2018-19 Fantasy Hockey: Rookie preview starts with NHL-ready Rasmus Dahlin
Jon Litterine reviews who in this year’s rookie class can give your fantasy hockey squad a meaningful boost.
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On the surface, the 2017-18 rookie class seemed to lack both depth and high-end talent. When all was said and done, we were left with a couple potential superstars (Mathew Barzal, Brock Boeser) and more than a dozen (Kyle Connor, Clayton Keller, Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy, Yanni Gourde, Alex DeBrincat, Nico Hischier, Will Butcher, Pierre-Luc Dubois, etc.) players that made a legitimate Fantasy impact in their freshman campaign. The top of the 2018-19 class is more clearly defined than last year, but there still figures to be plenty of depth to go around.
Rasmus Dahlin (D-BUF): Sabres fans have gone through a lot of suffering the past few years, but the arrival of Dahlin this fall will help ease some of that pain. The first overall pick is almost always thrust into a considerable role immediately, and this year will be no different. The shifty Swede is a brilliant skater, has above-average offensive ability and possesses elite hockey sense. Dahlin turned 18 years old in April and in an ideal world, the Sabres would prefer to shelter him a bit in his freshman season, but they don't have that luxury. Short of Connor McDavid's debut in 2015, Dahlin is as close to a sure-fire prospect as you will find.
THE NEXT TIER
Casey Mittelstadt (C-BUF): Mittelstadt got into six games with the Sabres at the end of last season, registering a goal and four assists. He's a complete offensive player. Assuming he spends the entire season in Buffalo, and he should, Mittelstadt figures to easily break the 50-point plateau as a rookie. He has great vision, a wicked wrist shot, and he excels with the man advantage. Mittelstadt made the correct decision to leave the University of Minnesota after his freshman season.
Eeli Tolvanen (RW-NSH): Tolvanen, unlike Mittelstadt, didn't play well in his short cameo at the end of last season. Expect better results this time around. He has as hard and as wicked of a shot as you will ever see from a 19-year-old kid, and I could easily see Tolvanen topping the 30-goal mark as a rookie. It's likely to come with a low assist total, but Nashville won't care about that part if he is putting the puck in the net.
Filip Chytil (C-NYR) / Lias Andersson (LW-NYR): The Rangers are rebuilding, which means both Chytil and Andersson will play prime roles on Broadway this coming season. Chytil is the better offensive player (he posted 31 points in 46 AHL games as an 18-year-old) and has a much higher ceiling, but Andersson has the more well-rounded game and is more equipped to fill a variety of roles immediately. New head coach David Quinn will likely allow these two kids to play through their mistakes, as well.
Dylan Sikura (C-CHI): The Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season for the first time in seemingly forever, and they are slowly beginning to integrate more youth into their lineup. Enter Sikura. Alex DeBrincat had a brilliant freshman campaign for Chicago in 2017-18, and Sikura can make a similar impact this year. A four-year standout at Northeastern University, Sikura should be given every chance to earn a top-six role out of training camp. If he lines up alongside DeBrincat, Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, the results could be magical.
THE INTERNATIONAL CROWD
Miro Heiskanen (D-DAL): Heiskanen will add much needed depth and skill to the Dallas blue line. He doesn't have the pure offensive ability of a guy like John Klingberg, but he makes smart decisions with the puck and rarely gets caught out of position. With Klingberg running Dallas' first power-play unit, Heiskanen figures to see time on the second team in addition to some time on the penalty kill. He might not post more than 20-25 points in his freshman campaign, but his long-term upside as a minute-eating two-way defender is unquestioned.
Elias Pettersson (C-VAN): The fifth overall pick by the Canucks in 2017, Pettersson lead the SHL in scoring and was named league MVP in 2017-18. Both accolades were unheard of for a 19-year-old. It will be a bit tougher this coming year in Vancouver, but Pettersson will be up to the challenge. A wizard with the puck, Pettersson is a threat the moment he gets over the blue line. Vancouver won't challenge for a Cup anytime soon, but at least Canuck fans will get to watch Pettersson and Brock Boeser play together.
THE BROTHERS SVECHNIKOV
Evgeny Svechnikov (LW-DET): The elder Svechnikov needs to rebound from a dreadful 2017-18 campaign. Evgeny, like his younger brother, is a talented power forward, but he can get a bit sleepy at times. He needs to bring the same effort every night.
Andrei Svechnikov (RW-CAR): The No. 2 overall pick by the Hurricanes this past June, Andrei has an NHL-ready body and should be an immediate contributor to a Carolina offense that needs all the help it can get.
THE OTHER OPTIONS
Ilya Samsonov (G-WSH): Expected to begin season as starter at AHL Hershey. Likely a year away from legitimate NHL duty.
Robert Thomas/Jordan Kyrou (C-STL): Two OHL stars will push for time with big club, but there may not be room for both.
Henrik Borgstrom (C-FLA): Acquisition of Mike Hoffman could lead to Borgstrom starting in minors.
Philippe Myers (D-PHI): Will earn a significant role with Flyers if he can shake injury bug.
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