Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 7 Rookies Who Will Come Up Big This Season
There are a number of rookies who are ready to make an impact on the league this year. Some are fresh out of the draft, while others were drafted some time ago and have finally cracked an NHL roster, ready to do some damage for their team.
Last year's rookie class was very strong, featuring the likes of Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand, P.K. Subban and John Carlson.
It seemed like a race all season for who was going to grab the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
Let's take a look at this year's rookie class and the seven best it has to offer.
Craig Smith (Nashville)
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Craig Smith is already making a big difference for the Nashville Predators.
This kid was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 entry draft (98th overall). He finished up his college career playing for the University of Wisconsin before moving down to Tennessee to make his NHL debut this fall.
Thus far this season, Smith has three goals and five assists in 10 games. That's good for second in team scoring. For a team that needed a little bit more depth and skill at the position of forward, Craig Smith is a great addition.
Thomas Greiss (San Jose)
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Although Thomas Greiss has backstopped the Sharks for a few games already, he did not play enough games for the 2009-2010 season to qualify as a full season. Thus, this is his rookie year.
After seeing ice all over—from the ECHL all the way on up to the NHL—during the past five or so years, Greiss may finally be ready to make a difference for the San Jose Sharks, who drafted him in the third round way back in the 2004 draft.
So far this season, Greiss has two wins and two losses. Even though he is only playing at .500 in this short season to boot, the German netminder has a .917 save percentage (the same as the man he watches from the bench, Antti Niemi) and a 2.26 GAA.
San Jose will benefit from having a good backup standing behind Antti Niemi.
Sean Couturier (Philadelphia)
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Taken eighth overall in this past summer's draft, Sean Couturier is playing solid hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers so far and is sure to be a difference maker for them for years to come.
The youngster has only posted four points (2G, 2A) so far this season but through 11 games, he is a plus-five.
Sean had great offensive success in Juniors but what he is best at is his defensive play. He always had high plus/minus ratings in the QMJHL and he is off to a good start for Philly in the NHL. He has already seen a ton of time on the penalty kill and fits well into Philadelphia's hard-working, grind-it-out system. He's also a pretty big kid and isn't afraid to lay the body.
Couturier is an excellent addition to the Flyers' roster and will be a difference maker in the City of Brotherly Love this year.
Luke Adam (Buffalo)
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Luke Adam was the Buffalo Sabres second-round choice in 2008. After being drafted, Adam returned returned to Juniors for two years before splitting time between the NHL and AHL last season.
He did not play enough games last season to constitute a rookie season and so he makes his rookie debut in 2011-2012.
Ten games into the season, Adam has been good for three goals, six assists and nine points. He is seeing lots of ice with a good amount coming on the man-advantage and will continue to see lots of ice-team is he keeps up the 20-goal, 70-point rate he is playing at right now.
He currently sits at third place in Buffalo's scoring charts, behind just Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek.
Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado)
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The 18-year-old second-overall pick in 2011 has not failed to impress through 11 games.
Gabriel Landeskog brings some great scoring touch and talent to the Colorado Avalanche roster. Although Colorado's roster is young, Landeskog and the Avs have been doing well so far this season—especially on the offensive side of the puck.
The young Swede is sitting in fifth place in rookie scoring with seven points (4G, 3A). He also has a big body that he's not afraid to throw around. Landeskog has recorded 26 hits already, good for third among rookies.
Landeskog is going to be a big part of Colorado's promising future.
Jacob Markstrom (Florida)
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Another Swede making an impact this year is Florida's Jacob Markstrom.
The goaltender was taken 31st overall in the 2008 draft. He stayed over in Sweden to play for a few more years before making the move down to the Sunshine State to begin his NHL career.
As exhibited in the picture, this guy is huge. How many goaltenders are 6'6" and can say that they are as tall as the net when they are in the butterfly? Well, Markstrom can. This kid really fills the net and whenever he plays in relief of Jose Theodore, he can give Florida's hockey club a great chance to win.
Not only is Markstrom big, but he's also quick. Combine his net-filling, monstrous size and his great skill and agility and you get a whooping .945 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA.
This guy is a great addition for Florida, who looked like they were in trouble when Tomas Vokoun decided to move north.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton)
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Who else could it be? No rookie is making a bigger difference than Edmonton's 2011 first-overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Nugent-Hopkins is leading all rookies—and the Oilers—in scoring with 11 points (5G, 6A).
This kid is another great addition to Edmonton's young but stacked roster. He is using his great speed and skill to make a dent in the league for his team early on in his young career. He is sure to be a superstar within the next few years, if not this year.
Ryan is, as of now, on pace for 37 goals and 82 points.
It would make him the hands-down, no-questions-asked recipient of the Calder Trophy if he were to keep up this pace. But even if he doesn't, he's still going to total a lot of scoring this season and help Edmonton to stay in the playoff race.