Hockey News: Rookie battles

Updated: December 27, 2006, 9:41 AM ET
By Darryl Dobbs | Special to ESPN.com

It is a pretty safe bet that, barring injury, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Los Angeles's Anze Kopitar will finish 1-2 in rookie scoring. You can also conclude they will finish 1-2 in Calder Trophy voting.

The interesting battle will be the third nomination for the Calder Trophy. This may very well be the player who finishes third in the rookie scoring race. As poolies well know, anything to do with a scoring race is of interest in the fantasy-hockey world.

Currently, Colorado's Paul Stastny sits third. Heading into Tuesday's action he had a three-point cushion over Dustin Penner of Anaheim and as his teammate Wojtek Wolski. The fourth real contender in the race is Alexander Radulov, who forced his way onto the Nashville roster the old-fashioned way: by scoring lots and lots of goals.

There are several other rookies who may warrant consideration, but as far as the rookie scoring race is concerned, these four young players will compete for that third spot.

Stastny puts up his points in clusters. Five times this season he has gone two or more games without a point and has gone through slumps of five games without a point and a seven-game skid with just one. He is currently on pace for 60 points, but he'll likely slow down and finish in the mid-50s. In keeper leagues, his upside should come in at around 75 points and you can expect him to get there in about two or three seasons.

Penner's points are more spread out than Stastny's. He has yet to record a three-point game, whereas the Avalanche rookie has done so on three different occasions. He is second among freshmen in goals with 14 (heading into Tuesday night) and is one of just three rookies with 100 shots on goal. His ice time is approximately two minutes less than Stastny's and that indicates he will remain behind him in points. Expect low-50s or high-40s. His long-term upside is 65 points, but his PIM's will likely grow as high 100.

When the mood strikes Wolski, he can be a first-line player. When it doesn't, the coach would be better to just scratch him. If he can find a way to be a consistent player, he would take that third spot hands down. He has the talent to salvage a 60-point season this year, but it is unlikely he will reach 50. In rollover pools, Wolski is a boom-or-bust prospect - he just might be that player who adds 80 points to your roster one day. On the other hand, he could force you into banging your head on the wall in frustration.

Radulov is the one player who has the elite skills Malkin and Kopitar have. He is destined to be a 50-goal scorer in the NHL. In Nashville, however, he will be hard-pressed to close the gap and finish third in rookie scoring this year. The Predators are just too deep a team. The only reason the exciting young Russian is getting any ice time at all is because he produces nearly every time he is out there. With his limited ice time, Radulov should still hit the 50-point mark this season. With winger Scott Hartnell possibly leaving via free agency next summer, 2007-08 may be the season when poolies see the future star post more than a point per game.

Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Pool Look appears every Monday and Wednesday only on The Hockey News.com. Want to speak with Darryl about fantasy hockey? E-mail him at dobber@dobberhockey.com.

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