We've all bared witness to the Colorado Avalanche—overhauled with rookies on their roster—making a valiant surge in the Western Conference. Currently nestled in the top eight, the Avalanche are doing what many expected they would be unable to accomplish with so many players in their first official NHL season.
However, first round pick (3rd overall) Matt Duchene is not struggling one bit, as he was recently named rookie of the month for December.
So what’s the deal with the surging rookies?
The Anaheim Ducks are no stranger to having fresh faces in the lineup. This season, and seasons past, is no exception.
Last season as the Ducks struggled early on, it seemed the only positive spin would come in the form of the man we had all been waiting to see.
Bobby Ryan, infamously drafted second overall in the 2005 draft, would finally make his NHL rookie season debut. True, fans had seen him come and go over the course of the 2007-2008 season, but in November of 2008—when he would finally get his chance to become a regular in the lineup—he would prove there would be no need to send him back down.
Ryan went on to establish rookie records for the Ducks in goals and scoring (31 goals and 26 assists for 57 points). Ryan capped off an amazing January with a hat trick, Rookie of the Month honor, and a final placement on the teams top line.
Ryan proved he was worth the wait.
This season Ryan has established a line of his own. Currently surging alongside veteran center Saku Koivu and rookie Dan Sexton (who was recalled in early December), Ryan is leading the team in goals (20) and is third on the team in scoring with 35 points.
In a similar fate, fans will recall that two stellar players made equally loud impacts for the Ducks during their first seasons.
Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry saw their fair share of NHL ice time during the 2005-06 season, when they would make several trips to and from the Ducks' minor league affiliates. Getzlaf scored 39 points in 57 games with Anaheim that year, and Perry racked up 25 points of his own in 56 games played.
However, their greatest contribution came in the 2006-2007 season when the Ducks went on to capture their first Stanley Cup. Playing on the second line alongside Dustin Penner, many concluded that these three young gentlemen would be amongst the league's elite sooner rather than later.
Getzlaf and Perry continued to scorch the opposition with goals and power that teams could only dream of. That season, the Ducks were blessed with two stellar scoring lines, and in the playoffs, these men were too much to handle. Getzlaf lead all Ducks in scoring that postseason with 17 points.
So, as this current season for the Ducks continues to unfold, and the team continues to look for help on an injured roster, Sexton comes to mind.
True, we've only had a few short weeks with the young man, but every night he proves that he is more than just a flash in the pan. His first five games saw him tally four goals, two coming in a comeback win against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 8.
While it was possible that he was purely lucky, his continuous first-rate play has shown that he is more than just a lucky guy. He's proving to have puck handling skills, the desire to find the net, and the hockey sense of someone twice his size.
Whats more, the Ducks have recently had major contributions from Matt Beleskey, who has stepped into a hole on the first line. In his two games on that top line, Beleskey scored his first two NHL goals. Both of his goals ultimately becoming game-winners.
While the Ducks are getting healthy again (Teemu Selanne will soon be returning to the lineup, with Joffrey Lupul not far behind), the question remains:
Where will these young forwards play for the remainder of the season?
Will they continue with the same determination that Getzlaf and Perry displayed in their first year? Can they continue to score those much needed game changing goals? Or will veteran skill outplay them?
If having fresh faces in the lineup, plus having rookies fighting to earn a spot on the roster to play in the NHL is going to help the Ducks get through this season with their heads above water...I'll take it.
Here's hoping the positive rookie trend continues.
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