Top 10 Gritty Rookies

Tom Collins


Youth is king in fantasy hockey, with maybe the exception of grit categories. 

Quite often in fantasy drafts, we look at veteran players for PIM, hits and blocked shots. This is usually because there isn’t enough information on grit categories in other leagues. Aside from PIM, the AHL doesn’t have that information on its website. Same with many of the junior leagues.

That lack of information means many fantasy general managers will lean toward what they know. This is a sound strategy, but the end of the season is a great time to review the rookies that performed well in those grit categories.

Below are the top 10 rookies in grit categories for the past season. The top two names stand out as the next great peripheral players, but the rest also deserve consideration in dynasty leagues. Success as a rookie doesn’t guarantee they will still be in the NHL in a couple of years, but they are worth keeping an eye on. 

One thing to keep in mind for next season is that most rookies who excel in grit categories are around 24 or 25 years old, which makes sense when you think about it. After spending seven or eight years in the minors, the player wants to make an impression when he is called up to the big leagues. If he is going to be stuck on the third or fourth line, he is not going to get many scoring opportunities, but he can get involved in a fight, throw a hit or block a shot.

10. Michael Pezzetta

Pezzetta quickly became a crowd favourite in Montreal this past year, but he might be one of those players who won’t be in the big leagues in a couple of years as the Habs go with more skill as their young players develop. He played only 51 games this past season, but finished with 81 PIM (fifth among rookies) and 156 hits (sixth). He didn’t contribute much elsewhere and averaged fewer than eight minutes a night. It’s also interesting to note that he toned down his fighting under new coach Martin St. Louis, picking up only one fighting major and 13 PIM in 21 games with the new coach (although he still had 71 hits). If. St. Louis is discouraging fighting, this would make Pezzetta a one-trick pony next season. 

9. Parker Kelly

I picked up Kelly in one of my dynasty leagues that includes all of these grit categories, but he was constantly sent to the AHL and called back up. As I didn’t have any more space in my minor leagues, I was forced to drop him. It was especially frustrating when he was called back up and someone else in the league picked him up. However, you can only count on Parker for hits, where he had 131 in 41 games. His 60 PIM looks impressive until you do a deeper dive and realize that 40 of those PIM came in only three games, meaning you can’t rely on him as a consistent PIM producer.

8. Brandon Duhaime

Duhaime played in 80 games this season, but it would be easy for him to be a fourth line/healthy scratch bu