Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rookie Keepers

Every new NHL season adds a new crop of rookies and a bunch of new opportunities for owners to grab the next player that may help their team go forward. At this point, we should all be aware of the sophomore slump, as we have seen many current NHLers go through it and either rise above or crumble under the pressure.

This year in the NHL we have observed many rookies make immediate impact on their clubs. But just because they play a lot of minutes does not necessarily make them keeper-worthy. The long-term value has to be great to keep these players over others that may have already found their role in the league.

1. Bobby Ryan – Ryan has finally emerged and found a place on the top two lines in Anaheim. He currently has 43 points in 49 games and 22 PIMS and looks stronger every game he plays. Ryan will be a looked-upon a cornerstone in the Ducks organization in the coming years and will mesh well with current stars Getzlaf and Perry.

2. Kris Versteeg – Versteeg came out of nowhere this years and surprised fantasy owners. Surely a waiver pickup in your league, he leads all rookies in scoring with 45 points in 65 games. Versteeg plays a power-forward type of game that allows him to create room on the top two lines in Chicago. A fantasy bonus is that he also puts up PIMS. Look for him to continue his strong play next year and upgrade his numbers.

3. Derick Brassard – Brassard was lost earlier this season to injury. He was on a great pace of 25 points in 31 games on a Columbus team that is dying for a number-one centre. Brassard possesses excellent scoring instincts and fits well with sniper Rick Nash. Look for him to be a point-per-game scorer next season barring any major injuries.

Worth a long look – these guys almost made the grade, and if you cannot find a better option, then these players are worth taking a risk on.

1. Steve Mason – Mason is having a sensational rookie campaign and is leading Columbus right into a playoff position. Leading the league with nine shutouts, Mason has truly excelled in the Ken Hitchcock system of hockey. Columbus has given Mason the reins by trading Pascal Leclaire to the Senators. He will be the starting goalie for the Jackets next season; the only question is whether or not another rookie will displace him as he did Leclaire.

2. Pekka Rinne – Rinne was virtually unknown in the NHL at the start of the season. Sitting on the bench for the first half of the season, Rinne has beat out fellow teammate Dan Ellis as the starter in Nashville. Rinne is a huge goalie at 6’5”, covers a large amount of net, and has put up great number at every level of play. The concern with Rinne is that next year he will be in a tandem with Ellis as Nashville looks for a true number-one guy.

3. Drew Doughty – Doughty has excelled in his first year of play, outplaying fellow first-round defenders Schenn and Bogosian. He has put up 21 points in 65 games and 42 PIMS on a young and improving Kings team. Averaging 23 minutes off ice time a night, Doughty will only get better with time. Look at Doughty to be in the top pairing on the Kings for years to come.

Being in a keeper fantasy pool is a lot of responsibility. As a dedicated owner, you need to ensure that you have amassed the best possible talent carrying forward. The above-mentioned players should help you keep your team moving in the right direction and help you reach your goal.


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