The 2019 fantasy hockey rookie debate is very similar to the one that happened just three years ago between Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.
Entering the 2016-17 season, the No. 1 overall pick (Matthews), a highly-touted American-born centre, was looking to make his mark on a team poised to see drastic improvements from the season before. The No. 2 pick (Laine), a Finnish-born winger, was aiming to help a team that jumped up in the draft lottery from sixth to second overall.
Fast forward to the 2019-20 season, and we are literally walking into the same situation with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko.
However, this time around, it seems like the second overall pick will be the one who brings more fantasy value in the pair’s rookie campaign.
Although Hughes’ pre-season has been very encouraging, it’s still unclear if he will be playing alongside Taylor Hall on the New Jersey Devils’ top line or not. While he has looked comfortable playing with the former league MVP, another first overall pick, Nico Hischier, seems likely to start the season off as the team’s top middle man.
When you look at Kakko’s situation, the top-end talent the New York Rangers boast at right-wing is not nearly as large of an obstacle. Pavel Buchnevich seems to be the Blue Shirts’ top returning right winger. There’s no question that New York will soon realize that the mightily impressive 18-year-old is its best option on the right side. In addition to an expanded opportunity at even strength, Kakko should also be featured on the club’s top power-play unit.
And for as much chemistry as Hall and Hughes have built, it seems like Kakko and Artemi Panarin are also on the same page.
Acclimating to the NHL may be a little harder for Hughes too, as playing centre certainly comes with more responsibilities than playing the wing.
Currently, in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey drafts, Kakko is being selected with an ADP of 109.2 while Hughes is coming off the board at 126.6. Even with the discrepancy in where they’re being selected, Kakko feels like the better play in 2019-20 if you are interested in drafting one of the two rookies.
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