Of the many rookies I have my eye on, there are two who really stand out. One is getting a reasonable amount of press, but not nearly enough, and another isn’t garnering any attention at all. Well, it’s time to shine the Dobber spotlight on them.
This year, unlike any I can remember, there are dozens of “maybes” and zero “sure things” when it comes to the crop of rookies from a fantasy perspective. You can look at a Calder favorite such as Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn, but then notice he is on the third line. As such, his production is capped at about 40 points, barring an injury to someone higher in the lineup. Or you can look at Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, who is a safe bet to make the team and post 35 points or more. But can he get to 55 as an 18-year-old? That seems to be what it takes to win the Calder Trophy. Does Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins make the team? Does Nino Niederreiter make the Islanders? What about Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad?
There are several defensemen in this year’s crop as well. Ottawa’s David Rundblad was my favorite at one point, but questionable play on the defensive side of the puck in the rookie and main camp has me wondering if he’ll play half the year in the American League. Adam Larsson should make the Devils and see a lot of power play time, but what does that mean in terms of production? Defensemen have to really make a splash to get Calder recognition.
That brings me to Carolina pivot Zac Dalpe. Like Landeskog, Dalpe is a safe pick to at least finish in the top five in Calder voting (that is, if anyone can be a “safe pick”). We know this: Dalpe will make the Hurricanes, the team lacks a true No. 2 center, his NHL performance to date has been strong and his American League debut was spectacular. At the low end, much like Landeskog, I don’t see Dalpe finishing with fewer than 35 points. But Dalpe is nearly four years older than Landeskog and has pro experience. There’s a better chance Dalpe crosses that 55-point threshold than Landeskog so he is my Calder pick.
THE DARK HORSE
I know the Flames have a slew of centermen capable of getting 50 points, but that’s no reason to ignore Paul Byron in the Calder race. In my 2008 Fantasy Prospects Report I called Byron a “steal” after he scored 37 goals as a Quebec League sophomore and added another 21 in 19 post-season games. At the time, I gave him a 45 percent chance of making the NHL. A year later, following a 99-point effort in his third year in the QMJHL, those chances jumped to 65 percent. In the 2011 edition I stated: “the Sabres are flush with small, skilled players...But Byron is one of those players who thrives despite the odds” and gave him an upside of “Stephen Weiss” while bumping his chances to 75 percent.
This was all before Calgary went out and got him. He couldn’t have landed with an organization that was a better fit. The Flames need another offensively-skilled forward and Byron has the potential, this year, to be better than Brendan Morrison and a disappointing Matt Stajan.
GM Jay Feaster said of Byron: “this young man is knocking on the door.” He targeted Byron in the trade involving Robyn Regehr because he addressed the team’s lack of NHL-ready prospects with top-six upside. Byron has looked great so far in camp and I think he’ll make the team. When he does, he’ll enter a lot of Calder discussions - but that should already be happening.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.