As we now stand at close to 20% of the 2022-23 season on the books, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at the potential rookie crop. And no, we are not talking about the traditional definition of rookie as a first-year NHLer.

These are fantasy rookies. For our purposes, it doesn’t matter how many games the player has under their belt or how old they are. For fantasy rookies, we are looking at players who are relevant to the fantasy game for the first time.

This is also a chance to dig a little deeper than the usual suspects. So we won’t be highlighting Matt Boldy or Matty Beniers. Even players like Gabriel Vilardi, who may be fantasy rookies in this sense, have already crossed a threshold into being a household name so we will try to skip players on a majority of rosters already.

You might say this is a look at the relevance rookies — players who, for the first time in their respective careers, need to be on the fantasy radar in deeper leagues.


Roster locks

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Kirby Dach, C/W, Montreal Canadiens: He may have come into the season with 150 games under his belt, but Dach almost never got top-six usage in his time with the Chicago Blackhawks. After a few games of shifting and sorting this season, coach Martin St. Louis has settled on Dach as the third member of the top line with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. This line isn’t just good together, it’s great together. The trio leads the entire NHL in goals per 60 minutes (minimum 70 minutes together), just ahead of the Stars and Panthers top lines. Dach is a must-add to fantasy leagues of all sizes.

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Brandon Hagel, W, Tampa Bay Lightning: Another Blackhawks trade chip, Hagel did get a little bit of top-six use last season before he was shipped to the Lightning. This season, however, he’s locked in on the Lightning top line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Hagel is more than earning his keep through 15 games, with five goals and seven assists to fuel 1.9 fantasy points per game (FPPG).

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Brandon Hagel tallies goal vs. Oilers

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Calen Addison, D, Minnesota Wild: When the Wild shipped out Dmitry Kulikov late in the offseason it was a clear signal Calen Addison was going to make the NHL team in a full-time capacity. But then the Wild surprised us further by locking Addison in as the top power-play quarterback. After a hot start, Addison has only one point in his past eight games. It’s actually a bit surprising the team is giving him so much rope to slump with, but he remains the PP QB for the time being. Because of his role, he’s worth keeping on rosters, but because of his lack of points, he’s best kept on the bench for now.

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Owen Tippett, W, Philadelphia Flyers: Injuries have helped propel Tippett up the depth chart in the sense that Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson and James van Riemsdyk might otherwise put him into position to jostle with others for top-line minutes and a role on the top advantage. Tippett missed some time early, but has been a regular on the top line with Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes since late October. He’s collected six points in nine games since then, also earning some power-play minutes along the way. His 1.8 FPPG makes the cut for regular usage already.

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Josh Brown and J.J. Moser, D, Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have little choice but to ice the best defensive defensemen they can muster and task them with playing a stalwart style. Luckily, with the inclusion of hits and blocked shots and the exclusion of plus/minus in fantasy on ESPN points leagues, stalwart can translate to success. But the Coyotes also have managed to maintain an above average power play, despite the team’s obvious shortcomings. Enter Brown and Moser. Brown has been using his imposing style to play big minutes alongside Shayne Gostisbehere on the team’s top pairing. He’s posted 38 hits and 38 blocked shots, which have helped drive 2.0 FPPG. Moser, on the other hand, is paired up with Gostisbehere on the point for the power play, where he has collected six of his eight points and also managed 2.0 FPPG. It will be interesting to see how Jakob Chychrun impacts the established dynamics, but for the time being, both Brown and Moser are fantasy relevant.

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Filip Chytil, C, New York Rangers: His ceiling isn’t as high as other Rangers youngsters like Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko, but as the one that binds them, Chytil could be finding his own way in fantasy. The Rangers recently brought the three back together as a line after they had success in last season’s playoff run. It’s only been a couple of games, but their goals per 60 minutes as a trio is currently at an elite level (6.46, 10th among lines with 30 minutes together). Chytil has 1.8 FPPG through 11 games (he missed time with an injury).

Streamers

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Taylor Raddysh, W, Chicago Blackhawks: Once upon a time, Raddysh was part of the most dominant line in junior hockey with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. Now, with DeBrincat and Strome shipped out of Chicago, Raddysh is getting a chance to shine in their stead. A lock on the Hawks advantage, Raddysh has three power-play points among his seven total points in 15 games. His 1.3 FPPG doesn’t quite make the cut for regular usage, but he’s on the radar for streaming. At even strength, he plays with a rejuvenated Jonathan Toews.

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Arthur Kaliyev, W, Los Angeles Kings: A scoring dynamo in the OHL, Kaliyev is following in Vilardi’s footsteps as a breakout Kings asset on the attack. I was highlighting him before he notched another two goals on Monday night to bring him to six on the season. Kaliyev has earned six of his 13 points on the advantage while playing on the second unit. The problem is that the Kings current depth doesn’t allow Kaliyev a lot of opportunity outside the advantage, as he sits on the fourth line at even strength. Still, his 1.8 FPPG shows that he can connect in fantasy when used in solid matchups.

