Fantasy: Ranking this season's NHL rookies

Andre Ringuette / National Hockey League / Getty

Hockey fans have been spoiled with high-flying freshmen in recent campaigns, from Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine last season, to the debuts of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel two years ago.

Entering a new season, while there is no next wave of generational talents on the horizon, a handful of intriguing new faces project to impress. Here's how we've ranked this year's rookie crop:

1. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Boston University (NCAA) D 38 5 21 26

Bruins fans got a sneak peak of McAvoy in last year's playoffs when he stepped into the postseason after a short four-game stint in the AHL. In the opening round of playoff action, McAvoy picked up three assists and finished second among Boston defensemen as he averaged more than 26 minutes per game. He's ready for the next step.

2. Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Boston University (NCAA) F 31  21 24 45

If McAvoy doesn't go home with the Calder, it could be because of his former Boston University teammate. Keller has impressed as he's worked his way up the ranks, from a team-leading 11-point performance with the Americans at the world juniors last winter, to seven points in eight games at the world championships. The diminutive dangler also picked up two assists in a three-game trial with the Coyotes.

3. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Manitoba (AHL) F 52  25 19 44

After spending the season's early goings with the Jets, Connor was sent for some refinement in the minors. There, he did as asked, leading the AHL's Manitoba Moose with 25 goals. Part of Winnipeg's next wave of young talent, Connor is ready for full-time NHL duties, and should have the opportunity to show his skill this season on the team's second power play unit.

4. Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Halifax (QMJHL) F 57  38 48 86

The top pick in this year's draft, Hischier is the prime piece of the Devils' rebuild. Whether he makes the immediate jump to the NHL, however, remains to be seen. Should he make the cut, coach John Hynes envisions Hischier slotting in his natural position at center. Defenseman Erik Johnson was the last top pick (2006) who did not make the NHL in his first crack.

5. Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Windsor (OHL) D 50  10 33 43

Acquired in the trade that sent Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens, the Lightning bolstered their blue line with the addition of Sergachev. The Russian defenseman had a four-game run with the Canadiens last year before being returned to junior, a season which ended in a Memorial Cup victory with the Windsor Spitfires. Sergachev is ready for the next step and could find himself a part of Tampa Bay's defense corps as early as this season.

6. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
North Dakota (NCAA) F 32  16 18 34

The North Dakota standout got a showing last season with Vancouver, leaving Canucks fans giddy as he came up with four goals and an assist in nine games. While the organization is reluctant to admit it, the rebuild is on in Vancouver - and Boeser is a major building block for the Canucks. The former college winger has a solid chance to make the team this season, bypassing minor-league seasoning.

7. Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Saint John (QMJHL) D 34  10 35 45

To say last season was a busy year for Chabot would be an understatement. The promising Senators blue-liner was a key piece for Canada at the world juniors, where he came away with 10 points in seven games as the tournament MVP. Chabot was just as impressive in junior, as he was named the CHL defenseman of the year. He could play a major role in the Senators' lineup as early as this season.

8. Joel Eriksson Ek, Minnesota Wild

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Farjestads (SHL) F 26 8 8 16

Beginning the year with the Wild before being reassigned to Sweden, Eriksson Ek racked up the Air Miles last season. He returned to Minnesota later in the year, concluding his first NHL season with seven points in 15 games, doing so as he averaged less than 11 minutes of ice time per night. The dynamic center is expected to take hold of a middle-six role with the Wild this season.

9. Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Bridgeport (AHL) F 50  10 26 36

Beginning last season in the AHL, Ho-Sang learned the pro game and later earned a call up to the Islanders. He never looked back, closing out the season with the big club as he tallied 10 points in 21 games while showing promise as a former first-round pick. Now that he's gotten a taste of the big leagues, the hope is Ho-Sang continues to make strides in his second season.

10. Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Erie (OHL) F 35  22 53 75

The 2015 top pick behind McDavid and Eichel will turn pro this season, but whether that's with the Coyotes or in the minors remains to be seen. Strome started last season with Arizona but was soon sent back for his fourth campaign with the Otters, the eventual OHL champions. He also captained Canada to a silver medal at the world juniors and finished runner-up at the Memorial Cup, a tournament in which he had a record seven-point game and was named MVP.

11. Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
North Dakota (NCAA) F 33  16 19 35

Not much went right for the Avalanche last season, but one high point was Jost, the 10th pick from the 2016 draft. After just one season with North Dakota, Jost signed with Colorado to kick off his pro career, appearing in the club's final six games of the season. The Avalanche don't have much, so there is plenty of opportunity for Jost to make his mark this season.

12. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Seattle (WHL) F 41  10 69 79

After making the Islanders out of training camp a year ago, Barzal appeared in just two games before he was returned to Seattle. With the Thunderbirds, he continued his impressive junior career as he led the team with 69 assists, 20 more than the runner up despite Barzal playing in 25 fewer games. With his junior days done, Barzal should line up with the Islanders this season, and could have a fellow rookie in town in Ho-Sang.

13. Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia Flyers

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Brandon (WHL) F 33  20 26 46

The one-time favorite of the 2017 draft, Patrick fell one slot behind Hischier before getting scooped up by the Flyers. While both players are natural centers, one reason for Patrick's drop could be his frequency in the infirmary. A sports hernia injury limited him to just 33 games last season, and also sidelined him for the world juniors. While Patrick is expected to suit up for Philadelphia this season, the club could opt to give him more playing time by returning him to junior.

14. Alexander Nylander, Buffalo Sabres

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Rochester (AHL) F 65  10 18 28

After just one year in junior, the Sabres assigned Nylander to the minors last season where he appeared in 65 games with the AHL's Rochester Americans. In retrospect, returning Nylander to the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads may have been the better move, as he only had a limited offensive impact with Rochester, scoring 28 points. A late-season showing in Buffalo gave fans an early look at the eighth pick from 2016, with Nylander registering one assist in four games.

15. Julius Honka, Dallas Stars

Team (League) Position GP G A Pts
Texas (AHL) D 50  7 24 31

Dallas owns a young blue line and it could be even more youthful this season with the addition of Honka, the 14th pick from 2014. The Finnish rearguard has spent the past three seasons in the minors, making big strides at the pro level. A series of recalls saw Honka, 21, appear in 16 games with the Stars last season, in which he recorded a goal and four assists. The betting is he'll see many more games with Dallas this season.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Fantasy: Ranking this season's NHL rookies
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