My rule with early season fantasy pickups has always been a simple one: be aggressive. When plausible upside presents itself, don't wait around for proof. The bottom 15-25 percent of your roster should be in a constant cycle. You don't have to hit for a high average to make it worthwhile, provided a couple of the clicks become significant contributors.
There were plenty of standouts in St. Louis as the Blues convincingly dispatched the Red Wings 6-0, but Tarasenko was deserving of No. 1 star honors. He scored a pair of goals and both of them went straight to the highlight tape. See for yourself: here's Tarasenko getting past the Detroit defense, then beating Jimmy Howard with a perfect shot to the stick side, and here's Tarasenko twisting Kyle Quincey into a pretzel, then finding the top shelf. (Quincey was also beaten on the first goal, unable to corral Ian Cole's heady stretch pass. It might be a long year on the Detroit blue line.)
The Blues obviously think a lot of Tarasenko, a 21-year-old right wing. He was the 16th overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he's opening the year on the second line, skating with established forwards Andy McDonald and Alex Steen. He's also receiving liberal power-play time (the second goal came on the man advantage). Tarasenko posted a 14-17-31 line in 31 KHL games this winter before the NHL finally opened shop.
There's one big question on the kid: how will he adjust to the smaller rinks of the NHL? For one night at least, that wasn't a problem. And although Tarasenko has been the most-added player in Yahoo's game over the last 24 hours, you'll still find him free for the taking in 82 percent of leagues.
Huberdeau is also getting a chance to be a Top 6 forward right out of the gate, settling in on Florida's second line along with Alexei Kovalev and Peter Mueller. That trio showed surprising chemistry from the jump in Saturday's romp over Carolina, with Huberdeau posting a three-point night (one goal, two assists). His first NHL marker is here, and you can see him collect the primary assist on Scottie Upshall's goal here.
Although Huberdeau is just 19 and could be returned to junior hockey in the next week if the Panthers were so inclined, he looks ready to stick in the NHL for good. He was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft and there's nothing left for him to prove in juniors (look at the gaudy numbers he's posted there). Yahoo! gamers are already hip to Huberdeau's immediate potential as he's owned in 52 percent of pools, but that number should be on the increase in the next few days.
Before we let you loose on the waiver wire, here are three other rookies (one just a kid, two on the older side) who merit a mention:
-- Mikael Granlund scored a goal in Minnesota's home opener, skating on the team's second line and seeing secondary power-play time. The 20-year-old right wing was the ninth overall pick in 2010, another lofty pedigree in front of us. You'll find him available in 76 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
-- Here's a clear sign the Red Wings like rookie right wing Damien Brunner: they had him playing the point on the man advantage at St. Louis. Brunner is also getting ice time with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and while that didn't amount to much in the opener, eventually these guys will be heard from. Brunner was a notable winger in the Swiss-A league for five years and comes to Detroit as a game-ready 26-year-old. He's owned in a modest 18 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
-- Mike Kostka has been an AHL journeyman for over five years, but he might be ready to break through at age 27. He posted a snappy 6-28-34 line in 34 AHL games this winter, and looked sharp in Toronto's upset victory at Montreal (power-play assist, 22:59 of ice time; stick salute to Evan Berofsky for the tip). Kostka logged a hefty 5:02 on the man advantage Saturday, more PP time than Dion Phaneuf and John-Michael Liles received. Maybe Kostka is going to follow the Joe Corvo path to fantasy relevance. You can add Special K in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues; if you're in a deeper pool, this one's for you.