NHL Power Rankings: The Top 15 Rookies This Season
Sometimes it's good drafting. Other times it's the luck of the draw.
But no matter how it happens, when a rookie has a fantastic start to a season, it's almost a bonus to any team.
You don't come into a season relying on your rookies to steal the show (unless you're the Edmonton Oilers), but when it happens, the team can only benefit.
And the GM looks like a genius.
This season through the first quarter, there have been plenty of rookies who have played great, but there are some who have played rather surprisingly.
It may be because they were drafted low and weren't expected to do much, or even make the team this year. Maybe, it's just a high pick playing more like a six-year veteran than a first-year kid.
With rookies playing so well, we are seeing the veterans either being pushed to the side, or pushed to play better or else suffer a demotion.
It's been fun so far.
Here are the top 15 rookies in the NHL in 2010-11.
Atlanta Thrashers: Alexander Burmistrov
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The Atlanta Thrashers have been one of the most surprising teams in the NHL this season. Figured to be among the basement dwellers, yet again this year, the club has come out flying and currently sits in a playoff spot in the East.
It's been a collective effort for the Thrashers this season, and one of the players who has chipped in is rookie Alexander Burmistrov.
The 19-year-old Russian had all the opportunity in the world to make the team this season, and jumped at the chance.
He's played great so far, with four goals and 12 points through 28 games.
He was selected eighth overall in this year's draft and, as a high pick, had expectations resting on his shoulders coming into the league.
Thus far, he's lived up to his billing and is making the Thrashers look good with their pick.
If the Thrashers hope to continues their great play, you can bet that the team will continue to look towards Burmistrov to contribute.
New York Islanders: Michael Grabner
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Not much has gone right for the New York Islanders this season, but one of the few things that has is Michael Grabner.
The 23-year-old Austrian rookie has been a bright spot for the team, having appeared in 21 games. He's scored six goals and nine points, and has been steady in all areas of the game.
While the team battles through injuries and struggles of their own, it has given Grabner the opportunity to get a bit more ice time to show what he's capable of doing.
Of late, he's come on and seems to be more comfortable now than he was at the start of the season, which is good news for those on Long Island, who need to start seeing some production if they plan on making some noise any time soon in the NHL.
New Jersey Devils: Mattias Tedenby
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Okay, so he's only played 12 games this season with the New Jersey Devils, but Mattias Tedenby has been impressive in his time with the NHL's most disappointing and overpaid team.
He has three goals and seven points during his short stint with the club, and is looking like he could find a permanent position on the club—even if that's because the Devils can't afford to pay anyone else.
The 20-year-old Swede looks like he's ready for full-time duty. On a team full of scorers, he seems to be fitting in just fine.
And without a salary that would buy some countries.
Or the Phoenix Coyotes.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mark Letestu
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For someone who plays the center position and is looking for a permanent spot on an NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins aren't exactly a team who needs much help in that area.
They happen to boast the best combination of centers in the NHL, so you can imagine how Mark Letestu felt when he was signed last season to play with the club.
But as Jordan Staal went down with injury, a spot opened up this season, and the undrafted Letestu took advantage of his opportunity.
The 25-year-old played 10 games with the club last season, recording one goal during his stay, but he's been anything but pedestrian this year.
He is going to make the Penguins do some serious decision making when Staal is healthy and ready to get back into the lineup.
Letestu has four goals and 12 points for the Eastern Conference leading Penguins, and has been a constant threat on the ice.
He's chipped in with two game-winning goals already, and while averaging over 14 minutes a game, has managed to prove he's NHL ready as far as he's concerned.
He's also 51.5% on faceoffs thus far, which is second-best for rookies. It wouldn't be too shabby if he were a veteran either.
When Staal comes back, time will tell whether he gets to stay on the club full time this season, but for now, Letestu is filling in just fine on one of the NHL's best teams.
Anaheim Ducks: Cam Fowler
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The Anaheim Ducks drafted Cam Fowler 12th overall in this year's draft, and since arriving on the NHL scene, the 19-year-old has looked right at home.
He's scored twice, adding 10 assists.
Though he's a woeful minus eight thus far in the year, the team is still trusting him enough to allow him to play just under 22 minutes a night, which is the second highest average for rookies.
He has played his way into a permanent spot on the roster, and Anaheim brass has been pleased with his play thus far.
Still, Fowler has been solid this season, and plus/minus is overrated anyway.
