The Journey: 2015 Rookie Debuts – Part One

Kevin LeBlanc


In this edition of The Journey, we chronicle the NHL debuts of a handful of prospects, and how their fantasy value looks moving forward.

Wednesday Oct. 7th

New York Rangers / Chicago Blackhawks:

Artemi Panarin (82nd in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1G, minus-1, 2 SOG, 2 Hits, 16:50 TOI, :31 PP Time

We have heard all preseason about the Blackhawks coaching staff being in love with Panarin. The 23 year-old import scored his first NHL goal to tie the game at one off a beautiful two on one feed from Patrick Kane. It appears he is slotted in on the second line with Kane and Artem Anisimov, making him a valuble fantasy play if he stays in that spot. Although the young Russian only collected 31 seconds of powerplay time, he spent it in good company. The Blackhawks second unit included Marian Hossa, Teuvo Teravainen and Anisimov as well as newcomer Trevor Daley.

Oscar Lindberg (122nd in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 G, plus-2, 3 SOG, 2 Hits, 1 Block, 13:52 TOI, :00 PP Time

Ok, so I cheated here a bit, since technically this was Lindberg’s second career game. However, talk about filling up the stat sheet in limited minutes. Lindberg opened the scoring with a no angle snipe for his first NHL goal. Although he was shuffled around the lineup a bit, he played most of his minutes with J.T. Miller and Viktor Stalberg. Depending on which players he ends up sticking with, there is some fantasy value here. Most of his scoring will have to come five-on-five however, as he’s likely not going to be cracking the Rangers PP any time soon.


 Vancouver Canucks / Calgary Flames:

Jared McCann (34th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, plus-1, 1 Hit, 8 FOW, 12:31 TOI, :00 PP Time

McCann was handed his debut ahead of fellow highly touted prospect Jake Virtanen in Calgary. Although he did not show up on the score sheet, his peripheral stats weren’t terrible, especially in league that counts face-offs won. The Canucks put the rookie in a role where he could succeed playing mostly alongside Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen rather than being buried on the fourth line. McCann is a candidate to return to junior after nine games, so this is one to keep an eye on.

Ben Hutton (NR in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 A, 2 Blocks, 17:08 TOI, 2:28 PP Time

Sleeper alert??? Hutton becomes very interesting as a deep fantasy asset given the amount of powerplay time he received in his NHL debut. The former Maine Black Bear was a point producer in college, and it appears that is the role that the Canucks have tabbed him for in the NHL as well. In addition to his first NHL point, Hutton also blocked two shots which could be a peripheral stat for him if you are in a league that tracks blocks as scoring category. Inevitably there are rookies who start hot and then slow, but it appears Hutton will be given the ice-time needed to succeed. 


San Jose Sharks / Los Angeles Kings:

Joonas Donskoi (107th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 G, plus-3, 2 SOG, 1 Hit, 9:46 TOI, :19 PP Time

Donskoi looked very good Wednesday night playing alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski both at even strength and on the powerplay. His first NHL goal came in the third period with a little bit of luck, as a Pavelski shot caromed off his chest and behind Jonathan Quick for the Sharks fifth goal of the game. The young Finn looks to be a player that isn’t afraid to enter the corners, and goes hard to the net. When you are willing to do that playing with Jumbo Joe and Pavelski, you are going to score goals. Keep an eye on his linemates, as his fantasy value from a scoring perspective will drop if he is moved to another line.


Thursday, Oct. 8th

Winnipeg Jets / Boston Bruins

Nic Petan (27th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 G, plus-1, 1 SOG, 1 Hit, 1 Block, 10:00 TOI, :00 PP Time

The former Portland Winterhawk parked himself in front of the net and picked up his first NHL goal late in the game against the Bruins. Playing with Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn is not going to bring him a ton of offensive opportunities, but in the future Petan will get the opportunity to be moved up the lineup. He is clearly behind fellow prospect Nikolaj Ehlers on the depth chart.

Nik Ehlers (4th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, plus-1, 5 SOG, 1 Hit, 15:40 TOI, :00 PP Time

The former first round pick got a better draw of linemates than fellow prospect Petan in his debut. Playing with Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault will make for much better offensive upside moving forward. One thing about Ehlers is that he is going to shoot, and shoot a lot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him crack the 200-shot mark if he plays enough games, which means he should be close to a 20-goal scorer this season. The Danish-born winger has long been one that many expected to stick, and his first NHL game gave no reason to change that opinion. If he wasn’t battling with McDavid and Eichel, he would be a favorite for the Calder Trophy.


Ottawa Senators / Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel (2nd in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 G, minus-1, 3 SOG, 1 Hit, 21:58 TOI (!), 3:19 PP Time

Buffalo was not shy about giving Eichel the keys to the bus in game one, playing him almost 22 minutes, tying him with Evander Kane for most TOI by a forward. There is not much more to say about Eichel that hasn’t already been said, as he is a must own in all fantasy formats. However, one number that stood out to me was his Offensive Zone Start % (77.86%) in game one. Bylsma had Eichel shuffled around between lines all night, plugging him whenever the Sabres had an offensive zone faceoff. His number will not stay that high, but it does present an opportunity for Eichel to reach an even higher point plateau then we may have thought.


