Fantasy Hockey preview: Rookies
Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks: The Western Collegiate Hockey Association standout is set to become the Blackhawks leader. Whether he plays with future linemate Pat Kane now is irrelevant. Toews should compete for the Calder.
Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals: Backstrom put up great numbers as a boy among men in the Swedish Elitserien and will eventually be the center man for Alexander Ovechkin. He may not take on that role this season, but will still find value in the Capitals' top six. A quick trick to tell your Nicklas from your Niklas Backstrom: The Capital's center is the one with the C in his name. The C-less wonder is the Wild goaltender.
Erik Johnson, D, Blues: One year of college hockey was enough; this dominating blueliner is more than ready to ply his trade in the NHL. The only debate is whether his numbers will translate to fantasy hockey. The upside is incredible.
Peter Mueller, C, Coyotes: It won't be pretty, but Mueller is going to be the leader of this rebuilding Phoenix team. If your league doesn't count plus/minus, he'll be a much more attractive option.
Bobby Ryan, RW, Ducks: With no Teemu Selanne, Ryan has a good shot at a top-six role. He is too good to go back to the Ontario Hockey League and likely would dominate the American Hockey League ranks as well. The Ducks have little choice but to give him a chance.
Bryan Little, C, Thrashers: Little is young, but the Thrashers can't wait much longer for this dynamic center man to contribute. If he breaks camp, it's going to be because he is in a prime role. A Calder nomination is likely if he plays in Atlanta.
Brett Sterling, LW, Thrashers: He's tiny, but that is OK in the new NHL. Sterling scored at will in his rookie AHL season and could be in line for a top-six job for the Thrashers.
Kari Ramo, G, Lightning: The Bolts' net is completely unsettled, and when Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist look like they did last year, Ramo will enter the picture. He is pegged as their No. 1 of the future and should enjoy mild success this season.
Igor Grigorenko, RW, Red Wings: Now recovered from a serious car accident, this future top-six winger is poised to steal a role in Detroit this season. He may start out in the AHL, but Grigorenko should show his quality and get a chance with the Red Wings this season.
T.J. Hensick, C, Avalanche: After leading the WCHA in points in his senior year, Hensick will bring his skills to Denver. There are too many talented players for him to have a big impact this season, but if there are injuries, he could have a prime role.
Andrew Cogliano, C, Oilers: Cogliano is the most likely of the Oilers' talented prospects to play a significant role this season. He is definitely a name to know, but he might not be someone to draft in fantasy because of the lack of quality wingers.
Jeff Tambellini, LW, Islanders: A career point-per-game player in the AHL, Tambellini should win the top-line left wing role on the Islanders. Bill Guerin still has enough left in the tank to make his linemates fantasy relevant.
Josh Harding, G, Wild: Backstrom is a little more believable than Mason as a breakout 30-year-old goaltender, but there should still be some doubts. Harding is a future No. 1 goaltender and would perform exceptionally if given the reins.
Marc Staal, D, Rangers: While he's not a prototypical offensive blueliner, Staal gets his points with smart passes. He plays flawless defense and could have deep league value with a good plus/minus if he makes the Rangers, which at this points seems like a sure bet.
Jack Johnson, D, Kings: The third overall pick from the Crosby draft was handed to the Kings on a silver platter by the Hurricanes, and he'll break camp with the big club this season. While he likely will be a victim of too many cooks in the defense kitchen, Johnson may still get a taste of production. Any injury to Lubomir Visnovsky or Rob Blake could make J.J. valuable.
Kristopher Letang, D, Penguins: This product of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has a bomb of a shot. If the Penguins decide to take a chance on him, he could start pushing Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar for power-play time. While he is not a serious threat, keeper leagues should especially be watching where he lands.
Devin Setoguchi, RW, Sharks: Setoguchi may force the Sharks into giving him a chance because they are weak on the wings. He represents the best offensive weapon for Patrick Marleau.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot, D, Oilers: The weapons won't be at his disposal just yet, but Pouliot is an assist machine. His fantasy value will increase when other Oilers rookies start developing.
Pat Kane, RW, Blackhawks: He is a future star, but his size will hold him back this season. Keeper leagues take note, while others can likely leave him on the wire this season. Kane could surprise, but the odds are against him.
Chris Stewart, RW, Avalanche: Like Hensick, Stewart will be the victim of too many other options in Colorado. He is a future power forward and may show flashes of production this season.
Sean Allen is a fantasy hockey and baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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