NOTES: Below are rookie-eligible players listed in order of NHL.com rank, if applicable. Teams with multiple rookies who can become fantasy-relevant have the top player highlighted and others mentioned in the respective paragraph. … Value has been quantified based on projected lineups and past production in the NHL (if applicable), other leagues and/or tournaments.
Cale Makar, D, COL (NHL.com rank: 98)
Age: 20 (will turn 21 on Oct. 30)
No. 4 pick in 2017 NHL Draft
The Colorado Avalanche defenseman had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Makar skated on the third pair with Samuel Girard, bringing exposure to elite forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog at even strength. Before making his NHL debut in the postseason, Makar won the Hobey Baker Award with the University of Massachusetts of the NCAA after scoring 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 41 games. After Tyson Barrie was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Makar has joined the top 20 defenseman rankings based on upside and could land a first power-play role in his rookie season. Colorado added another potential impact defenseman prospect in Bowen Byram with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Kaapo Kakko, RW, NYR (NHL.com rank: 99)
No. 2 pick in 2019 draft
The right wing led Finland with six goals at the 2019 IIHF World Championship to help his country win the gold medal. Kakko had 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists) for TPS of Liiga (top Finnish league) and set the record for most points by an under-18 player, one more than Aleksander Barkov in 2012-13. Kakko could skate in the New York Rangers’ top six and on the first power play with potential exposure to elite left wing Artemi Panarin, who signed with them in free agency, and valuable center Mika Zibanejad. The Rangers are one of the most-improved fantasy teams with the addition of valuable defenseman Jacob Trouba (acquired from Winnipeg Jets on June 18) and potential impact prospects in Kakko, forward Vitali Kravtsov and defenseman Adam Fox .
Jack Hughes, C, NJD (NHL.com rank: 100)
No. 1 pick in 2019 draft
The center broke left wing Alex Ovechkin‘s scoring record with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 14 games at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship and also had three assists in seven games for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. Hughes is projected by NHL.com to score 61 points as a rookie with the New Jersey Devils in a top-six, first power-play role with potential exposure to elite left wing Taylor Hall. Hughes gains additional value with the acquisition of elite defenseman P.K. Subban and signing of right wing Wayne Simmonds, who can help the Devils power play finish among the 10 best like they did in 2017-18 (21.4; T-9th). … Rookie goalie Mackenzie Blackwood is expected to compete with veteran Cory Schneider for the starting job.
Quinn Hughes, D, VAN (NHL.com rank: 121)
Age: 19 (will turn 20 on Oct. 14)
No. 7 pick in 2018 NHL Draft
The Vancouver Canucks defenseman had three assists in his first five NHL games and is ranked among the 30 best fantasy players at the position based on upside. Hughes had 33 points (five goals, 28 assists) in 32 games as a sophomore for University of Michigan of the NCAA and three assists in eight games for the United States at the World Championship. Hughes’ ceiling is just as high as Makar’s with power-play exposure to valuable forwards Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat. … Rookie goalie Thatcher Demko could compete with starter Jacob Markstrom for playing time.
Max Comtois, LW, ANA (NHL.com rank: 205)
No. 50 pick in 2017 draft
The Anaheim Ducks left wing had seven points (two goals, five assists) and 27 hits in his first 10 NHL games but sustained multiple injuries and spent the rest of the season playing for Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had 48 points (31 goals, 17 assists) in 25 QMJHL games and five goals in five games for Canada at the World Junior Championship. Comtois and rookie center Sam Steel are expected to stay in the NHL and could skate with bounce-back candidate Ryan Getzlaf and/or Rickard Rakell under new coach Dallas Eakins, who coached Comtois, Steel and other Ducks players for San Diego of the American Hockey League.
Alexandre Texier, LW, CBJ (NHL.com rank: 228)
Age: 19 (will turn 20 on Sept. 13)
No. 45 pick in 2017 draft
The Columbus Blue Jackets left wing made an immediate impact in the playoffs, scoring three points (two goals, one assist), two on the power play, in eight games. With the Blue Jackets losing Panarin and valuable center Matt Duchene in free agency, Texier could feasibly play in the top six and on the first power play with potential exposure to fantasy-relevant forwards Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. … Rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins could compete with Joonas Korpisalo for the starting job after elite goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (signed with Florida Panthers) left in free agency.
Erik Brannstrom, D, OTT (NHL.com rank: 235)
No. 15 pick in 2017 draft
The Ottawa Senators defenseman had no points in two games after being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. Brannstrom spent the majority of the season playing in the American Hockey League, where he totaled 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 50 games for Chicago and Belleville. With likely exposure to valuable left wing Brady Tkachuk, center Colin White and elite defenseman Thomas Chabot, Brannstrom and rookie forward Drake Batherson have sneaky appeal with the chance to play big roles for the rebuilding Senators.
Eeli Tolvanen, LW, NSH (NHL.com rank: 245)
No. 30 pick in 2017 draft
The Nashville Predators wing had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 58 games with Milwaukee of the AHL and two points (one goal, one assist) in four games with the Predators. Tolvanen couldn’t find a consistent spot in the lineup but could provide a much-needed spark to Nashville’s top six and power play, which was worst in the NHL at 12.9 percent. The Duchene signing could have a ripple effect on Nashville’s forward group, and Tolvanen could make an impact on a line with Duchene or Ryan Johansen.
Victor Olofsson, LW/RW, BUF (NHL.com rank: 248)
No. 181 pick in 2014 NHL Draft
The Buffalo Sabres wing was a late-season streaming option with four points (two goals, two assists), two on the power play, in six games. He got a trial on the top line and first power play with elite center Jack Eichel and valuable forward Sam Reinhart and could be a hidden rookie gem this season. The Sabres could benefit from new coach Ralph Krueger and the signing of forward Marcus Johansson, making Olofsson worth a flier in late rounds with likely top-six lineup placement.
Filip Zadina, LW/RW, DET (NHL.com rank: N/R)
No. 6 pick in 2018 draft
The Detroit Red Wings forward had three points (one goal, two assists) in nine NHL games this season and 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 59 games for Grand Rapids of the AHL. Zadina and fellow rookie forward Taro Hirose could land a full-time role with the Red Wings and bring exposure to fantasy-relevant skaters Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, defensemen Mike Green and/or Filip Hronek.
Other rookies with fantasy upside: Martin Necas, C, CAR; Owen Tippett, RW, FLA; Dylan Cozens, C, BUF; Ryan Poehling, C, MTL; Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, WPG; Evan Bouchard and Caleb Jones, D, EDM; Carl Grundstrom, LW/RW, LAK; Adam Boqvist, D, CHI; Noah Dobson, D, NYI; Emil Bemstrom, RW, CBJ
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