Training camp is no place to be shy—not if you are a rookie who wants to make an NHL roster.
Young players have their work cut out for them if they want to make the jump from junior hockey, college or the minor leagues to the NHL. To do so, you have to create an impression with instinctive and aggressive play.
Those who are afraid of making a mistake will find their time in an NHL training camp ending quickly.
With competition for jobs incredibly stiff, many coaches are looking for players to pare from their rosters. If there is any hesitation in a rookie's game, that's often enough to get sent down.
Training camp is a great time to make an impression. Only the best rookies will win jobs right out of camp and get to start the regular season with their teams.
However, a strong performance that wasn't quite enough will also leave an impression in a coach's mind. When a spot opens up, the coach may opt for the player he saw performing well in training camp.
Here are the rookies who have stood out so far.
One of the Edmonton Oilers' goals this year is to increase their compete level. Rookie defenseman Darnell Nurse may be able to help them in the near future.
Nurse, the No. 7 pick in this year's draft, is opening eyes with his impressive play in training camp. He has been aggressive on the ice, decisive in his passing and impressive in his ability to carry the puck. He is thrilled to be getting a chance to play with the Oilers.
In Wednesday night's preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks, Nurse's performance caught the eye of head coach Dallas Eakins.
“That kid’s a hockey player,” Eakins told Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal. “Lots of compete in his game."
Nurse has been impressive throughout training camp with his work ethic and poise. Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk said that Nurse's play has been consistent and "beyond impressive."
Nurse, 18, is not likely to earn a spot on the Oilers straight out of training camp, but if he uses his performance as a catapult, he could have a chance to play in the NHL in a relatively short period of time.
Sean Monahan may not make the Calgary Flames, but the 18-year-old center survived the first round of cuts and has been quite impressive in camp.
Monahan was the sixth selection in the 2013 draft. Players don't get selected at that position without stellar offensive talent, but he has impressed Flames management and head coach Bob Hartley with his well-rounded game and all-around maturity.
He is playing well defensively and does not have any wasted movement. Speaking with The Canadian Press (h/t TheHockeyNews.com), Hartley compared Monahan's demeanor to that of Joe Sakic.
General manager Jay Feaster wouldn't go that far, but said he hasn't been surprised by any of Monahan's impressive play.
“I’m not going to go overboard about being surprised,” Feaster told Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald. “Because we had done our homework ahead of time. I guess people don’t believe us. But the fact of the matter is, we knew what kind of player we were drafting."
If Max Domi wanted to make an NHL roster right after being drafted, perhaps he would have been better off getting picked by a team other than the Phoenix Coyotes.
Head coach Dave Tippett is an old-school type who likes to go with established veterans because they are dependable and don't make mistakes. He almost never gives consideration to first-round draft choices in their initial training camp.
Domi may be able to change his coach's opinion.
He is a skilled forward who has the ability to put the puck in the net. He has a boatload of quick moves and Tippett believes that a young player has a better chance to break in at left wing than anywhere else on the ice.
"The position he plays, I think, is probably one of the easiest positions to break in," Tippett told Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic. "Winger would be the one area where a guy could come in and possibly have an impact. So he’s got a couple of those things going for him.”
General manager Don Maloney did not say that Domi would make the team this year, but he has been impressed by what he sees.
"You often make mistakes by keeping people here so young," Maloney said. "With that being said, he has a skill set that we’re looking for, and we have positions available for that.”
Zemgus Girgensons is doing everything he can to force the Buffalo Sabres into keeping him on the roster.
The 19-year-old has been consistently eye-catching in practice and the Sabres' early preseason games. He plays a strong physical game and combines that with excellent speed as well as vicious shot as he streaks into the offensive zone.
Girgensons had two goals in one preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens and looked like a natural scorer as he came down the right wing and ripped a shot by Montreal rookie goalie Zach Fucale.
Girgensons knows he has to improve as a scorer and is showing quite a bit in training camp.
"Most people talk about if I’m able to put up points. That’s one of the things I’ve been working on,” Girgensons told Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. “I’ve been working on my shooting. It’s about me burying chances. I’ve had some problems with it. I have to put that behind me and be better offensively."
Girgensons is also working on his skating. If he can continue to improve, he has a chance to make the Sabres' roster out of camp or get called up some time this season.
Morgan Rielly knows that he has a long way to go to become the kind of defenseman he wants to be in the National Hockey League.
However, while there is much work to do, he may be good enough to stick with the Leafs this year.
“Morgan came very prepared to make this team,” Nonis told Leafs TV (h/t the National Post). “He is definitely going to be here for a while. I don’t think that he’s a guy that will be shipped out early."
Rielly shows his skating skill and defensive talent every time he takes the ice. His consistent effort has been his best attribute to this point and may force Nonis to keep him in Toronto this season.
Ryan Murphy can skate, carry the puck out of traffic and has a big shot. Don't be surprised if he is on the Carolina roster when the season gets underway or shortly thereafter.
The Hurricanes have a big need on the blue line. Joni Pitkanen, their best defenseman, is out for the year with a broken heel. The Hurricanes are scrambling to fill positions on the blue line with veterans like Ron Hainsey and Mike Komisarek.
But all teams want to develop their own young talent, and Murphy has plenty of it. Murphy was the Hurricanes' first-round pick in 2011 and knows he has an opportunity to play now.
He is going to have to beat out another rookie in Brett Bellemore, who, according to Luke DeCock of The News & Observer, is off to a good start in training camp.
However, he does not have Murphy's natural gifts.
If Murphy plays well—and he has looked good so far—he will soon get his chance to play at the NHL level.
Unlike the other rookies, Torey Krug has already made an impact in the NHL.
He did it at the most important time—in last season's playoffs. Krug was inserted into the lineup in Boston's conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers.
All Krug did was score four goals in five games against Henrik Lundqvist, a goalie many consider to be the best in the world.
Krug is technically a rookie. He is in training camp with the Bruins and competing for a spot on the roster. While it seems certain he will make it, Krug is playing as if he has to prove something to Bruins coach Claude Julien.
That's smart, because Krug won't make the Bruins just because of what he did in the postseason. He continues to show his talent as a defenseman who has the skill to jump into the play and contribute on the offensive end.
Krug will almost certainly win the job and Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe believes the 22-year-old should see regular time on the Bruins' power play. He is a hard-working player who has star potential.
Krug registered three assists in a 6-3 preseason triumph over the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week.
Tom Wilson is not a fancy player. He is a big man who wants to establish position in front of the net and score goals because he is stronger and tougher than the defensemen trying to move him out.
Standing at 6'4" and 210 pounds, Wilson is not the kind of player others want to go into the corner with. He has the kind of nastiness and grit that the Capitals need.
Head coach Adam Oates has plenty of talent on his roster, but he knows his roster requires more players who are willing to take and deliver punishment in order to come away with the puck.
Wilson fits the bill. He may not make the Capitals' roster, but he is going to force them to think long and hard before they send him to the minor leagues.
Wilson scored a goal on a slick net-front deflection against Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins in a preseason game earlier this week.