2018/2019 NHL Rookies: Who's Hot & Who's Not

(Photo courtesy of wdef.com)

Now that we’ve finally entered the final two weeks of August, NHL excitement is really starting to build. Most free agent signings that are going to happen have been completed (minus the RFA’s who’ve yet to come to agreements), and teams are starting to gear up towards training camp.

With that being said, we look forward to a whole new batch of rookies ready to make their mark over the course of the 2018/2019 NHL regular season. We decided that we’d take a look at some rookies whose teams think they’re ready for the big leagues. Some of these rookies are going to be great, and others will make the opening day roster… But may not perform so well. In this Hot vs. Not debate, we decided not to include Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, and Filip Zadina because we feel like it’s pretty obvious these three players will bring immediate upside to their respective clubs. Instead, we’ve gone with some prospects from the past few years that look like they’ll finally find the NHL. Without any further beating around the bush, let’s get into it shall we?


Ryan Donato 2nd round, 56th overall 2014 (12 games played, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points)

Ryan Donato got his first taste of the NHL late into the 2017/2018 season. You couldn’t dream up a much better start as he potted a goal and added two assists to his total in his first ever NHL game. This upcoming year we expect Donato to take up more of a permanent spot in the top six alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins have the best line in hockey right now (Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak), which means that their second unit will have a much easier matchup defensively. Ryan Donato is the kind of player that can put the puck in the net with relative ease, and we expect him to do so this upcoming season.

Look at Donato to score around 20 goals and 48 points this year.


Brady Tkachuk 1st round, 4th overall 2018 (No NHL experience)

(Photo courtesy of sportsnet.ca)

I could honestly go on for hours as to why I think the Senators management is brutal, but this pick ESPECIALLY shows us everything we need to know. The Sens opted to keep their 4th overall pick this year and after Montreal passed up on Filip Zadina, everything looked great for Ottawa… Then they select Brady Tkachuk 4th overall and I honestly cannot fathom why. The Sens are a desperate group, which is why I’m sure Tkachuk will most definitely make the opening day roster. Don’t think of that as a good thing though. Looking at Tkachuk’s College stats from last year we see that not only did he not reach a point per game, but he also couldn’t even reach double digits in goals (40 games played, 8 goals, 23 assists, 31 points). Generally, you expect a top 5 pick to enter the NHL right away and make a difference, and that will be the case for Tkachuk. I just can’t guarantee that it’ll be a positive difference.

We’re expecting a 20-point performance MAX for Tkachuk this season. I’m sure he’ll earn more PIMS in the first 7 games than he will points in 82.


Andreas Johnsson 7th round, 202nd overall 2013 (9 games played, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points)

The Leafs have a plethora of good young forwards, that much is for certain. So why did I choose Johnsson in particular? Well, let’s start with the fact that he can play anywhere in the lineup. His speed and skill with the puck allow him to play in the top six alongside the Maple Leafs' top centreman, but his gritty physical play in the corners puts him in a good place amongst the bottom six as well. The fact that Johnsson can play anywhere up or down in the lineup provides some solid roster security for him, which means he’s bound to get some decent quality playing time. His offensive side really kicked in last year as he tallied 26 goals and 54 points in 54 games with the Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

We could see Johnsson reaching up to 40 points this year if he gets some decent second unit Powerplay time. Should be a good year for the Swede.


Dylan Strome 1st round, 3rd overall 2015 (28 games played, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points)

You’d think a team whose top centremen have been Derek Stepan, Martin Hanzal, and Luke Richardson over the last few years would have plenty of opportunity for a top 3 pick to break into the line-up, right? Well, if you’ve been watching the Arizona Coyotes for the past few years you’d know that hasn’t been the case. Dylan Strome was selected 3rd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has still yet to play over 30 games. To really show you how disappointing his stat line is, let’s take a look at the top 10 picks from that year: 1. McDavid, 2. Eichel, 4. Marner, 5. Hanifin, 6. Zacha, 7. Provorov, 8. Werenski, 9. Meier, 10. Rantanen. Each one of these players has become a mainstay for their respective hockey clubs and yet Dylan has still yet to find his place in a very weak Arizona Coyotes roster. This year it seems he’ll finally make the jump, but I wonder if his extended stay in junior/the minors has made him weak.

We expect Dylan to play in a top 6 role, but only net about 15 goals, and 25 assists.

**The reason that makes Strome a not while still making Johnsson a hot is because of the kinds of roles each player is expected to fill. If Mitch Marner only scored 40 points playing in the role he is, that would be similar to what we expect of Dylan Strome this year**


Miro Heiskanen 1st round, 3rd overall 2017

(Photo courtesy of nhl.com)

What’s not to like about the Liiga’s best defenceman? That’s right. Not only was Miro Heiskanen voted the best defenceman in Finland’s top league, but he’s also the youngest player ever to achieve the accolade, earning the title at the ripe young age of 19. His 11 goals and 23 points in just 30 games is nothing to laugh about as an 18-year-old kid playing in a very good professional league. The fact that the Stars also boast talents like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg to help mentor him, only makes things so much nicer for Miro. We expect Heiskanen to crack the opening day roster this year, and to make himself at home from this point on.

Depending on Powerplay time, (which we expect won’t be too much this year) Heiskanen could score up to 35+ points this year. We expect him to find the twine just under 10 times and earn roughly 35-40 points.


Luke Kunin 1st round, 15th overall 2016 (19 games played, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points)

You know, I’m actually a big fan of the way Luke Kunin plays the game. He’s got the hands, the vision, and the gritty play-style to make an impact in the league. Now, I know what you’re wondering; “If that’s the case, then why did you place him in the not pile?” Well, even though I like the way he plays, I don’t think he’s going to have a whole bunch of success this upcoming year. He’s definitely ready to make the jump, even if it ends up being in a bottom six role. The Wild could definitely use him as a 3rd/4th line centreman. The only issue is that there are other players that I feel are also going to crack the Wild roster this year that will get better spots in the lineup (I.E. Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway). With those two making the jump, I realistically only see Luke slotting in as the fourth line centre, which means he won’t be getting too many opportunities to shine.

We feel that Kunin will crack the roster but will most likely be reduced to a bottom six role resulting in a slow-paced rookie year. He’ll develop his game well, but we can only see Luke scoring about 20 points this year.


Kailer Yamamoto 1st round, 22nd overall 2017 (9 games played, 0 goals, 3 assists)

(Photo courtesy of tsn.ca)

The Oilers really don’t have a great offensive lineup. When you’ve got Ty Rattie playing on your top line you KNOW there’s something wrong. Cue Kailer Yamamoto. Last season, Yamamoto surprised everyone by cracking the Oilers' opening day roster before being sent back to junior in order to preserve his Entry Level Contract. The talent Yamamoto possesses really puts him at the NHL level, the Oilers just felt he could use one more year to condition his body and develop his 200-foot game. Upon going back to the Spokane Chiefs, Kailer ripped 21 goals and 43 assists to combine for 64 points in 40 games. He’s shown that he’s more than capable of playing in the chel, and this year seems like a perfect time for him to crack the line-up playing alongside Connor McDavid.

We expect Yamamoto to net close to 55 points this year as one of the sleeper surprises of the season.

With all that being said, these are only our opinions here at The Sports Rooster. If you want to talk about any rookies that should have made the hot list, or shouldn’t be on the not list, let us know. Of course, once Yamamoto lights it up and wins the Calder, we’ll be the first ones to brag about it!