NHL's Top Rookies: Not What We Expected

G MONContributor INovember 25, 2008

The NHL rookie race this season has not been what fans expected. It has been the no-name rookies who have been lighting it up. We are a quarter way through the season and the candidates for the Calder Trophy are not who we expected.

The biggest shock has been the first overall, highly anticipated forward Steven Stamkos.

As of right now, Stamkos wouldn't even be on the ballot for rookie of the year. Stamkos has played 20 games with only two goals and seven points and averaging a dismal 13:31 of ice time per game.

We have had the privilege the past three years of seeing star-studded rookies tear up the league at an unbelievable pace. The past three Calder Trophy winners have been Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin, who are all now considered the NHL's elite.

Other top rookies the past three seasons have included Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Toews, Paul Stastney, Jordan Staal, Anze Kopitar, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Thomas Vanek, and the list goes on.

So why is it that this years top rookies are not common household names? Has the young talent started to diminish?

I would say the complete opposite, the fact that the top rookies this year were mostly no-names shows how much young talent the NHL is developing. Here is my list of the top five rookies so far this season:

5. Mikhail Grabovski (TOR)

Grabovski was drafted 150th overall by Montreal in 2004, only to be cut from their starting roster. Toronto picked him up in a trade with Montreal that sent Greg Pateryn and Toronto's second round choice in the 2009 draft. Grabovski currently leads all rookies with nine goals and is third among all rookies with 14 points.

4. Derick Brassard (CBJ)

Brassard is probably the best prospect on a young, talent filled Columbus team. He is second among all rookies with 19 points including eight goals.

3. Steve Mason (CBJ)

Mason got his chance when starting goalie Pascal Leclaire went down with an ankle injury. In his short career as a starter, he has a record of 4-1 with one shutout, .913 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA.

If he keeps up the stellar net minding he can very well become the starter in Columbus. Mason was drafted 69th overall in the 2006 draft.

2. Kris Versteeg (CHI)

Another low draft pick, Versteeg was the 134th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Boston Bruins. He was traded to Chicago in 2007 and has found his groove playing with the young, talented Blackhawks. Versteeg leads all rookies with 20 points and has added seven goals.

1. Drew Doughty (LA)

The one player who has lived up to expectations. Doughty was the second overall pick in this years draft and has played to his full potential.

He has three goals, seven points and leads all rookies with 24 minutes of ice time per game. The Kings are only two points behind the last playoff spot and if they do get in, Doughty will be a big part of it.