Preseason Rookie Scouting Strategy
When 2013-2014 NHL training camps open, fantasy GMs will be bombarded by a wave of new players, most of whom are rookies. A few of these players will crack an NHL line-up this year, but most will not. The preseason is as much a tryout, as it is a development camp for younger players. Poolies and keeper GMs should be watching what transpires with a keen eye because it's the time of the year to get a leg up on the competition by finding a diamond in the rough. Here are a few strategy tips for rookie scouting in the preseason.
1. Be aware that coaches tend to whittle down their team's entire depth chart from the beginning of camp until puck drop in October. During the preseason we will see unreal line combinations and players getting opportunities they will never get in the regular season. Unexpected performances from lesser-known names should be tempered. While every player has a chance to win a job, almost all of the rookies will not. (Tampa Bay is an exception this year.)
2. Be aware that the level of competition is decreased in the preseason. Whereas the rookies are going all-out in an attempt to make the team, the sure-thing veterans want to make sure they're healthy for the regular season. That's when the games will tighten up, and that's why so many rookies get cut after a few regular season games.
3. There's usually only room for one or maybe two rookies on a given roster. Don't forget to take a look at the depth charts to understand where the coaches have everyone ranked. That said, training camp is exactly the time and place when those charts change the most. In 2013, Cory Conacher and Brendan Gallagher were prime examples of rookies who surged up the depth chart in camp (albeit a shortened one). The 2013-14 Regular Season Draft Guide comes fully equipped with complete team depth charts heading into the preseason.
4. Take a look at the physical stats. If a young, relatively unknown 18-year old doesn't weigh more than a buck sixty-five, he's likely going to need more time maturing. Conversely, if a top draft pick is somewhat slight, in more recent years teams have shown a willingness to play him anyway. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a good example.
5. Update your rankings. It's important to have a set of rookie rankings heading into the preseason, and its equally important to have a set coming out. A lot can happen in September. Be ready to do a reconfig in October.
6. Get your copy of Fantasy Hockey Standard's 2013-14 Regular Season Draft Guide. This year we've expanded our rookie coverage. Our feature "Rookie Report" is a must-read for fantasy GMs tracking freshman through the preseason, as our research has uncovered new tell-tale signs for success. Of course, we also profile and rank the NHL's 40 best rookies for 2013-14.
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