We’ve gone through the top fantasy rookies for the first three teams alphabetically, which you can find here if you missed it and relive all the controversy and debate-inducing snubs!
Actually, the first part of the series was pretty good to me as a writer. Only Boston presented any trouble when it comes to finding valuable fantasy rookies, and Bruins fans shouldn’t be too concerned about that. Given the team’s plethora of first round picks the past two seasons, it won’t be long before the Bruins rookies are fantasy relevant once again. It just isn’t time for those picks to jump up to the big leagues yet.
So, with no more needing to be said about that, let’s dive into the second trio of teams on the fantasy rookies countdown.
Buffalo Sabres: Alexander Nylander
Buffalo was another team that I had to give some thought, but for very different reasons from Boston. Buffalo has a number of terrific looking prospects (being that bad for so many years does tend to stock the cupboard) and any of them could potentially crack the Sabres roster. Brendan Guhle was excellent in the Sabres’ camp last year, so much so that they kept him through the first four exhibition games. That’s a rare feat for a young defenseman just out of his draft year, but Guhle still has a year of junior eligibility left, and the Sabres will likely use it. His learning curve last year was a bit steep.
As for Hudson Fasching, he had a very successful college career and turned pro last season, but he may find himself playing third line minutes. If Alex Nylander doesn’t make the team out of camp, which is possible, he becomes the strongest of the team’s fantasy rookies.
If Nylander does make the Sabres out of camp, expect him to put up points. His offensive talent allows him to play with just about anyone, and with the Sabres amassing an impressive forward group Nylander could find himself playing with some premier offensive players. This is a situation to watch as it unfolds. Follow the Sabres in preseason to see if Nylander makes the team, or does as his brother William did and go to the American Hockey League. Since he was on loan to Mississauga he is eligible to play in the AHL this year despite being a teenager.
Calgary Flames: Matthew Tkachuk
Another team with a lot of solid prospects but not a lot of potential top fantasy rookies, Calgary is a team many experts feel to be primed for a huge rebound. Tkachuk, if he makes the Flames this season, is a good candidate to be part of that rebound.
Some Calgary fans might see Mark Jankowski as an alternate option here, and he certainly would be if I thought he was more likely to make the Flames than Tkachuk, but right now he’s likely destined for another stint in the AHL. Tkachuk could go back to London, but the Flames have openings in their top six right now that he could easily fill, and if he shows chemistry with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, he could give the Flames a top line to be feared for years to come.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) August 31, 2016
Tkachuk is seen as more of a playmaker and his stats line throughout his career would seem to support this, but it’s not as if he can’t shoot the puck, as his 30 goals in 57 OHL games would attest. He’s got the hands to dangle and the size to play a power forward’s game in the NHL, so he could find himself wearing a Flames jersey on opening night. If he does, there’s virtually no way he doesn’t see top six minutes on what is certain to be an improved team over last year.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho
Possibly the least controversial of all of my top fantasy rookies, Aho is a virtual certainty to make the Hurricanes and challenge for the Calder Trophy. The man who skated between Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi at the WJC and who put up points all season long is headed to the NHL this season and is a surefire contender for rookie of the year.
Just went back over a bunch of tape on Sebastian Aho (FIN). I love the way this kid plays. Calder dark horse. #Hurricanes
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) August 23, 2016
Aho may go down as the steal of the 2015 draft, somehow slipping to 35th overall. His size likely played a role in that, but if he keeps racking up points the way he has since being drafted, nobody will care that he’s only 5’11 and 172 lbs., least of all hockey pool GMs. Aho is also playing in an underrecognized market in Carolina, and could easily fall down your draft order. After being possibly the steal of his draft year, Aho could go down as the steal of your fantasy draft too.
With Carolina quietly assembling a decent young group of forwards, Aho will at least have somebody to get him the puck and to return it to. But the group Carolina has right now isn’t good enough to keep Aho out of the top six. Time will tell how good Aho ultimately is, but for this season he has to be considered one of the top fantasy rookies.