Washington Capitals: Michal Neuvirth
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Once again, the Washington Capitals are the most dangerous offensive team in the league this season.
And, once again they are not one of the most dangerous defensive teams in the league. Not even close.
It's a good thing they can score.
One of the brightest spots on the club this season is their rookie goaltender, Michal Neuvirth.
He has won 12 of the 21 games he's played, and has a .909 SV% and a 2.66 GAA.
The 22-year-old Czech Republic native was the Capitals second round pick (34th overall) in the 2006 Draft and has come in and played admirably thus far in the year.
He's also the only rookie goalie to record a shutout this season, as he did on Oct. 27 against Carolina, making 29 saves.
He's been better than expected in Washington so far, but if the team wants to shed their label as a playoff bust, he'll have to maintain his great play well past the regular season.
And only time will tell whether that's too much to ask of the rookie.
Buffalo Sabres: Tyler Ennis
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You may not have noticed Tyler Ennis much this season, and not because he's been struggling. The 21-year-old stands just 5'9", 157 pounds.
We're talking Gary Bettman numbers here. Yet, the Sabres 26th overall pick in 2008 has been anything but small to start the year. If anything, his size has made him hard to catch for the opponent.
He's got six goals and 14 points so far, and has shown no signs of having trouble with bigger, stronger players that he's forced to go up against every night.
Ennis plays big, and the Sabres could not be happier.
He is playing over 15 minuter per game, and on a team that has plenty of veteran forwards, that's a pretty impressive feat in your first season in the NHL, especially at his size.
It will be interesting to see how he fares later in the season, when the travel and tough schedule can catch up to younger, smaller players, but for now, Ennis has fit right in the Sabres offense.
He is another player proving size doesn't matter.
Colorado Avalanche: Kevin Shattenkirk-
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That's right, Kevin Shattenkirk.
Remember the name.
Colorado's 14th overall pick in the 2007 Draft has quite simply been the best rookie defenseman in the NHL this season, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.
In his past five games he has two goals and six assists.
His four goals and 14 points, through 15 games is impressive, especially for a defender. If he can keep it up, he'll certainly be a lock on the Avalanche blue line for years to come.
He's tied for sixth in rookie scoring.
He wasn't thought to even have a spot on the team this season, but he came up and made the most of his opportunity. So much so, it's hard to see them sending him back down.
How could they?
The Avalanche are one of the best up-and-coming teams in the league, and this is just another example of a draft pick gone right for the club.
There are other teams who must look at them and shake their collective heads. The Avs are doing it right, and Shattenkirk is the next example of that.
New York Rangers: Derek Stepan
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It didn't take long for Derek Stepan to make a name for himself in the NHL, as in the first game of his career, he potted a hat-trick.
Not bad for your first career game.
Three shots. Three goals.
Nothing to it.
Though he has only scored three times since that night in Buffalo, Stepan has still been impressive thus far with six goals and 16 points through 29 games.
The 20-year-old was drafted in 2008 in the second round, 51st overall.
He's another one of those players who may not have been expected to make the club this year, but has performed at a high enough level to continue to have plane rides to games, instead of taking the bus.
It doesn't hurt when you have an opening night like he did.
Shame too because it doesn't get much better than that.
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall. You may have heard of him.
The 19-year-old was part of one of the most talked about draft years in memory, in the ever popular Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin debate that went back-and-forth as to who would be selected first overall in this year's draft.
Hall, as you know, was eventually selected first by the Oilers, and has been with the club ever since.
His much anticipated career started out extremely slow, while many rookies around him (and on his team) started to shine in the spotlight, and Hall plodded along, struggling to score and find his place on the team.
Well, we can safely say that his struggles are over and that he's found his place on the team—a place that lately has been on the score sheet.
Hall currently has nine goals (second in rookie goals) and 15 points through 26 games. He has also started to show his superstar potential, already with two overtime goals this season.
Both on Hockey Night in Canada in front of a national audience.
He was already used to big crowds and big expectations, but as all of Edmonton knows now, the kid has been worth the wait.
The struggles seem to be over, and as Oiler fans take a collective sigh of relief, they now get to sit back and enjoy.
Washington Capitals: John Carlson
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Many believed that the "next in line" on defense, for the Washington Capitals, was up-and-coming defender Karl Alzner (fifth overall pick in 2007), but this season, it's looking like rookie John Carlson has moved up on the blue line depth chart.
