Maybe we’ve been spoiled the last few years, but there’s no Mathew Barzal with 85 points, or Auston Matthews with 40 goals, or Elias Pettersson at almost a point-per-game pace. It’s quite possible no rookie will reach 60 points (not including the lockout-shortened season, this would be the first time that’s happened since 2011-12).
However, there have been some freshmen that have been doing a good job. Below are some of the top 10 rookies from this season. Since I want to focus on some lesser-name rookies, I am not going to include the three players that were the finalists for the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s mid-season Calder award (so no Makar, Hughes or Victor Olofsson).
You may also notice that Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are missing on this list. That’s because they haven’t been a top-10 rookie in any fantasy league. Fun fact: They both have the lowest plus/minus among all rookies. Okay, maybe not that fun a fact if you own either of them.
10. Thatcher Demko
Demko has been excellent when playing, with quality starts in two-thirds of his games. So while he’s provided some good value in spot starts, the biggest issue is that he’s not playing enough games. With just 18 games played, his 10-5-2 record is solid, and his 2.92 GAA and .909 SV % is close to average. To be fair, those numbers aren’t that far off from starter Jacob Markstrom (20-13-3 record with a 2.70 GAA and a .917 SV %).
9. Dennis Gilbert
Gilbert has only played 20 games, but he has made a huge impact in banger leagues. His 72 hits puts him seventh among rookies. He also has 38 PIM, which is second-highest among freshmen and only one behind the rookie league leader. He may not be getting enough games to be worthy of a roster spot in most leagues, but if you see him start to get some games, pick him up. Also note that he was sent to the AHL over the all-star break, but has since been recalled.
Mikheyev is still out for almost two more months after having his wrist sliced by a skate during a Dec. 27 game against the Devils, but he was excellent before the injury. In 16 games under head coach Sheldon Keefe, Mikheyev had 11 points and 44 shots while averaging 15:22 per night. He was also playing with John Tavares regularly. On the season, he has 23 points in 39 games (a 48-point pace over 82 games) and 98 shots (a 206-shot pace).
7. Nick Suzuki
Suzuki has quietly put together an excellent season. His 33 points is fourth among rookies, and he’s been getting better as the season goes on. It helps that the quality of his linemates has improved tremendously. He’s gone from playing with Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson to Max Domi and Ilya Kovalchuk. His ice time is up from 14 minutes a night in his first 20 games to 17:34 in his last 11. He has 95 shots so far, and since Nov. 5, he has failed to register a shot in only four games. He’s also on a bit of a hot streak with six points in his last four games.
6. John Marino
Marino is one of the best surprises of the season. He didn’t start the season with the Pens and was pointless in his first nine games. Then he exploded. Marino’s 24 points is fourth-highest among defensemen and eighth-best for all rookies. With 20 PIM, 65 hits and 70 blocked shots, he’s the only rookie to be in the top 10 for all three categories.
5. Matt Roy
Roy played 25 games in 2018-19, so he barely qualifies as a rookie this year, but his play this season in banger leagues has been quite valuable. He’s got 93 shots, 91 hits and 75 blocked shots. When you include veterans, Roy is one of only five players with at least 90 shots, 90 hits and 75 blocked shots (the others are Darnell Nurse, Jacob Trouba, Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot). Roy’s 75 blocked shots leads all rookies, his 90 hits is second highest and his 93 shots is eighth-highest. Count on him to continue those rates, as his ice time is up significantly from the start of the season.
4. Adam Fox
This rookie season may soon become known as the season of the freshmen defensemen. It’s quite possible that all three Calder nominees are rearguards and Fox has a good shot of getting in that conversation. After a somewhat slow start (he was pointless in his first seven games), Fox rolled off 28 points in his next 43 games, and has 11 in his last 12. Maybe even more amazingly, he’s got 12 man-advantage points despite being on the second power-play unit. However, with the Rangers having a top-10 power-play, don’t expect Fox to get a shot with the top unit anytime soon.
Often, a rookie excels because of opportunity. That is what is happening with Kubalik, who has been given a chance to play with Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane (as opposed to the start of the season, when he was playing with David Kampf and Brandon Saad). At one point, Kubalik had 19 points in 15 games. Now, his 21 goals and 116 shots lead all rookies. It’s kind of crazy how successful he’s been considering that he’s averaging 13:34 per night and not getting much power-play time.
Elvis is leaving Columbus in a tough spot, as it seems as if he needs more starts to excel. Up until Christmas, he had an 0-4-3 record with a 3.41 GAA and a 0.889 SV %. Then Joonas Korpisalo went down with a knee injury. Since then, Elvis is 10-2-1 with a 1.76 GAA and a .947 SV %. Can Columbus actually go back to Korpisalo when he returns? You have to think that at worst, the two netminders will split starts the rest of the season.
Samsonov has been stealing a lot of starts from Braden Holtby lately, and don’t expect it to change anytime soon as Sunday’s loss to the Penguins was just Samsonov’s third of the season. In total, he has a 16-3-1 record with a 2.21 GAA and .923 SV %. Compare that to Holtby, who is 19-10-4 with a 3.11 GAA and a .896 SV %. We’ve seen Holtby lose his starter’s job before (although it was with a different coach), so imagine how great Samsonov’s season can be if the same thing happens.
Again, in case you didn’t read the intro – we aren’t counting actual Rookies 1, 2 and 3 (Makar, Hughes and Olofsson) for this list as we only wanted to look at the lesser-knowns.