Welcome to the start of our 2021-2022 Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit, and let’s start by looking at some players ready to play their first full season in the NHL. Below is my rookie ranking for the upcoming fantasy hockey season.
This will be an unusual class of rookies, as none of the 2021 draft picks are included. First overall selection, Owen Power returns to the University of Michigan, rather than aiming for a berth in the NHL. Given how much time he and other prospects have lacked over the past two years, it makes sense to further develop their skills rather than rush to the NHL.
Now, that doesn’t mean that none of them will play, some are forced to win a few games, if not more. However, I think it’s the players who have had the most development, and even had time in the NHL, who will be the ones who will rise to the top of this rookie class.
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Top 10 Fantasy Hockey Rookies 2021
1. RW Cole Caufield, MTL
Slipping to 15th in the 2019 draft, Caufield and his 5’7 â³ frame prove the skeptics wrong. Skill always matters most, and Caufield has a lot of it. He played 10 regular season games last year, scoring four goals and one assist. He then scored 12 points in 20 playoff games. He was third in scoring for a team that made it to the Stanley Cup final. He will play a regular role with the Canadiens this coming year and could score 30 goals. I would consider him the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year.
2. G Spencer’s Knight, FLA
Knight played four games for the Panthers in 2020-21 and posted a 4-0-0 record with a 2.32 GAA and .919 save percentage. He even made two playoff appearances, despite Sergey Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger be in the picture. Knight was drafted 13th overall in 2019 and is considered Florida’s future goaltender. It’s a small sample, but Knight is showing he’s ready to make a difference now. There’s a good chance he’ll be a Calder Trophy finalist this year. It will depend on how many matches he plays, as he will likely split the fold fairly evenly with Bobrovsky.
3. C Trevor Zegras, ANA
Drafted ninth in 2019, Zegras split time between the NHL and AHL last year, scoring three goals and 10 assists in 24 games for Anaheim. He scored 21 points in 17 games with the AHL San Diego, but his performance at the World Juniors is mostly remembered. He was unstoppable, racking up 18 points in seven games en route to a gold medal. (What precedes Spencer’s Knight was a key cog on this team as well.) Zegras has arguably the highest cap of any player on this list, as he has some elite playing skills. Anaheim currently has no guaranteed crosses in the top six, giving Zegras a clear path to the opening six minutes.
4. Dr. Jamie Drysdale, ANA
The 6th overall selection of 2020 has been called up and made its debut midway through last season. Drysdale played 24 games, scoring eight points. He averages 19:35 of ice time, including 1:55 on the power play. While he was only one point ahead of man, seeing the weather on the higher unit is encouraging. If he can establish himself as a regular in the higher unit, he and Zegras could help each other increase the point total.
5. C Quinton Byfield, LAK
Byfield is currently suffering from a foot injury, but that doesn’t appear to be a long-term problem. He played six games last year, collecting just one assist. He’s averaged 15 minutes per game, and that could be around the ice time he’s getting this year, too. Kings have Anze Kopitar and newly signed Philippe Danault advance on the depth map. Those two should eat up the toughest minutes, leaving Byfield in the third row with easier clashes. He was drafted 2nd overall in 2020, so he has a lot of potential.
6. D Bowen Byram, COLLAR
Byram should have played more last season, but an upper-body injury limited him to just 19 appearances. His offensive production was disappointing, scoring no goals and a pair of assists. Don’t let that deter you from writing it, as defenders tend to take longer to reach their potential. He was drafted 4th overall in 2019 and still has the tools to become a top defender. While Makar wedge will be the main point generator, there is a lot of talent in Colorado to help Byram gain fantastic value.
7. Dr. Moritz Seider, DET
GM Steve Yzerman turned heads when he selected Seider 6th overall in 2019. Detroit has been patient with Seider, and it looks like they were right to do so. He has improved every year since the draft and should be ready to take the next step. He could fit into a role and be in the top four to eventually become Detroit’s main anchor on the blue line.
8. RW Vasili Podkolzine, VAN
Selected 10th overall in 2019, Podkolzin has spent the last two seasons in the KHL. In 2020-21, he scored 11 points in 35 games, followed by 11 more points in 16 playoff games. He doesn’t have the natural skill level like some of the other forwards in this ranking, and that will be reflected in his point total. His work pace is top notch though and should give him extra value in leagues that count PIM, Hits and Blocks. Vancouver has had a busy offseason so it remains to be seen where it fits. Probably the third line to start, but it is possible that they will end up on a line with Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson.
9. G Jeremy Swayman, BO
The 22-year-old goaltender played incredible hockey when he had the chance last season. Swayman was 7-3-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .945 save percentage. Those are fantastic numbers, and he had a couple of shutouts to boot. He looks set to be a starting goalie for the Bruins. So why is he so far down the leaderboard? Boston came out and signed a free agent Linus Ullmark to a four-year contract valued at $ 5,000,000 per season. It’s not the contract you give to someone you think is their replacement. On top of that, Rask tuukka could return in the middle of the season, pushing Swayman to third place. Despite all of this, Swayman was able to persevere and earn the lead. Even if he doesn’t, he should be drafted and scored every time he plays.
10. C Marco rossi, MIN
Complications with Covid-19 prevented Rossi from gaining a place with the Wild last year. He appears to be in good health now, having played in the Olympic qualifying matches for Austria. Minnesota doesn’t have a dynamic center and Rossi has the knack to immediately jump into a top-six role. If he lands on a line with last year’s Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov, Rossi could be in for a big year.
Other recruits to consider: LW Grigory Denisenko (FLA), C Morgan frost (PHI), G Kaapo Kahkonen (MIN), RW Vitali Kravtsov (NYR), LW Peyton krebs (VGK), C Anton Lundell (FLA), C Connor McMichael (WSH), C Alex newhook (COL), LW Lucas Raymond (DET), LW Nicholas Robertson (TOR)
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