Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers

With just a few weeks left until playoffs in most fantasy pools, the time has come when you must decide your planning process for keepers for next season. With many league commissioners allowing up to eight keepers per team, making the final decision on player seven and player eight can get pretty tough. Deciding on keeping a rookie from this year’s crop may not be such a bad idea if you happen to have one of the players I’ve listed below. One thing that has come out of the shortened season so far is the fact that their are plenty of impressive looking kids playing in the National Hockey League, the question in fantasy though is, do you own any of them?

Many of the rookies got off to incredible starts, most notably the Blues Vladimir Tarasenko and Lightning Cory Conacher. In fact, many fantasy owners in January were already touting Conacher as the Calder winner after he scored three goals and recorded six assists in his first six games. Conacher struggled in February however, and has now has just one goal in his last 13 games, which left owners with thoughts of actually dropping him throughout the drought. Not to compare Conacher to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but last season, the Oilers rookie, who recorded 18 goals on the season, failed to score one in his final 11 games. Owners of Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Henrique and Gabriel Landeskog last season were in the same situation of owners of Conacher, Tarasenko and Huberdeau this season, but don’t let just the numbers sway you in one direction, these five rookies should be one of your keepers next season.

Justin Schultz (Oilers) Owned in 97 percent of ESPN Leagues  / 76 percent of Yahoo Leagues

Stats: 5 goals, 10 assists, -12, 56 shots

Not putting up the point totals many believed, but will be a top producer on the blue line for yea’s to come. Remember, he played in 34 games for the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL during the lockout, recording 18 goals and 30 assists, so he might be starting to lose a little gas.

Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues) Owned in 25 percent of ESPN Leagues / 76 percent of Yahoo Leagues

Stats: 6 goals, 8 assists, +/- 0, 45 shots

Tale of two seasons for the Blues rookie. The former first round pick by St. Louis in the 2012 draft, started hot, with five goals in his first seven games, but had his season take a turn when he left the game on February 20th with a concussion. Has points in two of his last three and should be a considered a top player for years to come.

Jonathan Huberdeau (Panthers) Owned in 98 percent of ESPN Leagues / 50 percent of Yahoo Leagues

Stats: 12 goals, 8 assists, -7, 87 shots

Not only is Huberdeau one of the top rookies, quietly he’s becoming one of the better fantasy players in the league. If you don’t own him, I would consider trading for him, using a first round pick in your pool next season to get him.

Cory Conacher (Lightning) Owned in 52 percent of ESPN Leagues / 42 percent of Yahoo Leagues

Stats: 8 goals, 14 assists, -6, 48 shots

As I noted above, Conacher has frustrated owners all season after getting off to that hot start. He’s still got the potential to rack up the points, but with injuries to Vincent Lecavalier and the team struggling as a whole, he’s been unable to get things turned around. Maybe the coaching change (they fired Guy Boucher Sunday) will help.

Nail Yakupov (Oilers) Owned in 52 percent of ESPN Leagues / 50 percent of Yahoo Leagues

Stats: 6 goals, 9 assists, -11, 44 shots

Yakupov has been a disappointment to say the least for fantasy owners this year. His current goalless streak stands at 12, and he has just two in the last two months. The former first overall pick will get things going next year though. Remember Joe Thornton for the Bruins in his rookie season?  In 1997-98, Thornton recorded just 7 points in 55 games, before a 41 point campaign the following season.

Didn’t quite make the list: Alex Galchenyuk (Canadiens), Jake Muzzin (Kings), Dougie Hamilton (Bruins)

Top 5 pickups in Yahoo!

1. Roman Josi (NAS)

2. Devin Setoguchi (MIN)

3. Patrick Wiercioch (OTT)

4. Troy Brouwer (WAS)

5. Johan Franzen (DET)

Top 5 drops in Yahoo!

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM)

2. Jiri Tlusty (CAR)

3. Semyon Varlamov (COL)

4. Anders Lindback (TB)

5. Dan Ellis (CAR)

If you any fantasy questions this season, let me know in the comment section, and good luck this week.