Philadelphia Flyers / Tampa Bay Lightning

Evgeny Medvedev (NR in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 A (PP), 2 PIM, 1 SOG, 18:08 TOI, 1:34 PP Time

33-year-olds can make NHL debuts as well! Medvedev played his first NHL game in Tampa after spending his entire career in Russia. Paired with Luke Schenn, Medvedev was given opportunities both at even strength and on the powerplay, tallying his first NHL point on a Brayden Schenn powerplay goal in the second period. In the KHL, the rangy defenseman averaged around 50-60 PIMs per season, so that could be a peripheral number that could provide value to fantasy owners.


Edmonton Oilers / St. Louis Blues

Connor McDavid (1st in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, minus-1, 2 SOG, 18:07 TOI, 1:43 PP Time

The first overall pick had a solid debut but did not get on the score sheet. Playing alongside Taylor Hall and fellow rookie Anton Slepyshev, McDavid showed flashes of what has made him a generational prospect. Multiple times he picked the puck up in his own zone, and blew by his peers like they were standing still. The points will come, I don’t think anyone in the hockey world is worried about that.

Anton Slepyshev (130th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, 1 SOG, 1 Hit, 2 PIM, 14:19 TOI, 2:01 PP Time

This week I heard Slepyshev touted as the “best Russian winger” that the Oilers have, as a direct shot to where Nail Yakupov has fallen on the depth chart. Slepyshev’s first NHL game confirmed that this is not far fetched. He was given the coveted wing spot next to McDavid over the former first overall pick. Obviously when Jordan Eberle returns from injury, Slepyshev’s value will diminish, but he is a good plug and play for the next month.

Robby Fabbri (24th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 G, 1 GWG,  plus-1, 1 SOG, 3 Hit, 10:28 TOI, :00 PP Time

As a former first round pick, Fabbri’s all around game impressed Blues brass in camp and throughout the preseason, earning him a spot on the Blues second line along side Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. His scored his first NHL goal, the game winner, off a great feed from linemate Lehtera. If Fabbri can stick in the NHL this season, he has multi-category potential that will increase if he starts getting powerplay minutes.

Colton Parayko (NR in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, 3 SOG, 2 Hits, 16:43 TOI, 1:48 PP Time

Parayko, although somewhat unknown to start the season, is a player who has been showing up on fantasy radars. He is a defenseman who can push the pace of the game and has offensive upside. His almost two minutes of powerplay time show that the Blues as comfortable with giving him offensive opportunities which could help his fantasy value further. He is one to track over the next couple weeks in deep leagues. 


Carolina Hurricanes / Nashville Predators

Noah Hanifin (3rd D in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, minus-1, 1 Hit, 18:06 TOI, :00 PP Time

Although Hanifin did not score in his debut, he looked right at home. I actually watched this game twice, as I am a Canes fan and a glutten for punishment, and I was impressed at how Hanifin progressed as the game went on. When James Wisniewski went down with an injury three minutes into the game, Hanifin picked up the slack flawlessly. Temper expectations from a points perspective until he ousts Ryan Murphy on the second PP unit, but the young defenseman will get plenty of chances in five-on-five situations. He is already the Canes second or third best defenseman, and will be playing a ton of minutes for them this year.


Pittsburgh Penguins / Dallas Stars

Daniel Sprong (144th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, 1 SOG, 8:59 TOI, 2:04 PP Time

Sprong was highly sheltered in his first NHL game, playing almost a quarter of his minutes on the powerplay. His even strength minutes were played on the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Bobby Farnham. The young winger showed some flashes of what we can expect for the future in preseason, but is likely going to return to junior once Eric Fehr returns from injury.

Sergei Plotnikov (NR in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, 1 SOG, 1 Hit, 12:41 TOI, 2:37 PP Time

Plotnikov was touted for his chemistry with Evgeni Malkin in international competiton, and he played most of his minutes alongside the former Hart Trophy winner. His powerplay splits were favorable, but the Penguins offense was stagnant in their season opener. His fantasy value moving forward is predicated on staying in the top six forward group and spending time on the powerplay.

Mattias Janmark (NR in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 1 G, 1 GWG, plus-1, 3 SOG, 11:54 TOI, :00 PP Time

The Swedish-born Janmark scored the game winner in limited minutes in his NHL debut against Pittburgh. Dallas received him from Detroit in the Erik Cole trade at the trade deadline, a move that is already paying dividends. He received very sheltered even strength minutes (71% OZS) with Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky, a line that produced two of the Stars three goals. He is a wait and see candidate in fantasy.


Minnesota Wild / Colorado Avalanche

Mikko Rantanen (93rd in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)

Stat Line: 0 Points, 7:24 TOI, :00 PP Time

The minutes that Patrick Roy gave Rantanen in his NHL debut is the equivalent to dipping a toe in the shallow end of the pool. He was the second to last forward in terms of ice time, and received no powerplay time, which doesn’t exactly exude confidence from the coaching staff. Rantanen will be a fantasy relevant player in the future, but the time is not now.


Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings. 


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