One segment of the NHL landscape that doesn't get enough attention is the rise and fall of the young players. The media love to talk about the stars or the daily soap opera headlines, but the future of the game is right in front of them.
More than ever, young players are establishing themselves as the foundation of the league, and it is an unprecedented time in the NHL.
Let's take a look at which freshmen are making their mark this week.
Kyle Wilson might not be a player many people know, but he is quietly having an excellent start to his rookie campaign. Slated as a depth center, Wilson has stepped into the Blue Jackets lineup and been a solid two-way player. He scored his fourth goal of the season this week and is a plus-two on the year despite playing a checking role.
The Avalanche organization was hoping that Kevin Shattenkirk would make the team out of training camp due to the questions they have on defense, but he was the first call-up due to injury this year and he has played well in his first week as a pro.
Coaches trusted him with an average of 20 minutes of ice time in three games, and he didn't look out of place. He looks poised and ready to go, which is a far cry from his training camp. The future is bright for this youngster.
If you look on the back of Ekman-Larsson's jersey it is not going to say Hall or Seguin or Eberle, but don't let that fool you. This kid is the real deal. He put up two assists this week and is playing in important situations for the Coyotes. Their season might not have the magical feel that it did last year, but Ekman-Larsson is a magical talent. I don't think I've ever called a player magical before, but I can make an exception for this rookie. He's headed for big things.
When Joe Thornton got suspended this week, no one on the Sharks organization were worried about a drop-off. This confidence is attributable to the play of Logan Couture.
I had thought that he was ineligible for the Calder because he played 25 games last year, but he apparently had to play one more to lose his rookie status. With a goal and an assist this week, Couture proved that he can handle top-six minutes. If an injury ever happens to Thornton or Pavelski, this kid will really shine.
P.K. Subban might not have the points to justify this ranking, but if you watched him play this week you wouldn't know that he was a rookie. He plays with confidence, poise and a swagger that you can't teach. He makes crisp outlet passes, quarterbacks the power play, and has a flair for the dramatic.
He's also not afraid to lay the body and has quickly become a mainstay on the Canadiens defense.
John Carlson is one rookie that might stay on this list all season long.
He chipped in another goal and assist this week and continues to be trusted in key situations. He logs big minutes, plays the power play, and kill penalties. Did I mention that he's only 20 years old?
After what Tyler Myers did last year, what Carlson is doing might not seem so impressive, but let me make this clear: Young defensemen aren't supposed to be this good, this fast. His development is fun to watch.
Carlson's Capitals teammate Michal Neuvirth is another Calder candidate that might be on this list all season. He chalked up another two wins this week, putting him in a tie for the league lead.
He might not be playing as hot as he was to begin the season, but he's making key stops when the game is on the line. A certain Hall of Famer was known for the same thing: Grant Fuhr.
I admit that I didn't know much about Brad Marchand coming into this season, but when you put up a goal and three assists in a week as a rookie, I'm going to notice.
This freshman is known for being an energy winger, but he'll be known for a lot more than that if he keeps up this production.
By the way, I think Boston is doing just fine in the scoring department this season. With rookies like Seguin and Marchand playing the way they are, it's no wonder why.
I have been tracking the rising stars of the league all season long, and I got a lot of slack for leaving Bobrovsky off the list each time. Well, the people have spoken and he not only makes the list, he's No. 2.
Bobrovsky put up two more wins this week and lost a close one in overtime against the high-powered Caps. It is nothing short of amazing what this 22-year-old has been able to do this year. He has come out of nowhere to take over the starting job and if he's only close to this good the rest of the way then fans in Philly might want to start planning a parade route soon.
Another player who I have left off my lists this year is Jeff Skinner. With an amazing 15 points in 15 games, I cannot ignore him any longer.
This week, he was red-hot with three goals and four assists, and is promptly placed at the top of the heap. The only thing more amazing than his production is his age. Eighteen-year-olds shouldn't be this good, but he is.
We'll see how long he can go before he hits the rookie wall, but for now he's got the inside track on the coveted Calder Trophy.