7 NHL Rookies Who Will Make a Difference If There's a Season in 2012-13
Last season's crop of rookies was very impressive, evidenced by the fact that all three finalists for the Calder Trophy (Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) had a strong case to take home the award.
This year should be no different because the 2013 class is very strong at each position. Let's look at the seven rookies who will make the biggest different to their teams if there's a 2012-13 season.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins sent top prospect Dougie Hamilton to the OHL's Niagara IceDogs last week, where he has played for the last three seasons. In four games with the IceDogs this year, he has scored four points (one goal, three assists).
Aside from his well-documented scoring ability, Hamilton's speed and athleticism are going to make the Boston blue line a more balanced group.
He has tremendous height, but he doesn't have enough size to dominate physically yet, so adding some more muscle is certainly a goal for this season.
The Bruins are eager to see what Hamilton can do at the NHL level. Hopefully, he gets an opportunity soon.
Ryan Murphy, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes made sure that they could bring talented defenseman Ryan Murphy to the NHL this season once the lockout ends. The team's blue line definitely needs him.
The loss of gritty defenseman Bryan Allen, combined with no major upgrades to the blue line in the summer, has left the Hurricanes without enough defensive depth to compete in the Eastern Conference.
Murphy can help change that with a stellar rookie season. He scored 54 points in 49 games for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL last season, and has one point through four games this year.
His puck-moving ability and offensive awareness will be a tremendous boost to the Hurricanes power play, and will give the team some needed scoring from the blue line. Murphy has all the offensive skills needed to make a major impact in Carolina as a rookie.
Murphy and young defenseman Justin Falk will both be under a lot of pressure to shine next season for the Hurricanes.
Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
Instead of going back to the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, where he has played for the last two seasons, Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov will play in his home country of Russia for KHL team Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik during the lockout.
When top young stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall battled injuries last season, the Oilers struggled to score consistently. The two former No. 1 picks missed 41 games combined last year. Yakupov's arrival will strengthen the team's depth on the wings.
The Russian forward will have an enormous impact on the Oilers during his rookie season, and will give the team another reliable goal-scorer who can take over games with his playmaking ability.
It would be a surprise if Yakupov does not lead all rookies in scoring during his debut season in the NHL.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers fans are in for a real treat when Jonathan Huberdeau comes to the team for the start of his NHL career because the 19-year-old center could become the face of the franchise in the near future.
The Panthers will need someone to help replace Jason Garrison's offense from last season after he signed with the Vancouver Canucks in the summer as a free agent. Even though Huberdeau isn't a defenseman, he will help replace the goal-scoring and power-play talent that the team lost when Garrison left.
Huberdeau's vision and accurate passing will boost the production of the team's top wingers, such as Kris Versteeg, Mikael Samuelsson, Tomas Kopecky and Tomas Fleischmann.
Huberdeau will have a profound impact on the Panthers during his rookie season, and will be the team's best addition since general manager Dale Tallon did little in free agency to add talent to the roster.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Chris Kreider is going to give the New York Rangers some needed scoring from their bottom six because the Rangers don't have a lot of offensive firepower on their third and fourth lines.
His offensive contributions will be a boost to the team, but Kreider can really impact the Rangers by improving his defensive game.
He has the size and hockey intelligence to be one of the best two-way wingers in the NHL for a long time. He's not a bad player in his own end right now, but there is still plenty of room for improvement in the defensive aspect of game.
Playing on a Stanley Cup contender with high expectations won't bother Kreider, who will be among the top candidates for the 2013 Calder Trophy.
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
Mikael Granlund will begin a new chapter in his career later this month when he plays his first game for the Houston Aeros of the AHL.
Granlund dominated in his home country of Finland last season, scoring 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) in SM-liiga.
After playing three years in Helsinki, Granlund will provide the Wild with a first-line talent who will have little trouble adjusting to the NHL game.
He has the potential to be the Wild's second-best center from day one, and it's no secret that Minnesota needed to add another playmaker at that position before next season.
Only five players scored more than 30 points last season for the Wild, which helps illustrate how ineffective this team was offensively for much of last year.
Granlund will add another dimension to the Wild offense, and could have the most profound impact of any rookie forward in the NHL next year. He's going be an immediate success.
Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings need young defenseman Brendan Smith to have a breakout season in 2012-13, and when you look at the team's current group of defensemen, it's easy to see why.
There's not a lot of top-tier talent in this group, so as a young prospect with impressive skills and potential, Smith will play a vital role in the Red Wings' success this season. He could be forced to play more minutes than most young defensemen this year, but he's ready for the challenge.
Fans will expect a lot from Smith, who has just 14 games of NHL experience, but he has shown thus far that his offensive skills are good enough to help him score anywhere from 20-35 points next year.
Smith needs to keep improving defensively, but playing on a veteran team will help him in that aspect of his game. He should make tremendous strides in his development this season.
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