Which 2015 rookies are standing out this season?
As the quarter mark of the 2015-16 NHL season has come and gone, we look back to see which rookies have impacted from a fantasy standpoint. Which prospects are on the verge of a breakout? Which fast starters will likely regress as the season goes on?. In the first part of a two part series, The Journey will evaluate rookie forwards.
Artemi Panarin – Chicago Blackhawks (7th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)
2015-16 Stats: 26 GP, 8G, 18A, +4, 65 SOG, 6 PPP
Does anyone else feel robbed that we don’t get to see 82 games of Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin duking it out night after night for the Calder trophy? If you were lucky enough to grab Panarin in your preseason draft or on the early waiver wire, you are loving life right now. As part of the hottest line in hockey with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, the Russian import is leading NHL rookies in scoring with 26 points in 26 games. Impressively, the young winger is putting up great numbers without purely relying on a staggeringly high shooting percentage or luck based metrics. His 12.3% shooting percentage is solid, but by no means outrageous compared to fellow rookies Max Domi (16.0%), Oscar Lindberg (20.8%) and Anthony Duclair (25.0%). Panarin has yet to score a power-play goal on the season, with only six of his 26 points coming on the man-advantage. In points leagues, he is more valuable considering he does not provide hits or penalty minutes, but he should be owned in all leagues. He is easily one of the best value players in the NHL.
Oscar Lindberg – New York Rangers (32nd in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)
2015-16 Stats: 27 GP, 10G, 7A, +7, 48 SOG, 3PPP, 58 Hits
The former Arizona Coyotes second-round pick started hot with four points in his first three games this season. Playing with a combination of Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Viktor Stalberg for the majority of the year, Lindberg has provided primary scoring while stars Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider have stumbled out of the gates. Unfortunately for Lindberg, the advanced stats do not project him to sustain the start he has had. His 20.8% shooting percentage is sure to regress to the mean, as a number that high is not sustainable for even the best snipers in the game. Lindberg is top-20 in the league in points per 60 minutes, with 17 points in only 339 minutes on the ice this season. Thankfully for Lindberg owners, coach Alain Vigneault has put the rookie in situations to succeed offensively showcased by his 68.5% offensive-zone-start percentage. He does provide help in peripheral categories with 58 hits and 16 penalty minutes to date. If (or more than likely when) his scoring does begin to dip, he can still be a fantasy asset, especially in cap leagues given his low cap hit. If you feel you can get something back for him, now may be time to look to sell high on Lindberg for the rest of the season.
Sam Bennett – Calgary Flames (3rd in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)
2015-16 Stats: 24 GP, 5G, 8A, -5, 33 SOG, 5 PPP, 37 Hits
Like many of his Calgary teammates, Bennett started the season slowly with only one point in the teams first eight games of the season, a stretch where the Flames were 2-6. Since that point, Bennett has 12 points in 16 games playing well at both even strength and on the powerplay. A factor in his solid play over the last five weeks has been his usage on the man advantage. During his first eight games, Bennett received over two minutes of powerplay time only once. Since that time, he has broken the two minute mark on the powerplay in 11 of 16 games. Given that the young forward is adept defensively, and has spent the majority of his shifts on a shutdown line with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, his power play usage will be incredibly important in point production. Among top-10 rookies in scoring (Bennett is sixth) he has the lowest offensive-zone-start percentage, starting his shifts in the offensive zone only 50.6% of the time.
Dylan Larkin – Detroit Red Wings (4th in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)
2015-16 Stats: 26 GP, 10G, 9A, +17, 69 SOG, 1PPP, 18 PIM
The Michigan native has been one of the most consistant players, let alone rookies, in the NHL this season. In his 26 games played, Larkin has been left off the scoresheet only eight times. His plus-17 rating leads the NHL, and is even more impressive considering the Red Wings have only a plus-one goal differential this year. There will be some regression with Larkin given his 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage is a high 12.69% and his PDO is an unsustainably high 1083. However, 18 of his 19 points have come at even strength despite his almost two minutes of power-play ice time a game, suggesting there is potential growth in that area. The young forward has been the teams MVP thus far, producing no matter where Jeff Blashill inserts him into the lineup.
One to pay attention to….
Robby Fabbri – St. Louis Blues (21st in Dobber’s Top 215 Prospects)
2015-16 Stats: 20 GP, 4G, 3A, +1, 33 SOG, 1PPP, 18 Hits
After a bright start to the season, a concussion sidelined Fabbri for six games. After finding his stride again, the Blues prospect has put up three points in his last five games while getting increased ice time. Fabbri has shown flashes of what made him a first round pick of the club in 2014, but the thing that may stand in his way the most is his usage. On a loaded club that is beginning to get healthier, spots in the lineup will be few and far between. Fabbri will have to keep up his recent hot streak if he is to cement his place in the Blues veteran roster.
Next week we will bring you Part 2 of The Journey’s quarter-season breakdown of fantasy prospects when we highlight the defensemen who have made an impact this year.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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