We've Come So Far: Top 20 Players from the 2005-2006 NHL Rookie Class

Alison MyersCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2010

We've Come So Far: Top 20 Players from the 2005-2006 NHL Rookie Class

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    Five years ago, the NHL returned to a full season schedule after a lockout canceled the entire 2004-2005 season.

    When the puck dropped again, a lot of high level talents began play in the NHL.

    This slideshow will take rank the top 20 players in the NHL today that made their full season debut during the 2005-2006 season. Players were ranked based on how their careers have fared since coming into the league.

    The only eligibility rule for this list is that players had to play the whole season in the NHL. So for example, a player who played 30 games in the AHL in 2005-2006 would not be eligible for this list.

    As always, feel free to agree, disagree, or leave another form of feedback.

No. 20: Jeff Carter, Center, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Carter joined the Flyers after spending time with their AHL affiliate, then conveniently located across the street at the Wachovia Spectrum.

    In his first season, he led all Flyers rookies in scoring with 42 points (23+19). He dropped off in 2006-2007 and put up only 37 points, but he rebounded the next two years. He had 84 points in 2008-2009 and was named to the 2009 NHL All-Star Game.

    This season, Carter finished with 61 points in 74 games. He scored six game winning goals, which put him in 10th in the NHL in that category. He also had seven points as the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in over 10 years.

No. 19: Cam Ward: Goaltender, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Although Ward had a 14-8-2 record with a .882 save percentage and 3.68 GAA in the regular season, he really turned his game around in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his rookie season.

    He posted a 15-8 record with a .920 save percentage and a 2.14 GAA. He also had two shutouts as the Hurricanes eventually defeated the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup. His performance earned him the 2006 Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP.

    Since the Canes' Stanley Cup run, Ward has continued to be consistent in the regular season. His save percentage has improved every regular season. During his last playoff run in 2008-2009, he had a record of 8-10 with a .915 save percentage and 2.67 GAA. He had six shutouts during that regular season.

    Ward suffered a leg injury after being cut with a skate this past season. However, he still managed a record of 39-23-5 with a .916 save percentage and 2.69 GAA.

    If Carolina had had more playoff success in recent years, Ward would probably rank a little higher on this list.

No. 18: Dion Phaneuf: Defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Phaneuf started his career playing four and a half seasons with the Calgary Flames. In his rookie year, he had 49 points and a plus-nine rating in 82 games.

    He improved his totals the next two seasons, scoring 50 and 60 points with a plus-10 and a plus-12 rating in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, respectively.

    Phaneuf struggled in 2008-2009, posting just 11 goals, his lowest goal scoring total to date in his career. He also had a career worst minus-11. Although his teammates defended his performance, many began to think Phaneuf was overrated and wasn't committed to playing a strong defensive game.

    After being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010, Phaneuf finished the season with 32 points and a plus-one rating. He was named an alternate captain of the Leafs after playing just nine games in the blue and white. In June, it was announced that he will be the 18th team captain in Maple Leafs history.

    Phaneuf has been nominated for two NHL awards during his career. He lost the 2006 Calder Trophy to Alexander Ovechkin and lost the 2008 Norris Trophy to Nicklas Lidstrom.

     

     

No. 17: Thomas Vanek, Left Wing, Buffalo Sabres

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    Vanek has scored at least 40 points every year since he joined the NHL. His best seasons were in 2008 and 2009 where he finished each year with 64 points.

    Prior to joining the NHL, Vanek was the highest draft pick in Austrian hockey history. He was taken fifth overall by the Sabres in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. 

    His performance in the 2008-2009 season earned him a trip to the 2009 NHL All-Star Game. He also had four consecutive natural hat tricks that season and led the NHL with 20 power play goals.

    Vanek finished the 2009-2010 season with 53 points and a plus-nine rating. He also had three points in three playoff games.

No. 16: Christian Ehrhoff: Defenseman, Vancouver Canucks

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    Ehrhoff spent the first four years of his NHL career with the San Jose Sharks. His best offensive season in San Jose came in 2008-2009 where he had 42 points. However, he had a minus-12 rating.

    Therefore, it can be argued that his best defensive season was his rookie year where he posted a plus-10 rating. But at the same time, he posted 23 points, which isn't one of his best offensive seasons.

    Since joining the Canucks this year, Ehrhoff has improved his game again. He finished the 2009-2010 season with 44 points and a plus-36, which was fifth in the NHL.

    Ehrhoff is a three time Olympian with the German hockey team, but has had little success on the international stage. He led the team in ice time in the 2010 tournament and had two points in five games in 2006. However, Germany did not even make it to the quarterfinals in either tournament.