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Dylan Guenther and Matias Maccelli, W, Arizona Coyotes: Both forwards are big parts of the Coyotes eventually turning into a winner a few years from now. Guenther is a top-10 pick from the 2021 draft that is expected to become a regular top-line winger. Maccelli is a fourth-round pick from 2019 and has a shown a knack for scoring in both Finland and North America. Both players are with the NHL club now and will get occasional opportunities this season. Guenther has been yo-yoed through the lineup, but still managed to connect for five power-play points and seven total points in just over 12 minutes of average ice time. Maccelli has done a bit better with seven power-play points among 11 total points in 15 minutes of average ice time. But with 66 percent of their points coming on the advantage, there will be some cold spells this season. Consider both players as potential options whenever the Coyotes face the league’s worst penalty killers.

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Matias Maccelli nets power-play goal

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Timothy Liljegren, D, Toronto Maple Leafs: Coming back to health at the right time for a Maple Leafs team that lost T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin for an extended spell, Liljegren has been developed slowly and cautiously by the Leafs. In fact, his development has been arguably been stalled as evidenced by his five seasons and 150 games played in the AHL. But the Leafs will hope to reap the benefits now, as Liljegren will be thrust into a key role because of the injuries. So far, so good, as he’s posted 1.9 FPPG over five games — but that figure is artificially boosted by two goals on just four shots. Still, there is potential here.

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Adam Ruzicka, W, Calgary Flames: Even with Jonathan Huberdeau returning to the Flames lineup on Monday, Ruzicka was given a stay on the top line with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. It speaks to coach Darryl Sutter liking what he saw, but also to just how little Huberdeau was gelling with this unit to start the season. Ruzicka rewarded the decision with another two points with the top line, further cementing himself in the role going forward. He lost the top power-play assignment to Huberdeau, which was to be expected, but still stuck on the second unit. He doesn’t collect periphery stats (three hits, zero blocked shots), so will need to maintain a scoring-line spot to have streaming value.

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Kaiden Guhle, D, Montreal Canadiens: Using his poise on the ice, Guhle is quickly turning into a top-pairing defender in his first season in the league. Playing the toughest minutes for the Habs with veteran David Savard, Guhle is not only showing he can hang with the league’s best as a defender, but also chip in a bit of offense on occasion, too. He has three two-assist games plus a goal on the docket. His 1.8 FPPG and just shy of 21 minutes in average ice time combine to make Guhle an attractive option to sub into your lineup as needed.

Speculating

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Matej Blumel, W, Dallas Stars: Yet another Stars offensive prospect that has upside to turn into an NHL scorer. Blumel made his season debut after transitioning his game to North America by dominating the AHL when he didn’t make the team out of camp. He finally got a call this past week and scored his first NHL goal in his second game while replacing the injured Denis Gurianov on the second line with Tyler Seguin and Mason Marchment. The Stars have been seeking the right combination to spark the second line, which had just five goals at five-on-five in 13 games prior to Blumel’s arrival.

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Juuso Parssinen, W, Nashville Predators: It sure looks like the Predators hit pay dirt with this seventh-round pick from 2019, as Parssinen has quickly developed offensive chops in North America. Like Blumel, he had his NHL debut on a scoring line this past week and, like Blumel, capitalized with a goal. He played with Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund on the top line as the Preds looked for a shakeup. But the usage went beyond that, with Parssinen also trotted out with those same forwards on the advantage. The Predators need to improve their five-on-five scoring, as they aren’t supposed to be a team ranked 23rd in goals for percentage; in fact, they rank 15th in expected goals for percentage, per EvolvingHockey.com. Keep an eye on Parssinen’s deployment in the coming days.

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Kirill Marchenko and Emil Bemstrom, W, Columbus Blue Jackets: Another longer-term injury for Patrik Laine means the wheels continue to come off for what looked like a promising Blue Jackets season. It’s worth highlighting that both Bemstrom and Marchenko have enormous offensive upside and have both displayed it in the AHL this season. Bemstrom got the call and is likely to get a first-line look with Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau. But there is also the specter of a lost season that The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline brought up this past week: What if the Blue Jackets opt to send all the youngsters down to thrive together? This should weigh in the background for any fantasy manager relying on Blue Jackets players. There’s a real argument to be made to keep Marchenko and Bemstrom in the AHL, add to their presence with Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov and David Jiricek, then watch them develop chemistry in the minors and probably win the AHL championship together. It would mean tanking the season, as those players all would add to the Blue Jackets NHL team, but it might be the best thing for the future. If the Blue Jackets do go down that road, even a little, it hurts the prospects of the rest of the Blue Jackets roster from a fantasy perspective.



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The fantasy hockey “rookies” you need to know about

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