Every year NHL fans from coast-to-coast fill with excitement at the thought of watching one of the many rookies turn into a legitimate NHL star.
Last season, we watched as Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (12th overall, 2008 NHL Entry Draft) dominated his position, posting 11 goals and 37 assists for a total of 48 points—distributing some vicious hits along the way!
New York Islanders rookie forward John Tavares, Colorado Avalanche rookie forward Matt Duchene, and Detroit Red Wings rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard, all had impressive seasons, leaving many NHL fans wanting more.
Luckily, the 2010-11 NHL season will feature a rookie class that is sure to give the likes of Myers, Duchene, Tavares and Howard a run for their money in the excitement, statistics and performance departments alike.
The NHL Hockey Operations Guide qualifies a “rookie” as follows:
“To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in 25 or more NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at ten rookies (in no particular order) you should have your eyes on this upcoming season—will your favorite prospect make the list?
If you watched Nazem Kadri play at the World Juniors last year and how he established himself as a go-to guy with the London Knights in the OHL, one thing is clear: all the talk about his compete level being inconsistent has been hushed.
After missing out on Brandon Wheat Kings center Brayden Schenn, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke had to “settle” for Kadri when Burke selected him seventh overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
No question about it, Maple Leaf fans and management alike would love to see this young super-star in the waiting in a Blue and White uniform next season, and they probably will.
Kadri, who stands 6’1" and weighs in at around 180 pounds, should be able to put on a little muscle over the summer, which should help him make the Leafs roster in 2010-11.
Make no mistake about it, Kadri has all the tools to be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL and, with the right linemates, will make a push for the Calder Trophy and rookie scoring lead.
If not for the dramatic goal tending from Jaroslav Halak, P.K. Subban-mania would have taken center stage in Montreal as the 21-year-old looked like a star in the making throughout his 14-game stint with the Montreal Canadians during the 2009-10 NHL Playoffs.
Through 14 playoff games with the Habs, Subban registered one goal, adding seven assists for eight points. More importantly, he was very good defensively, plays a physical game, and displayed the ability to rush the puck and compete down low.
Subban also had a very successful season with Montreal’s AHL affiliate—the Hamilton Bulldogs—where he registered 18 goals, 35 assists for a total of 53 points in 77 regular season games, adding another three goals and ten points in seven playoff games.
Subban, who was selected with the 43rd pick (second round) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, proved to everyone that he can be the Canadiens' go-to defenseman next season and should see plenty of minutes as a result.
Anyone who watched the World Junior tournament knows this kid has a penchant for big goals and a compete level that’s off the charts.
Taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Jordan Eberle dominated the Western Hockey League in 2009-10, posting 50 goals, 56 assists, for 106 points.
There’s not a team in the NHL who wouldn’t want to add Eberle to their prospect list. It says here, he has as good a chance as anyone to win the Calder, he may even be the front runner—especially when you consider he may be playing alongside Taylor Hall next season!
I gotta be honest here; I am not quite sure if John Carlson will qualify as a rookie for next season. Carlson has played a total of 22 regular season NHL games, plus eight more in last years playoffs.
If playoff games do not count, he’s in, if not, he’s out of the running.
Taken with the 27th pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Carlson has a huge offensive upside, plays with poise and has as good an outlet pass as anyone in the game.
Through 22 regular season games Carlson posted one goal and six points. He added another goal and four assists in seven playoff games and was a dominant force in the Capitals' first round series against the Montreal Canadians.
Playing for Leksands Idrottsforening in Sweden’s second highest League, Oliver Ekman-Larsson appears to be NHL ready.
Taken sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Ekman-Larsson is one of the best skaters of any of these prospects and is also blessed with tremendous offensive tools.
Through 42 games with Leksands IF, Ekman-Larsson registered nine goals and 18 assists, for a total of 27 points to go along with 98 penalty minutes, proving he loves to mix it up as well.
The Coyotes should be able to offer Ekman-Larsson a considerable amount of ice time next season, which should go a long way in determining if he has what it takes to be a serious Calder Trophy candidate.
Jacob Markstrom was taken in the second round (31st overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
He is a huge goaltender that takes up a ton of space between the pipes, standing 6'3" and weighing in at 180 pounds.
Word has it that the Florida Panthers are going to go into rebuild mode which means veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun may be on his way out of the sunshine state, sooner, rather than later.
If this is the case you can expect Markstrom to get a good long look as the Panthers go-to crease beast.
Given the state of the Panthers I am hesitant to suggest Markstrom will be in the running for the Calder Trophy, but he is highly touted.
Markstrom played in 43 games with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League, posting a 2.01 goals against average and a .927 save percentage—impressive numbers for the SEL, especially for a 20-year-old kid.
Let’s face it, Taylor Hall is going to play in the NHL next season, probably as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
While there are some concerns about his size (6’0", 180 pounds) there are no second thoughts about his compete level or scoring abilities, which are considerable.
Through three seasons as a member of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires Hall has amassed 123 goals and 157 assists for a total of 180 points in 183 career OHL games. Hall also added a total of 35 goals and 41 assists for a total of 76 points in 44 career playoff games.
Hall led the Windsor Spitfires to back-to-back Memorial Cup championships and is also the first player in OHL history to be selected MVP of the Memorial Cup.
If Hall does get selected by the Oilers he can expect to play as much as 18-20 minutes per game, including plenty of power play time.
No question, Hall will be many of the “experts” top choice to bring home the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Only time will tell if they will be right.
Much like Hall, there is little doubt that Tyler Seguin will be selected with one of the top two pick’s in this years NHL Entry Draft.
As it stands now, it appears as if Seguin will go second overall to the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are a playoff-ready team that, with the right acquisitions over the summer, could be a major threat to take home Lord Stanley’s Cup as early as the 2010-11 season.
The Bruins depth of talent at center (where Seguin plays) is well documented, which some feel may limit Seguin’s playing time if/when he makes the Bruins lineup next season.
Seguin, who stands 6’0", 170 pounds, is a tremendous physical specimen, who looks to have all the tools to be an offensive juggernaut and leader for whichever team selects him.
Coming off a season that saw him score 43 goals and 92 points as a member of the Ontario Hockey Leagues Brampton Battalion, Cody Hodgson was drafted tenth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Sidelined by a back injury for most of the 2009-10 season, Hodgson was limited to just 13 games with Brampton, scoring eight goals and 20 points in 13 regular season games with another three goals and ten points coming in 11 playoff games.
Blessed with size (6’0", 190 pounds), skill and decent speed, Hodgson has all the tools to be a legitimate candidate for the coveted Calder Trophy this season.
At just 5’9" and 165 pounds, Tyler Ennis, taken with the 26th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, is not the prototypical NHL-sized player.
Ennis had two straight 40 plus goal scoring season’s as a member of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, lighting the lamp 43 times in 2007-08 (through 70 games) and 43 times in 2008-09 (through 61 games)—talk about consistency!
Ennis spent the 2009-10 season with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League where he posted an impressive 65 points in 69 games, including 23 goals and also played ten regular season games with the Buffalo Sabres last season, scoring three goals and adding six assists for nine points.
Ennis also played in six playoff games for the Sabres, scoring one goal, adding three assists for four points.
In the limited time he has spent in the NHL Ennis has proven to be an offensive threat on the ice and has exhibited a tremendous compete level, which should serve him well going forward.
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Until next time,