Rookies are a fantastic way to get high risk, low reward sleepers in your league. However, there are only so many players like Elias Pettersson and Auston Matthews that come out of the gate and immediately produce at an elite level. Most rookies will hit roughly around 30-40 points in their rookie season and only a few will usurp that number. In order to help you take advantage of that rare rookie that breaks out of the gate, here are four rookies you will need to add to your watchlist on draft day.
Note: All projected and pre-ranks mentioned will be courtesy of Yahoo Fantasy Sports.
Taro Hirose – DET (LW)
Taro Hirose was arguably one of the best college prospects last season.
He played the majority of his 2018-19 season with the Michigan State Spartans of the NCAA, putting up 50 points in 36 games. This was enough for the previously undrafted rookie to ink a two-year entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings. After signing his contract, he immediately joined the team and amassed an extremely impressive 7 points in 10 games. These 10 games are still enough to qualify him as a rookie, as the official number to pass is 25.
On a rebuilding Red Wings squad, almost every position aside from the first line center (Dylan Larkin) and right-wing (Anthony Mantha) is free for the taking. Hirose could easily find himself getting top-six minutes and playing with the likes of Filip Zadina or Tyler Bertuzzi. This is a case where the quantity of ice-time played will be more important than the quality of ice-time. At a pre-rank of 860, Hirose has absolutely zero risks as a last round pick and has some nice upside.
Cale Makar – COL (D)
One of the more obvious choices on the list, Cale Makar will be a must-draft in this upcoming NHL season. Like Hirose, Makar played the majority of his 2018-19 season in the NCAA with the UMass Minutemen, amassing an extremely impressive 49 points in 41 games. This performance was enough to earn him the Hobey Baker award, which is awarded to the top collegiate player in ice hockey. While he never played a game in the regular season, he joined the Avalanche in the playoffs where he collected 6 points in 10 games.
With the departure of Tyson Barrie, the lack of an offensive presence on the blue line opens up the door for him to pick up top-pairing and power-play duties. He is projected to play on the first power-play unit with the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon. Makar will be one of the safer picks on defense you’ll make this year and chances are, you’ll have to prepare to take him ahead of his pre-draft ranking of 119.
Drake Batherson – OTT (C, RW)
Drake Batherson surprised many hockey fans last season. The 2017 fourth-round selection was one of the top rookies for the AHL’s Belleville Senators last season, amassing 62 points in 59 games. This earned him a mid-season call up to the NHL where he found chemistry with former Senator Matt Duchene. During this 20 game stint with the team, he amassed nine points.
There will obviously be questions about how much Duchene elevated his point numbers, however, his AHL production proves he’s got the talent. Like Hirose, Batherson is joining a rebuilding Senators squad with all but the first line center (Colin White) and left-wing (Brady Tkachuk) positions up for grabs. At a current pre-rank of 812, he will definitely be worth a flier in the last round or a potential free-agent pickup.
Max Comtois – ANA (LW)
Max Comtois had nothing short of a memorable 2018-19 season last year. He broke the Ducks lineup out of the gate and totaled 7 points in 10 games before getting injured. This resulted in him getting sent back down to the QMJHL, where he put up 48 points in 25 games.
During the QMJHL season, he captained the Canada U20 team at the World Juniors and put up six points in five games. Once the QMJHL season was over, hd then joined the San Diego Gulls of the AHL where he put up 9 points in 12 playoff games. It’s safe to say he has talent.
He will be a more appealing option for those in banger formats. Along with his seven points, he also managed to put up 27 hits in the 10 games. That’s a 221 hit projection over 82 games. Given the Ducks are also rebuilding like the Red Wings and Senators, he will have a plethora of opportunities to get power-play time and top minutes. With a pre-rank of 196, Comtois will be a perfect late-round draft selection in deeper formats.