read more of the breakdown with projections for Gibson on my fantasy sleepers list.

Other rookies to watch: Jake Allen (St. Louis Blues), Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators), Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators), Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Alexander Wennberg (Columbus Blue Jackets), Mirco Mueller (San Jose Sharks), Kevin Hayes (New York Rangers)

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