The Journey: Early Season Rookie Leaders
The Journey takes a closer look at which rookies are leading multiple fantasy stat categories early in the 2016-17 season.
Goals (Top Three)
T3. William Nylander (TOR), Jimmy Vesey (NYR) – (4)
No real surprise that Matthews, Laine and Nylander are topping the NHL rookies goals race. The three would have been early favorites and will likely be in or close to the top three throughout the whole season.
Both Nylander and Matthews have similar deployments, playing alongside eachother both at even strength and on Toronto’s top power-play unit. Both are averaging over 16 minutes at even strength and over two minutes and thirty seconds with the man advantage. As the pair continues to hover around 65% in terms of offensive zone starts, their shot rates should continue to stay high. Nylander is averaging 3.86 shots per game, and Matthews is at an even higher 4.29 shots per game. By the end of the season, we could be looking at both players finishing with over 25 goals.
Laine came into the NHL touted as a natural goal scorer and to this point, he has not disappointed. Four of Laine’s six goals have come on the power play, as he has set up shop in the left side face-off circle, freeing himself to get his shot off and terrorize goaltenders. Only one of Laine’s six goals (the overtime game winner vs Toronto on a breakaway) has come from another area of the ice. Laine is already looking like Ovechkin-lite on the power play.
Watch this first goal by Laine, my favorite of his young career:
Vesey is a bit of a surprise to be in the early season top-three. Not that he doesn’t have the talent, just that there was a bit more of an unknown if his dominant college game would translate to the NHL. The New York Rangers forwards’ four goals have come on just 13 shots, and although his shooting at over 30% is unlikely to continue, early season returns for Vesey’s top six potential has been solid.
Assists – Top 3
1. Travis Konecny – Philadelphia Flyers (6)
A consummate playmaker in his recent OHL days, its unsurprising to see Konecny leading all rookies in assists early in 2016-17, especially given how Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has used him. On Thursday, Konecny was slotted in on a line with Claude Giroux and Jakob Voracek, after spending a good amount of the season alongside center Sean Couturier. The young forwards next game will be his ninth, and there is no indication that he will not be with the team for the rest of the season.
A large group of players are tied with five assists in the early season, and some interesting names are Devin Shore and Sebastian Aho. Shore’s usage has been aided by the laundry list of injuries that the Stars have been dealing with this season. Although he has had increased deployment on the power play thus far, only one of his five assists have come with the man advantage, which is a good sign if his power play time decreases. Shore has regularly slotted in as a bottom-six player at even strength and plays in all situations.
Aho has recorded an assist in four of Carolina’s six games this season, and has seen ample time on the power-play. In seven contests this season, the young Finnish forward has received less than two minutes of power play time in just one game.
Hits – Top 3
1. Scott Wilson – Pittsburgh Penguins (21)
2. Noel Acciari – Boston Bruins (16)
3. Brady Skjei – New York Rangers (15)
Wilson, a former seventh-round pick who split time between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) and Pittsburgh last season has found a home recently alongside Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. He has had multi-hit games in all but one of his eight games this season, opening up space for his linemmates to thrive offensively. The winger also has recorded 15 shots and points in three of his last four.
Former Providence College Captain Noel Acciari has been a fourth line staple for the Bruins so far this year, playing in seven games and averaging over two hits per game despite playing just 10 minutes on average. He has chipped in with two points, but doesn’t offer much in terms of anything outside of a hits statistic at this point.
Skjei has found a permanent home inside the Rangers top-six this season, playing an average of 15:31 and filling in with numerous defensive partners. If he plays a full season, Skjei could reach 150 hits and 75 blocks but is unlikely to finish with over 20 points.
Blocked Shots – Top 3
1. Brandon Carlo – Boston Bruins (21)
2. Ivan Provorov – Philadelphia Flyers (14)
3. Stephen Johns – Dallas Stars (11)
Carlo has been a good multi-category asset this season with 21 blocked shots, eight hits, seven shots on goal and two points on the season for the Bruins. He certainly has the build at 6’5” to be a shot blocking machine and at just 19 years old, has proven that he is not far from being a permanent staple on the Bruins blueline.
Provorov and Johns are multi-category defensemen moving forward with the potential to top 100 in blocked shots, hits and shots on goal. Provorov clearly has the higher ceiling in terms of point production, but Johns is a good addition as a fantasy depth option if you are trying to fill in with peripheral stats.
Penalty Minutes – Top 3
1. Jakob Chychrun – Arizona Coyotes (19)
2. Mitch Marner – Toronto Maple Leafs (12)
3. Tyler Motte – Chicago Blackhawks (10)
Chychrun is a surprising tops on this list, due to his 17 minutes of penalties on Thursday night against Philadelphia where he served his first fighting major accompanied by a an extra two and ten for instigating. It was a good showing by the rookie after Brayden Schenn blasted teammate Michael Stone in open-ice.
Marner and Motte are sitting at second and third on the list, also somewhat surprisingly as both are known more for their scoring prowess then their physical nature. Neither is on your fantasy team for their penalty minutes, but in multi-cat leagues, if either can push 40-50 penalty minutes in a season while keeping up their scoring, consider it a bonus and run with it.
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