About a third of the way through 2013-14 and we’re starting to get a fix on what we have when it comes to this year’s rookie crop. Poolies around the world draft unproven youngsters late in hopes they scoop a nice sleeper, to varying degrees of success. In keeper leagues things are easier, as you can often afford to wait several years on a rookie, but one-year leagues need the help here and now.
Let’s take a look at the 15 best from a fantasy perspective (sorry, Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones fans) so far.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Although in a three-way tie for second in scoring among rookies, MacKinnon will be tops in the end if he stays healthy. He’s getting his points regardless of linemates and other than a five-game slump in late October he has been steady. His ice time has been great and he should pick up the pace to finish in the 60s for points.
2. Torey Krug, Boston
Tied with MacKinnon among rookie scorers, Krug has been a savior for fantasy owners. Defensemen are so hard to acquire once the season starts, so drafting Krug late or even getting him off the wire is a fantasy coup. He’s on pace for 48 points and frankly I don’t see him deviating from that, making it one of the best seasons for a rookie defenseman in years.
Cue the Welcome Back music.
Wayne Gretzky is back.
The Globe and Mail is reporting hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is back in the NHL family after the league made financial restitution with him. Columnist Eric Duhatschek wrote that a source told him an agreement had been reached Tuesday with the NHL in which Gretzky would be paid almost $8 million (U.S.), which was owed to him by former Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes as a result of the team’s bankruptcy proceeding in 2009.
The NHL’s Christmas trade freeze period (Dec. 19 to 27) is fast approaching and the GMs of several struggling clubs hope the trade market improves before then. With 22 clubs possessing less than $5 million in cap space, it’s difficult to find willing trade partners.
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is among those trying to find help for his floundering team. Entering this week, the Isles are 11 points out of a post-season berth, winning only two of their past 10 games. Snow must address their dire need of an experienced starting goalie and blueline depth soon to prevent his club sliding further out of playoff contention.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported two league sources claim Snow was shopping for a goalie. Garrioch suggested Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller as the best target, though he admitted convincing Miller to waive his no-trade clause to join the Isles was a long shot. Garrrioch also considers the Islanders a potential trade destination for Washington Capitals right winger Martin Erat and his $4.5 million annual cap hit.
Snow has the cap space ($16.6 million) to take on a big salary. Having already acquired Thomas Vanek, Snow’s probably not keen to pursue Miller, especially as the Sabres will squeeze him for young assets. As for Erat, he won’t resolve the Isles’ defensive problems. Read more
A San Jose Sharks-Los Angeles Kings game is about as good as it gets these days. Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout win for the Sharks was an absolute beauty that I could have watched go into 12 overtimes. The Kings won the first game between these two in overtime earlier this season, so regulation cannot contain this rivalry. How tight are these two teams? The Sharks were this close to winning Wednesday’s game in regulation.
Whomever the Buffalo Sabres hire as their new GM will have to move quickly to determine goaltender Ryan Miller’s future with the club. Miller’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and if unwilling to re-sign could be shopped before the March 5 trade deadline.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch cited a league source claiming the Los Angeles Kings could be in the market for a goalie. That should interest Miller, whose wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, works in Hollywood.
Kings starter Jonathan Quick remains sidelined with a groin injury for at least another month and while backup Ben Scrivens has played well, Garrioch doesn’t consider him a long-term solution.
The St. Louis Blues have also been linked to Miller, but SI.com’s Allan Muir noted their limited cap space means they can’t afford Miller’s $6.25-million cap hit, even if the Sabres agreed to pick up half. Same goes for the Kings, who have $1.7 million in cap space and a 10-year commitment with Quick. Read more
With 10 games on tonight’s slate, including a late-night (at least if you’re in the east) battle of big Bens, it’s a busy one across the NHL.
Here the rundown of games and night No. 2 of THN’s “best bet” picks, with all four of our experts looking to remain undefeated. Read more
Battle of the Blades wrapped up its fourth season Sunday with former NHLer Scott Thornton skating away with the title alongside his professional figure skating partner Amanda Evora.
When the season began, I didn’t have Thornton and Evora in my personal top three. Their first skate together was mostly about lifts and lacked the creative element. But as the competition wore on, they picked up their game and were full credit for the win.
When it comes to building an NHL contender, the name of the game is depth. Quality depth. It’s one thing to hit rock bottom and acquire a high end talent with a draft pick, but if you can’t develop any players after that into NHLers, you end up like the Edmonton Oilers. Read more