Some rookies this season finished more strongly than expected and are worth keeping an eye on for next season. We’ve highlighted a few that perhaps haven’t yet caught most people’s attention.
Anthony Cirelli – Tampa Bay Lightning
Cirelli played 18 regular season games with Tampa Bay in 2017-2018 and scored five goals and six assists, followed by 17 games in the playoffs with two goals and one assist. With 19 goals and 20 assists in 82 games in 2018-2019, this 3rd round pick in 2015 has cemented the third line center spot on a powerhouse team. In the last quarter of the season, Cirelli had 8 goals and 7 assists in 20 games. Looking to next season, there is no reason that Cirelli shouldn`t be able to at least duplicate this season. He`s not going to climb the depth chart to first or second line for a few years, so there is a ceiling of 40-50 points for now, barring injury to either Steven Stamkos or Brayden Point.
Roope Hintz – Dallas Stars
Hintz finished the season with six goals and seven assists in the last 20 games and saw his TOI increase to over 16 min/g, also playing over 2 min/g on the PP. Next season could see him as the second line center if he can beat out Radek Faksa and conceivably hold that last-quarter pace over a whole season and break 50 points.
Taro Hirose – Detroit Red Wings
Hirose was a free agent signing out of Michigan State and managed to play 10 games and get one goal and six assists in his brief exposure to the NHL. These numbers are most likely a little inflated for what he could give you next season as he will be hard pressed to make Detroit let alone prorate his pace to a 57-point season. His CF% was drawn from a very small sample size but shows he struggled a little at 37.5. I would pick him up in a deeper keeper pool and hold as he is 22 years old and will get a shot in the NHL sooner than later.
Rudolf Balcers – Ottawa Senators
Acquired from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson trade, Balcers at 22 years old did enough in the last quarter of the season to prove he might stick on a depleted Ottawa roster next season. He was able to move up to the third line and produce at a pace of 35-40 points and he got some time on the PP as well. Defensively he is a bit of a gamble, but he is skilled enough to score over 30 points in a full season.
Sam Steel – Anaheim Ducks
Steel made the Anaheim lineup out of training camp and played 13 games, scoring a goal and two assists before being sent down to the AHL where he racked up 39 points in 51 games. The 30th overall pick in 2016 was called up at the end of the season and played very well, scoring five goals and three assists in his final seven games. There is no reason to think that Steel can’t win the second line center spot in Anaheim next season, and if he does, a 45-55 point campaign could be in the cards.
Brett Howden – NY Rangers
Howden was the 27th overall pick in the 2016 draft, three spots ahead of Sam Steel. Much like Steel, the second line center position could be his for the taking in 2019-2020. He did have his struggles this past season, such as going without a goal for 35 games, but he closed the season out with two goals and six assists in his last 16 games, which would be a 40 point pace. He is likely to improve to 30-40 points over a full year.
Andrew Mangiapane – Calgary Flames
It’s difficult to see how Mangiapane will play anywhere else but the 4th line in Calgary next year. He is skilled and can skate, as evidenced by his highlight-reel goal in his first playoff game against Colorado. He improved as the year went on and increased his point production along with his shot totals. His ceiling is limited by the players in front of him in the lineup but he could be a 25-35 point player.
Filip Hronek – Detroit Red Wings
Hronek quietly had an excellent first year and steadily established himself by averaging over 22 min/g in the last quarter and being on pace for over a 40-point season. Not bad for a 170lb defenseman who was taken in the 2nd round in 2016. Looking forward to next season, with all of Detroit’s injuries on defence this year, it’s hard to tell where he will end up but I would think he’s a lock for at least 30 points.
There are a few other rookies that we could have included, but hopefully most of these players are still available for you to consider.
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