No. 15: Brooks Orpik: Defenseman, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Since starting his NHL career with nine points and a minus-three rating in 64 games, Orpik has improved his game every year since. That includes posting a positive plus/minus rating in four out of five seasons. His best plus/minus was a plus-11 in 2007-2008.

    Meanwhile, Orpik had his best offensive season this year, when he posted 25 points and a plus-six rating.

    Orpik has been an alternate captain on two separate occasions for the Penguins. He replaced Sergei Gonchar as an alternate captain in 2008-2009 when Gonchar was out with a shoulder injury. He is likely a strong candidate to have the title again in the upcoming season.

    Orpik also competed in the 2010 Olympics and helped Team USA to a silver medal.

No. 14: Patrick Sharp: Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Sharp started his career with the Philadelphia Flyers. In 22 games in his rookie season, he posted eight points and a plus-four rating before being traded to the Blackhawks. He played 50 games with Chicago and finished the year with 31 points in 72 games.

    Sharp went on to score at least 30 points in the next three seasons. He had a big breakout year in 2009-2010 with 66 points and a plus-24 rating in the regular season. In the playoffs, he had 22 points and was ranked fifth in postseason scoring. His 11 goals were ranked third and his plus-10 rating was also third among NHL postseason participants.

    He served as an alternate captain for the Hawks this season. Although his name was mentioned in some trade rumors earlier in the offseason, he looks to be staying in Chicago for now.

No. 13: Mike Richards: Center, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Richards, the current Flyers captain, made his debut at the same time as teammate Jeff Carter. He had 34 points and a plus-six rating in 79 games in the 2005-2006 season. In the 2007-2008 season, his 75 point year earned him a spot in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game.

    He ended the 2009-2010 regular season with 62 points and a minus-two rating in 82 games. He was ranked sixth in the NHL in power play goals scored, posting 13. During the playoffs, he was fourth in total points (23 points in 23 games) and fourth in assists with 16.

    Richards was also a member of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team that won the gold medal. He scored five points in seven games to help Canada win the tournament.

No. 12: Ryan Kesler: Center, Vancouver Canucks

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    Kesler has been with the Canucks his entire NHL career.

    After dropping to 16 points in 2006-2007 when he had 23 points his rookie year, Kesler picked up his game every season for the next three years. This season, he had the best offensive performance of his career, posting 75 points in 82 games.

    He has been a finalist for the Selke Trophy for the best defensive forward in 2009 and 2010, but he lost to Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings each year. He has also appeared in all 82 Canucks games in three out of five of his NHL seasons.

    Kesler was a key member of the 2010 USA Olympic Team. In addition to scoring a goal in the gold medal game, he also scored an empty net goal as the USA defeated Canada 5-3 in a preliminary round game.He finished the tournament with two points in six games.

    He was an alternate captain for the Canucks this season and signed a six year contract extension in March.

No. 11: Ilya Bryzgalov: Goaltender, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Bryzgalov started his NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks. He played in 31 games in his rookie season and posted a record of 13-12-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.51 GAA. 

    The next season, he had a 10-8-6 record and improved his GAA to.2.47. He also got to play a minor role in the Ducks' Stanley Cup win in 2007. In Jean-Sebastien Giguere's absence, he went 3-1 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.25 GAA.

    Bryzgalov is a three time Olympian. He has represented Russia in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 tournaments. Russia won a bronze medal in 2002, finished fourth in 2006, and sixth in 2010.

    Despite Russia's dismal performance this year, Bryzgalov got to play in one game in the Olympics. He had a 1.78 GAA and .942 save percentage.

    This season, he had a record of 42-20-6 with a .920 save percentage, good enough for ninth in the NHL. His 2.29 GAA was sixth in the NHL, and he had eight shutouts to rank second among goaltenders. His 42 wins were ranked third.

    In his first playoff appearance since 2007, he had a 3-4 record with a .906 save percentage and 3.44 GAA.

No. 10: Johan Franzen: Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings

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    Franzen has had at least 30 points in three out of his five seasons with Detroit.

    After putting up 16 points in his rookie year, Franzen got better for the next three years after. His best season was in 2008-2009 when he had 59 points and a plus-21 rating.

    Although his playing time was limited this year due to injury, he posted a respectable 21 points and a plus-one rating in the 27 games he was able to play in.

    He made up for missing the regular season with a big playoff moment in the Western Conference Semifinals.

    In Game Four against San Jose, Franzen scored four goals and added two assists for a six point game and helped the Red Wings avoid elimination from the playoffs. That night, he set a franchise record for most points in a playoff game.

