The Western Conference doesn’t have the flash of the East. Sure, the West may have the best teams with the champs and Detroit, but there sure isn’t a Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin. Still, the future is bright.
Five of the top six scoring rookies are from the Western Conference… only Mr. Backstrom gives the East hope in that race. So, though the elite now aren’t the best, the elite soon are looking better and deeper. Now, for the hell of it, let’s take a look at how these new youngsters are stepping up as compared to their predecessors. This comparison shows the top five western rookies versus the top five current western stars. I think you’ll find the students are showing the promise to quickly trump their teachers.
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
Key Stats: 73GP, 17G, 45A, 62P, 18:17ATOI
Peter Mueller, C, PHO
Key Stats: 72GP, 21G, 27A, 48P, 17:02ATOI
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
Key Stats: 55GP, 20G, 27A, 47P, 18:35ATOI
Sam Gagner, C, EDM
Key Stats: 70GP, 9G, 33A, 42P, 15:23ATOI
Andrew Cogliano, C, EDM
Key Stats: 73GP, 16G, 24A, 40P, 13:26ATOI
Jarome Iginla, RW, CGY, 87 Points
Rookie Age: 19
Rookie Key Stats: 82GP, 21G, 29A, 50P
1st PPG Season: 6th, 96P in 82GP
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET, 85 Points
Rookie Age: 23
Rookie Key Stats: 70GP, 11G, 24A, 35P
1st PPG Season: 4th, 87P in 75GP
Joe Thornton, C, SJ, 83 Points
Rookie Age: 18
Rookie Key Stats: 55GP, 3G, 4A, 7P
1st PPG Season: 5th, 68P in 66GP
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET, 79 Points
Rookie Age: 22
Rookie Key Stats: 79GP, 22G, 22A, 44P
1st PPG Season: 3rd, 85P in 77GP
Mike Ribeiro, C, DAL, 77 Points
Rookie Age: 22*
Rookie Key Stats: 43GP, 8G, 10A, 18P
1st PPG Season: 6th, 77P in 71GP
*20 during first 19-game debut
As you can see, the current rookies are outpacing the performances of the current stars and their rookie seasons. Really, only Thornton was truly held back with less than 10 minutes per game but one could argue he wasn’t ready for the responsibility. Still he turned out the strongest.
The reliance on these very young top rookies this season is fairly impressive, and you can’t help but wonder what Gagner and Cogliano could do with a few more minutes. When you look at players like Kane and Toews, they seem to be closer to the rookie debut of a Stastny than Iginla. Stastny is someone we are missing due to injury, and similarly, these rookies could progress to a point-per-game level much more quickly than the current top stars we have listed here. These players were in their mid to late 20’s before they hit that level. Thornton was the youngest at 22. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if two of these rookies this year hit PPG next year. So, Western Conference fans, though we don’t have the ultra superstars, greater stars may be on the horizon. The addition of Stamkos next year could take it to another level.
The Status Report:
Alexander Radulov, RW, NSH
With all this talk of young stars, I wanted to mention my favorite of them all in the West. Though he has been held back a bit, I still feel he will be better than any of them. This season has shown some great progress, and he is already one of the more valuable young players in the league with solid goal and shot totals. More importantly, he has continued to prove his defense suffices with a plus-17 this season. Regardless of all these positives, his value is lulling a little again with only four points in the last ten games. If you own him be patient, but if you want him it might be a time to get a fair deal for him. I see Zetterberg value in his near future.
From the Dust: The player who may have some value after all.
Dwayne Roloson, G, EDM
Old habits die hard, and Rolo isn’t ready to give up his starting gig. He has muddled the situation in Edmonton once again just in time to make the playoffs difficult for Garon owners. With 86 saves on 89 shots in the last two games, he has been huge for some teams making a run. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Brad Stuart, D, DET
Call me crazy, but I feel like Stuart may be a solid addition for defensively challenged teams in the fantasy playoffs. Though the points haven’t come through yet, he has shown the ability to contribute solidly in that department in the past. If you have shots on goal, he is already solid there for a blueliner and most importantly is turning around his plus/minus with the Wings. He is already plus-5 despite a two game setback. He also puts up some penalty minutes. He might be someone to take a flyer if you have a hole.
Duncan Keith, D, CHI
Here is another not so sexy but serviceable player. He is top 25 in goals, shots on goal and the 2nd best defensemen in hockey for plus/minus. He must be doing something right and could really help you out in those areas from a very weak position.
Cacti of the Week: The players you shouldn’t touch right now.
Sedin Twins, C/LW, VAN
I don’t know about you, but the Twins’ slumps have really killed me over the past few weeks and in the playoffs this past week… and I only own one of them. Prior to last night’s untimely breakout, these guys were garbage of late.
Combined Last Week: 3GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, -7, 0PIM, 0PPP, 18SOG
Now that is awful. Henrik is already extremely overrated but for both of these twins to fall this hard must have really destroyed a lot of seasons. I know many players, especially Vancouver fans, love to own both bros, and they quit right when those teams needed them most. Wow.
Fantasy Flashback: Your weekly reminder that fantasy hockey is a rollercoaster.
Alexei Kovalev, RW, MTL
He isn't from the West, but he belongs here anyway. The frustration of owning a player like Kovalev has been a lot more manageable this season. In a one-year league you have nothing to worry about, but I’d still avoid him in a keeper. Still, his past month has been fabulous with 19 points. This season overall has been quite refreshing.
2006-07: 73GP, 18G, 29A, 47P, -19, 78PIM, 22PPP, 197 SOG
2007-08: 73GP, 31G, 43A, 74P, +13, 60PIM, 42PPP, 203SOG
Having inversed his point total in the same number of games one year later, his rollercoaster career continues. He has improved dramatically across the board except for PIM, and I commend those of you who were able to stomach him to this point. Now get rid of him first thing next year.