The Top 5 NHL Rookies in the Early 2015-16 Season

Looking at five of the best-performing NHL rookies so far this season.

NHL fans have been gifted with quite an exciting rookie class.

First and second overall draft picks Connor McDavid (3.33 fantasy points per game and 0.92 points per game) and Jack Eichel (2.38, 0.6) have lived up to the hype, although McDavid unfortunately suffered a broken collarbone last week which will keep him out for months. 

However, the fact that McDavid and Eichel play on two of the NHL's weakest teams could also have a negative impact on their season-long production and leave them with limited upside.

In our nERD rankings, Buffalo is the worst at -1.11 and Edmonton is third worst at -0.83, meaning that both teams are roughly a full goal worse than the league average team. That being said, there are many other NHL rookies boasting impressive numbers and providing DFS players with solid value options. We could see a potential upset on our hands in the race for the Calder Trophy. 

Max Domi, Center, Arizona Coyotes

The 12th overall pick in 2014 is getting his chance in the NHL after spending a year in the minors, and so far he is making the most of his opportunity. The promising center has logged 7 goals, 6 assists, and a plus/minus of 5 in 15 games played.

Domi is also putting up solid minutes with an average time on ice of 16:50 and average power play time on ice of 3:39. On an Arizona Coyotes squad that is currently outperforming expectations by sitting at third place in the Pacific Division, Domi should be given every opportunity to perform and progress as the season continues. Known for his speed and puck-handling ability, expect an increase of Domi's 0.86 points per game.

Nikolaj Ehlers, Right Wing, Winnipeg Jets

A lot of NHL fans had high hopes for the young, ninth overall pick after posting consecutive 100 point seasons in the minors, and he has hit the ground running. Currently, in 16 games, Nikolaj Ehlers has registered 4 goals, 5 assists, and a plus/minus of 5 in an average 14:51 time on ice.

Skating on Winnipeg's second line, the Danish winger impressively outperformed his FanDuel salary within the first few weeks of the NHL season. During this time, Ehlers has averaged 1.29 fantasy points per game, which leaves him as a relatively undervalued offensive player. Also, he is a potential special teams threat as he is seeing significant time on Winnipeg's 13th ranked power play and has 1 goal and 1 assist so far during man-up advantage. 

Dylan Larkin, Center, Detroit Red Wings  

Drafted 15th overall, Dylan Larkin boasted impressive numbers while playing for Michigan University. In 35 games he had 15 goals, 32 assists, and a plus/minus of 18. Fortunately, for the Detroit Red Wings, he seems to be replicating his stellar collegiate form. In 15 games played, Larkin has 4 goals, 6 assists, and leads all rookies with a plus/minus of 11.

Known to be a high IQ player with great hands, Larkin also adds value by being a two-way skater able to fill offensive and defensive duties; so far he has 52.2% offensive zone starts and 47.8% defensive zone starts. His statistics demonstrate that he is an aggressive player able to make his presence felt all over the ice as he has 72 total shots attempted, 18 hits, and 2 game-winning goals.

Larkin has cooled off from his 1.2 points per game average from the first week of the season towards a more realistic 0.6 points per game; however, with key center Pavel Datsyuk still sidelined by an ankle injury, Larkin is seeing an average time on ice of 16:59 on a dangerous first line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, which should translate into more scoring contributions as the season goes on. 

Mike Condon, Goalie, Montreal Canadiens 

This guy has been playing so well that he's probably going to make Carey Price fight for his starting spot when Price returns from injury. Playing backup to last year's Triple Crown winner is no small feat, but Princeton alum Mike Condon has hit the ground running. The data shows that he is already topping the charts for NHL goalies.

PlayerTeamGamesWinsLossesOT LossesGoals Against AvgSave %
Reto BerraCOL62301.50.952
Jake AllenSTL107301.530.95
Henrik LundqvistNYR128221.650.949
Mike CondonMTL86021.730.936
Jaroslav HalakNYI84311.870.928
Anders LindbackARI52201.990.928
Marc-Andre FleuryPIT138502.010.931
Carey PriceMTL97202.010.936

Condon's sensational backup play has certainly been invaluable to the Canadiens as they have been able to maintain their winning form and now won't have to rush Price back into action or worry about a viable substitute going forward. Among all NHL goalies, Condon is 4th in goals against average and 7th in Save Percentage, and the Canadiens have the
best record in the NHL by a margin of 4 points and a dominant plus-30 goal differential, which could quite possibly translate to Condon getting some playoff goaltending action as a rookie.

Artemi Panarin, Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks

The 23-year-old Russian winger from the KHL in Russia has been a revelation for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He's been skating on a deadly second line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov as well as consistently performing in all the main statistical categories. With 4 goals, 11 assists, and a plus/minus of 4, Panarin is performing to the coveted DFS position of 1 point per game and leads all rookies with 15 points.

Look for him to continue producing given that he is recording 68.1% offensive zone starts and an impressive 55.9 Corsi For % and a 53.3 Fenwick For %, meaning that the Blackhawks control the puck more often than not in offensive shooting situations when Panarin is on the ice. Also, not only do Panarin's near-elite possession metrics indicate consistent offensive production, but he also is putting up monster time-on-ice numbers.

Per NHL.com, Panarin is 4th among all rookies and 1st among non-defenseman rookies with an average time on ice of 19:04 and also puts up a solid 3:06 average power play time on ice. Panarin has been a more than capable offensive contributor for the Blackhawks following the departure of key offensive figures such as Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, and skating with Kane and Jonathan Toews should only see his numbers progress as the season continues.