    Franzen, along with teammate Henrik Zetterberg, holds a Red Wings record for most playoff goals in a single posteason; scoring 13 goals in 2007-2008. He also broke Gordie Howe's record for most game winning goals in one month, putting up six game winners in March 2008.

    He also represented Sweden in the 2010 Olympics, where he had two points in four games.

     

No. 9: Brent Seabrook: Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Even if Seabrook doesn't initially look like an outstanding player at first, he has truly become a reliable defenseman since coming on to the scene in 2005-2006.

    In five NHL seasons, he has had four seasons where he scored more than 20 points and a positive plus/minus rating in four out of five years.

    Seabrook improved on his 2008-2009 point totals this season, posting 30 points, as opposed to his 26 from 2008-2009.

    In the playoffs, he almost matched his productivity from the year before. He had 12 points and an even rating in 2008-2009. However, this year, he had 11 points and a plus-eight in 22 playoff games. His plus-eight rating was ranked ninth in NHL postseason statistics.

    Seabrook was the seventh defenseman on Team Canada for this year's Olympics. He had one assist in seven games as Canada won the gold.

No. 8: Mike Cammalleri: Left Wing, Montreal Canadiens

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    In my opinion, Cammalleri is one of the most underrated players in the NHL, if not the most.

    Cammalleri has spent his five year career with the Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames, and Montreal Canadiens. He has put up more than 40 points every year and had two seasons where he posted more than 80 points. He had 80 points with the Kings in 2006-2007 and 82 points with the Flames in 2008-2009.

    He posted 50 points and a plus-seven rating in the regular season this year, but he really opened up in the playoffs. His 19 points were ranked eighth in the NHL, and his 13 goals were first among all postseason participants. He also finished fifth with four power play goals and third with three game winning goals.

    Cammalleri also joined the elite company of Montreal legends such as Guy Lafleur and Rocket Richard in this year's playoffs. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Penguins, Cammalleri had seven goals during the seven game series.

    He also had two hat tricks this season and scored Montreal's 20,000th franchise goal.

No. 7: Duncan Keith: Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Like many of the other players on this list, Keith has improved every year since joining the NHL.

    He posted 21 points and a minus-11 rating in 2005-2006 and eventually rose up to have an outstanding year in 2009-2010, posting 69 points and a plus-21 rating.

    It is also worth noting that he has only missed six regular season games in his entire career.

    During the playoffs, he had 17 points in 22 games and was ranked fifth in assists with 15.

    His performance during the season earned him his first Norris Trophy for the NHL's outstanding defenseman.

    Keith was a member of the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team. He had six assists and led Canada in ice time on their way to a gold medal over Team USA.

No. 6: Mikko Koivu: Center, Minnesota Wild

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    Koivu has scored at least 40 points in four out of his five seasons in the NHL. He had his best season this past year when he had 71 points in 80 games. That was an improvement from his 2008-2009 season, where he had 67 points in 79 games.

    Koivu was an alternate captain for the Wild in 2008-2009 and even served as a captain before being replaced by Kim Johnsson. However, early this season, he was named the first permanent captain in Wild history. Before that, the captaincy had been rotated among a set amount of players.

    He is a two time Olympic medalist, winning a silver with Finland in the 2006 Olympics and a bronze medal in 2010. He has medals from every international tournament he has participated in, a total of 10 medals (one gold, five silver, and four bronze).

    He also holds a Wild franchise record for most assists in a game. He had a four assist game on October 16, 2008 against the Florida Panthers.

No. 5: Ryan Miller: Goaltender, Buffalo Sabres

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    When Miller moved up to the NHL permanently in 2005-2006, he earned his way into the starting goaltender role that had previously been occupied by Martin Biron. He played 48 games and finished with a record of 30-14-3 with a .914 save percentage and 2.60 GAA. 

    The Sabres went to the Easter Conference Finals that year. Although they were eventually defeated by the Carolina Hurricanes, Miller played solid for a rookie goaltender. He had a 2.56 GAA and a .908 save percentage to go with his record of 11-7.

    This year, he earned his first Vezina Trophy after posting a 2.22 GAA and a.929 save percentage along with a 41-18-8 record. His 41 wins were fourth among NHL goaltenders, while his GAA and save percentage were both ranked second.

    He also played in his first Olympic games in Vancouver after serving as an alternate in 2006. He ended up putting the underdog Americans on his back as the team jumped out to a 5-0 record to start the tournament. Although Team USA ended up losing the gold medal game, Miller was named the MVP of the tournament after posting a .946 save percentage and 1.35 GAA. He was also named the tournament's Best Goaltender.

