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Fantasy Hockey: Five Players to Watch

At the start of every season, some rookies are given nine games to prove themselves at the NHL level. If a rookie goes over the 10-game limit, the team burns a year on their entry-level contract. Usually, teams wait as long as they can to make sure rookies are ready, and it also helps out their cap situation. Last season, Zach Werenski, Dylan Strome and Jesse Puuljuarvi all had a nine-game tryout. Puuljujarvi and Strome didn’t work out, but Werenski did and earned a Calder nomination. Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, and Brock Boeser are the front-runners to get the Calder trophy this season. However, if any of these five rookies get going, they’ll be sneaky dark horse candidates for that trophy. I wouldn’t necessarily draft them right now, but if you are bold enough and can afford to do so, I wouldn’t be opposed to it, either.

Kailer Yamamoto – RW – EDM 

Kailer Yamamoto was the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 draft. Yamamoto killed it for his WHL team, the Spokane Chiefs, notching 99 points in 79 games. He probably would have been a top 10 pick if he were bigger. He has impressed in training camp and the preseason so far, and he’ll start the season in Edmonton. In fact, Jesse Puuljujarvi, who was supposedly going to make team this year, has been outplayed and got sent down. Oilers coach Todd McLellan said, “When we were in the planning stages of training camp after the draft, I didn’t have [Yamamoto] penciled in, but he came here and opened up our eyes, and I feel comfortable putting him on the ice. He’s earned the right to open the season with our team.” These are encouraging words from the coach. I still think the 5-foot-8, 154-pound Yamamoto needs to add more muscle to his frame and will likely get the nine games before he goes back to Spokane. However, the Oilers right winger depth is sparse, and Yamamoto could surprise if he’s on McDavid’s line, which would give him fantasy relevance.

Alex DeBrincat – RW – CHI 

For the last couple of seasons, DeBrincat was one of the hottest players in the OHL. DeBrincat had 167 goals and 332 points in 191 games for the Erie Otters. You would think he would be a first-round pick. However, due to his size at 5-foot-7, DeBrincat was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft. The good news is that he got drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, who will be contenders but have a current core that is getting older. DeBrincat is considered the Blackhawks top prospect and will likely be on their top two lines moving forward. The fact that DeBrincat has already been sent down to the AHL is considered a “paper move” considering Marian Hossa hasn’t been put on LTIR yet. DeBrincat should be up on their roster opening day or the next game. He is known to be quite the sniper and could really set the league on fire if he gets the opportunity, making him watch-list worthy at the moment.

Anders Bjork – LW/RW – BOS 

From the way the preseason has looked, Anders Bjork has been put on the Bergeron and Marchand line, otherwise known as Boston’s top line. In the past, Bergeron has been able to make his inexperienced right winger productive. Tyler Sequin and Reilly Smith are two notable examples. Anders Bjork had 52 points in 32 games last season for Norte Dame and was the best player on that Frozen Four team. He was a Hobey Baker candidate, as well. Now, Bjork has looked pretty good in preseason with two goals in four preseason games. He is pretty much a lock for a roster spot. However, that is preseason. Coach Bruce Cassidy has publically loved Bjork and will certainly give Bjork the opportunity to prove himself. Cassidy said, “We’ll keep evaluating [Bjork]. Still, he’s got skill, speed, and courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against, the second effort on pucks… And for a young kid, that’s special, to be able to hang in and there and battle for those turnovers.” If Bjork struggles, he’ll be pushed to the second line with David Krejci and likely David Backes as the other wing.  Which isn’t the worst thing, either. It would also fit since Bjork is a natural left winger. He’s worth a look in any league, especially keeper and dynasty leagues.

Filip Chytll – C – NYR 

Here we have yet another rookie that was selected late in the first round (21st overall) of the 2017 draft. The Rangers traded Derek Stepan this offseason, which meant that Kevin Hayes and Mika Zibanejad were the only two centers on the roster, though they did draft center Lias Andersson seventh overall and signed David Desharnis in July. A lot of people thought that Andersson would be one of their centers this season. However, Chytil outperformed Andersson in the preseason and camp, and it looks like the Rangers are going to give the Czech at least nine games to start this season. Andersson is now playing for Frolunda in the Swedish league, at least to start the season. According to Daily Faceoff, Chytil might be the second line center. It should be noted that Rangers coach Alain Vigneault changes lines frequently, but it still shows that he’ll be given opportunities. Chytil did have a productive World Juniors with five points in five games. However, he had just eight points in 38 games playing for HC Zlin. Dobber projects him as a two-way, physical, and fast forward, so he does have clear potential. I’d keep an eye on him in redraft leagues. There is a good chance he’ll get called back after his nine games, but you never know. He already has surprised people with his play so far.

Victor Mete – D – MTL

Andrei Markov, one of the Canadiens’ best offensive-defensemen, retired in the NHL and went to the KHL this offseason. The Canadiens also traded away their top defenseman prospect in Mikhail Sergachev as well as a decent defenseman in Nathan Beaulieu. This obviously left a big hole in Montreal’s D-core. They acquired Karl Alzner and Mark Streit, as well. Enter Victor Mete. Mete is a 19-year-old 2016 fourth round pick. Usually, fourth-round picks take a bit longer than a year to develop, especially defensemen. But Mete has beaten the odds. In the OHL, he had 44 points in 50 games last season for the London Knights. After a good preseason, he is now on the top pair with Shea Weber. Mete could just get nine games before going to his junior team and, like Yamamoto, is a bit undersized and will need to some muscle. Having said that, he could surprise in his first couple of games and be fantasy relevant this season.

Other players to watch: Owen Tippett RW (FLA), Sonny Milano LW (CBJ), Klim Kostin LW (STL), Martin Necas C (CAR), Will Butcher D (NJ), Jesper Bratt LW (NJ), Madison Bowey D (WSH), Jake DeBrusk LW (BOS), Viktor Antipin, D (BUF).

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