It's difficult to break into the NHL and contribute right away. Most players need a year or two of experience before beginning to produce consistently, though a select few make an immediate impact.
Here are some rookies who will be fantasy difference-makers in their first NHL season:
Jack Hughes, C, Devils
Hughes will warrant a roster spot on your fantasy team this season regardless of the format.
The 2019 first overall selection has dominated at every stage early in his career, breaking Alex Ovechkin's points record at the IIHF World U18 Championship with 32 points in 14 games, and also setting a new all-time scoring mark for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
Hughes should receive plenty of opportunities with the New Jersey Devils, especially on a power-play unit featuring Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and P.K. Subban. At even strength, his ceiling will depend on which players flank each wing, but the dynamic playmaker should thrive as a fixture in the team's top-six forward group.
It would make sense for the Devils to pair Hughes with a scorer like Kyle Palmieri - a shoot-first player who's scored 24-plus goals in four straight seasons. Having two reliable duos in Hischier-Hall and Hughes-Palmieri would also help deepen the Devils' lineup. Hughes could play alongside Hall at points throughout the season, too.
Quinn Hughes, D, Canucks
Hughes is an incredible skater with excellent hockey intelligence for his age. Though it was a small sample size, the 19-year-old impressed with three assists and positive possession numbers during his five-game stint with the Canucks last season.
The 2018 seventh overall pick should get top-four minutes on the blue line, and he'll receive plenty of power-play time as part of a talented young core featuring Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Bo Horvat. Newcomers J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland should also help bolster Vancouver's attack.
The Michigan product recorded 33 points in 32 games at the NCAA level for the Wolverines last season. His per-game production (1.10 points) ranked second among under-20 NCAA defensemen over the last 20 years.
His offensive game won't be fully developed in his first NHL season, but Hughes' upside makes him worth fantasy consideration.
Cale Makar, D, Avalanche
Makar looked like a seasoned vet while debuting with the Avalanche this past spring, and it'll be a treat to see what the 2017 fourth overall pick can do in his first full campaign.
The 20-year-old rearguard joined the club at the start of the 2018-19 playoffs and scored in his first game. He also tallied five assists to finish with six points in 10 contests while logging over 17 minutes per night. Makar never looked out of place, and his confidence with the puck was remarkable for a young talent playing high-stakes hockey.
Makar's skating ability is sensational, making him a perfect fit with the up-tempo Avalanche. He's already skilled enough to log big minutes and should be a fixture on the club's loaded top power-play unit. Playing with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nazem Kadri should result in Makar producing an impressive rookie season.
Kaapo Kakko, RW, Rangers
Kakko should benefit from playing on a top-heavy New York Rangers roster. The club lacks forward depth, but Kakko is too skilled to play bottom-six minutes, and fireworks could be coming if he's on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.
At 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 lbs, the 18-year-old enters the league with an NHL frame and a heavy shot. A natural goal-scorer at every level, he's poised to contribute immediately in the goal column at even strength and on the power play.
During his final season in Europe, Kakko tallied 22 goals over 45 games for HC TPS in Liiga - the top pro league in Finland - setting a record for under-18 players.
The 2019 second overall selection is ready for the NHL, and he should produce for your fantasy team.
Mackenzie Blackwood, G, Devils
Blackwood came two games shy of losing his rookie eligibility in 2018-19 while posting a 2.61 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage over 23 appearances with the New Jersey Devils. Snagging a rookie goalie for your fantasy team with just over a quarter-season of NHL experience is a bonus, especially considering the direction New Jersey is heading.
Injuries have plagued starting Devils netminder Cory Schneider over the previous two campaigns, and he isn't getting any younger. Even when healthy, the 33-year-old has posted below-average numbers, and he hasn't put together a steady season since 2015-16.
With the Devils projecting to be a young, up-and-coming team, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them challenge Blackwood with a heavier workload this season.
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