Carlson leads all rookies this year in plus/minus, with a plus seven, while averaging over 22 minutes per game (which is the most for any rookie).
He's appeared in all 29 Capital games this season and has been nothing but impressive.
His 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) is second-best for rookie defensemen, and has been clutch as well, with two game-winning goals.
He scored the Gold Medal winning goal in the World Junior Hockey Championships last season, and many felt as if that moment would be the best in Carlson's hockey career.
If he can continue his great play right on through the season and into the playoffs, he could be a key member of a Washington team that finds themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals in June.
Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Eberle
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Before his NHL career even began, Jordan Eberle was a national hero in Canada for his repeated clutch performances in the World Junior Hockey Championships.
He was known world-wide as a serious big game performer, but many felt that his NHL career would be less spectacular.
Well, those who felt his great play wouldn't carry over to the NHL have been taken a back seat, as Eberle has arguably been the best of the Oilers three-headed rookie monster this season.
His five goals and 18 points are tied for second in the rookie scoring race, and his first career goal was one that will be talked about as the goal of the year.
He was used to making headlines as a junior player, and he's continued the trend with the big boys too.
The Oilers took him 22nd overall in 2008 and hoped that he would find his place in the NHL.
This season he succeeded and has been nothing short of impressive, making it difficult for the team to send him back to the minors.
He's also chipped in as a useful penalty killer, scoring two shorthanded goals already this year.
It was only right that Eberle was drafted to a Canadian team, and now he continues to get the crowd out of their seats with highlight reel goals and plays that make him look more like a veteran, and less like the 20-year-old he is.
Philadelphia Flyers: Sergei Bobrovsky
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Okay, we knew the Philadelphia Flyers came into the season without the most stable goalie, but it would be safe to say that not many expected this to happen.
Sergei Bobrovsky was introduced to the NHL scene this season, after spending the past two years in the KHL.
He wasn't even drafted, and yet the Flyers picked him up and inserted him into the lineup, in hopes that he could fill the void and steal some games for the club.
Well, he may have started the year as an unknown, but after appearing in 21 games thus far, he's a household name around the league.
Not only has he been stable in between the pipes for the Flyers, but he has put up some of the best numbers of any goalie this year.
His 14 wins are the third-most in the league, while his 2.21 GAA and .925 SV% are both seventh ranked.
The 22-year-old Russian is certainly in early talks of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, but you have to think that if the Vezina Trophy was up for grabs today, he would be in the running for a nomination.
The Flyers sure hope his stellar play can continue throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs because, after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals last season to the Chicago Blackhawks, you know the players are itching to get back and finish on top this time around.
San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture
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Though he played in 25 games for the San Jose Sharks last season (five goals, nine points), Logan Couture is still considered a rookie for the club this season, and there has been no doubt that he's in the running for rookie of the year honours.
Couture is number one in goals for rookies, with 12 through 26 games, and his 18 points is second amongst first-year players.
There is no doubt that he is finally ready for a full-time role in the NHL, and he may end up being more of an offensive threat than the Sharks may have originally thought.
His numbers aren't only impressive in the rookie rankings, but on his own teams as well.
Couture has some of the most dangerous teammates in the league when it comes to scoring, but he ranks second on the team, one goal behind the lethal Dany Heatley and one more than 40-plus scorer Patrick Marleau.
He's made it impossible on the Sharks to have him anywhere but on the big club, and if he keeps up his incredible scoring pace, he could finish among the league's best in that category.
The 21-year-old is having the perfect start to his NHL career—scoring lots while on a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
In Logan Couture's world, things can't get much better.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner
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If you haven't heard about Jeff Skinner this season, you live under a rock.
The 18-year-old has taken the league by storm this season and is the early front-runner as the Calder Trophy winner.
The Markham, Ontario native has eight goals and 20 points through 26 games, which is number one in the NHL for rookies.
He was taken seventh overall in the 2010 NHL Draft and expected to be a solid player for the Hurricanes for years to come, but not many thought he would be this good, this fast.
He is averaging just over 16 minutes of ice time each night, and though he's only played 26 career games, some nights it has come down to the kids talent to win games for the club.
In all likelihood, he'll eventually slow down. If the rookie is able to stay at the current pace and end the season with 70+ points, it'll be a huge boost to Carolina's playoff hopes.