No. 4: Henrik Lundqvist: Goaltender, New York Rangers

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    Despite the Rangers' struggles, Lundqvist has set himself apart as one of the NHL's elite goaltenders.

    In his rookie season, he played 53 games and put up a 30-12-9 record with a 2.24 GAA and .922 save percentage. He also won the gold medal with Sweden in the 2006 Olympics, where he had a 5-1 record and a .907 save percentage.

    Lundqvist was named to his first NHL All-Star Game in the 2008-2009 season. He had a 2.43 GAA and a .916 save percentage that year.

    Lundqvist was again named to the Swedish Olympic team this year. Although Sweden lost in the quarterfinals, he again put in a solid performance. He had a 2-1 record with a .927 save percentage and 1.34 GAA.

    He has been nominated for the Vezina trophies three times in his career in 2006, 2007, and 2008. He lost to Mikka Kiprusoff of Calgary in 2006 and to Martin Brodeur in 2007 and 2008.

    Although the Rangers have not had a lot of postseason success in Lundqvist's time on Broadway, he still holds numerous records. He holds the Rangers record for most wins in a season by a rookie goaltender after winning 30 games in 2005-2006. He is also the second NHL goaltender to have three straight 30-win season to start his career and is the only NHL goalie in history to have five straight 30 win seasons in the first five years of his career.

    You have to think that someday, Lundqvist will get his due and lift the Stanley Cup.

No. 3: Zach Parise: Left Wing, New Jersey Devils

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    Parise has scored at least 60 points in four out of his five NHL seasons. His best season came in 2008-2009 where he had 94 points and a plus-30 rating. He was the third leading goal scorer that year with 45 goals, while his point total was ranked fifth.

    This season, he had 82 points, the 15th highest total in the league. His 38 goals were ninth in the NHL.

    Although the Devils have struggled in the playoffs in recent years, he is still steady in the postseason. He has had at least five points in three out of five postseason runs. His best playoff point total was 10 points in 2006-2007.

    Parise made his first Olympic appearance this year. He had eight points in six games and finished third in Olympic scoring. He was responsible for the game tying goal in the gold medal game that sent the USA and Canada to overtime.

    He is also an alternate captain for the Devils.

    Here is the crucial goal Parise scored in the Olympics:

     

No. 2: Alexander Ovechkin: Left Wing, Washington Capitals

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    Ovechkin, the first overall draft pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, was initially supposed to begin play in the 2004-2005 NHL season. But we all know why he didn't...

    Ovechkin won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2006 after finishing first in rookie scoring with 106 points and third overall  in the NHL. He bested Penguins star forward Sidney Crosby for the trophy and beat his points total with 102.

    In 2008, he pulled in four NHL awards, winning the Art Ross Trophy, the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award, and the Hart Memorial Trophy. He finished the 2007-2008 season with 65 goals and 112 points, both of which led the NHL.

    He repeated as the Hart Trophy, Pearson, and Richard Trophy winner in 2009 after posting 56 goals and 110 points. This season, he took home another Pearson award and is the only player to win that trophy three times.

    Ovechkin is third in Capitals history in career goals scored with 269 and seventh in career points with 529 points and is the current Capitals captain. 

No. 1: Sidney Crosby: Center, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    If you didn't know who the top two would be in this countdown, go back under your rock now.

    Call me biased here, but postseason success is the main reason why I put Crosby as the top player on this list.

    Crosby is currently the youngest captain in the NHL. He took over leadership of the Penguins when he was just 19 years old and succeeded Mario Lemieux.

    In his rookie year, Crosby broke two of Lemieux's franchise records for points by a rookie with 102 and assists by a rookie with 63. He is also the youngest player to record more than 100 points in a season and two consecutive 100 point seasons.

    After losing the Calder Trophy to Alexander Ovechkin in 2006, Crosby won the Art Ross Trophy in 2007 after posting 120 points. He became the youngest player to win the award and also won the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award.

    In 2009, he helped the Penguins to the Stanley Cup and had 19 points in 13 playoff games. He was the youngest captain in NHL history to lift the Cup.

    Crosby participated in his first Olympics this year. He was an alternate captain for Team Canada at various points of the tournament and scored the gold medal winning goal in overtime of the final game.

    In 81 regular season games with Pittsburgh this year, he finished with 109 points and won his first Rocket Richard Trophy after posting 51 goals. He tied with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning to share the award.

    Crosby has also been named to three straight NHL All-Star Games from 2007-2009, but could only play in the 2007 game due to injury the other two years.

    Check out Crosby's goal that won Canada the gold medal:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_koQujQ8Vg

    (Sorry for not embedding this...couldn't find a video that would let me do it.)