Last season there were three players selected in the 2010 NHL Draft that entered the league as 18-year-olds and proved to be valuable pick-ups for fantasy hockey owners.
Jeff Skinner (7th overall) led all rookies with 63 points; Taylor Hall (1st overall) finished eighth in rookie scoring with 42 points in only 65 games; and defenseman Cam Fowler (12th overall) notched 40 points as a freshman, second most among all rookie blueliners.
Though the 2011 NHl Draft just took place less than a week ago, I could see three players being contributors for fantasy hockey owners next season.
- Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd overall, Florida): High-scoring center (43-62-105 in QMJHL last year) will likely make the anemic Panthers out of camp and be given plenty of opportunity/ice-time to put up some numbers. Question will be if he fills out physically enough to stand rigors of long NHL season against grown men.
- Ryan Strome (5th overall, Islanders): John Tavares' buddy will have great opportunity to make Isles out of camp if he can show quick on-ice chemistry with Tavares, the top sniper on Long Island. Strome is quality playmaker (73 assists, 106 points in OHL last year) which should really complement Tavares and Matt Moulson.
- Mika Zibanejad (6th overall, Ottawa): The talented Swede is physically mature and has good size (6'2", 195) and likely will be given every opportunity to help Sens' struggling offense. If he can strike up some chemistry with Jason Spezza, for example, watch out.
There are others from the 2011 NHL Draft who I think will be stars one day and solid fantasy hockey contributors, though not next year. For example, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the top overall pick by Edmonton, has the makings of a being a glorious playmaker for years to come, but physically his body needs to mature quite a bit to sustain any level of success over a long NHL season. Down the road, though, he and Hall will delight fantasy hockey owners with the numbers they will team up on in Edmonton.
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