Top 10 Unheralded Rookies

by Tom Collins on August 22, 2016

The Top 10 rookies who are somewhat under the radar for 2016-17…

 

Much of the focus every year in fantasy hockey is on the rookies and who will start to live up to their potential.

But too much focus is given on this year's crop of nominees and names in giant media centres. That's why every list for top rookies will include Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Jimmy Vesey.

But most years it's players not from that year's draft class that excels. Last year for example it was Shayne Gostisbehere who was most impressive. He proved that sometimes it's just a matter of opportunity. If Mark Streit doesn't get injured, Ghost is probably not called up and certainly wouldn't have seen top power-play time.

Below you'll find the top 10 slightly-under-the-radar rookies. By slightly-under-the-radar, I mean guys that aren't getting as much hype as those listed above. There's no guarantees some of these players make the NHL this season. Some may get nine-game tryout before being sent back to juniors. But it's never too early to add them to draft list cheat sheet just in case. Onto the list.

 

10. Thomas Chabot

The Sens first-round pick in 2015 has an outside chance of making the Sens as a bottom pair defenseman. It will be tough as the Sens already have six defensemen signed. All he needs is a strong preseason and he should be able to get some regular season games and a possible nine-game tryout at the start of the season as well since he can only be sent back to juniors. (Read more on Chabot here)

 

9. Travis Konecny

There has been some talk in Philadelphia that Konecny is NHL-ready. He dominated the OHL last year with 30 goals and 101 points in just 60 games. The problem with Konecny — like several guys on this list — is that he's too good to go back to the OHL and doesn't qualify to play in the AHL this year. If he can have a great preseason, he should see at least nine games. (Read more on Konecny here)

 

8. Anthony Mantha

It was only a couple of years ago that the hype on Mantha was through the roof. He scored back-to-back 50-goal season in the QMHHL with Val-d'Or Foreurs and led the Q with 120 points in 2013-14. He wasn't as impressive his first year in the AHL but picked up 45 points in 60 games in his second year. There's a hole in Detroit thanks to veterans leaving the squad and Mantha could find himself in a regular spot come October.  (Read more on Mantha here)

 

7. Alex Tuch

The theory going around Minnesota is that the Wild didn't make much of a splash this offseason because they count on some rookies making the squad, including Tuch. Assistant general manager Brent Flahr told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press in July that “Whether (Tuch) plays in the American Hockey League right off the bat or he makes our team, that’s up to him." (Read more on Tuch here)

 

6 and 5. Julius Honka and Stephen Johns

I grouped these two together since they are both defensemen with the Stars and there's a chance they can both step into the Dallas lineup right from the start of the season with Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Kris Russell all gone. Johns played 14 games with the Stars last year (plus 13 postseason games) and the 24-year-old should be ready to step into an expanded role. And he likes to hit people. A lot. His 3.93 hits per game were top 10 in the league. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Honka had 44 points in the AHL last season and could land a regular spot on the second power play unit. (Read more on Johns here and Honka here)

 

4. Sebastian Aho

Much will be expected of Aho this season if the summer predictions are true. Rumour has it that Aho will play on the top line in Carolina with Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm. Aho impressed at the world junior championships with 14 points in seven games (second overall), and continued that into the world championships when he had seven points in 10 games. He also finished ninth in points in the SM-Liiga league last year. (Read more on Aho here)

 

3. Mikko Rantanen

How good can Rantanen be? He led the San Antonio Rampage – the Avs AHL farm team – in points despite missing some 20-someodd games due to the World Junior Championships and a nine-game call-up. The 19-year-old finished sixth overall in the AHL in points. Rantanen did have zero points in those nine games with the Avs but remember he barely played. A new coach might use him better. (Read more on Rantanen here)

 

2. Christian Dvorak

Some poolies might will overlook the 20-year-old Dvorak if much of the rookie talk focuses on teammate Dylan Strome instead. Dvorak was dynamite with the London Knights the last two years as he posted back-to-back 100-point seasons and had 52 goals last year as well. Some might point out he played on a super-line in junior with Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk. But he's a great bet to be a regular contributor to the Coyotes this year. (Read more on Dvorak here)

 

1. Pavel Zacha

Zacha has a good shot of making the Devils, and if so, he could find himself in a top-six role pretty quickly. The 19-year-old will be a good candidate in leagues with peripherals as well. He had two assists in his only NHL game to date, but picked up three points in three AHL games (followed by another three in five playoff games). He's another player who has to be in the NHL or junior next year. But odds are he sticks with the big club the whole season. (Read more on Zacha here)