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NHL Rookies Not Living Up to Expectations in 2013-14

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2013

NHL Rookies Not Living Up to Expectations in 2013-14

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    Valeri Nichushkin
    Valeri NichushkinBill Wippert/Getty Images

    For youngsters like Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks, Mark Arcobello of the Edmonton Oilers and Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames, their rookie seasons are following brilliant scripts.

    But it's not easy to succeed as a rookie, and many players who end up as solid NHL players struggle in their first years.

    For many rookies, their first seasons represent a huge test of character. They come into the season with high expectations, but goal and point totals don't always match.

    Here's a look at five rookies who are having disappointing seasons as they settle into their second month of action.

Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars

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    2013-14 stats: 15 games; one goal, four assists, even plus/minus

    Analysis: The Dallas Stars expect Valeri Nichushkin to become a big-time scorer. There doesn't seem to be much doubt that he will eventually become a 30-goal player, but he has not gotten off to a flying start.

    Nichushkin had his 18th birthday at the start of training camp, so he is extremely young. However, Nichushkin is physically mature and a load for defenders to handle at 6'4" and 205 pounds. The Stars were hoping that Nichushkin could assert himself right off the bat.

    He does not look intimidated and appears to have fit in as the right wing on the Stars' third line, but he has not been able to bury his chances. 

    Nichushkin has fired 20 shots on net and he is averaging 15:02 of ice time per night.

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    2013-14 stats: 11 games; one goal, four assists, minus-eight

    Analysis: The Nashville Predators sent Filip Forsberg to the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League Nov. 7 after he had a hard time getting on track at the NHL level.

    However, if Forsberg can break loose for a couple of goals in Milwaukee, it's very likely that he will get another opportunity quickly. Forsberg is very creative with the puck, and he can give the Nashville offense a bit of a boost with his accurate passing and playmaking.

    Forsberg's confidence—and his ice time—took a bit of a hit as his games played mounted. He averaged 11:51 of ice time per game, but his more recent totals were quite a bit beneath that average.

    That's why the Preds shipped him to the minor league Admirals.

Joe Colborne, Calgary Flames

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2013-14 stats: 16 games; one goal, three assists, minus-one

    Analysis: Joe Colborne was supposed to be an upcoming star in both the Boston Bruin and Toronto Maple Leaf organizations. However, both organizations decided they couldn't wait for Colborne's talent to develop.

    The rangy center is now playing regularly with the Calgary Flames. Prior to this season, Colborne had played in 16 NHL games for his career; he has already played in 16 this season.

    However, Colborne is not contributing very much on the offensive end. He scored his only goal in his eighth game of the season against Phoenix, and he has just two assists in the eight games since.

    Colborne does not look out of place with the Flames, but the lack of productivity is troubling.

Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    2013-14 stats: 14 games; two goals, one assist, minus-three

    Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres have loaded their roster with young talent, and there have been many nights this season that those players have found themselves a step or more behind and unable to catch up. 

    Mikhail Grigorenko, the 12th pick overall in the 2012 draft, fits that description. Grigorenko has size and speed at 6'3" and 200 pounds, but he has not been able to do much to help the struggling Sabres.

    Grigorenko may be starting to feel more comfortable. He went scoreless in his first 13 games before scoring twice in a Nov. 8 loss at Anaheim.

    Grigorenko has undeniable talent and has the patience to let plays develop. However, there are questions about his overall intensity and drive. If he doesn't pick up that aspect of his game, he will not be of much use to Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston.

Elias Lindholm, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Michael Martin/Getty Images

    2013-14 stats: 10 games; one goal, one assist, minus-four

    Analysis: Elias Lindholm is a talented two-way player who gives everything he has every shift he is on the ice.

    Lindholm, 6'0" and 192 pounds, has been battling a shoulder injury, but when he was in the lineup, he had a tough time lighting the lamp for the Hurricanes and setting up his teammates.

    However, it appears that it's just something Lindholm has to work through because he plays so hard on the defensive side of the ice. 

    The Hurricanes need more from him, but head coach Kirk Muller will give him his time to establish himself because he's such a gritty player.

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