Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn—the two rookie first-round picks the Philadelphia Flyers acquired as part of their summer blockbusters—were supposed to usher in a youth movement to the Broad Street Bullies.
While Schenn has struggled to adapt to his role in the National Hockey League, mostly due to injuries preventing him from logging consistent ice time in the preseason and early regular season, Couturier has more than lived up to the hype.
2011's eighth overall draft selection has held his own at 18 years of age, posting eight points (5G/3A) and a +9 rating.
But his defensive responsibility and awareness have made the former Drumondville standout a vital cog to the Flyers success.
But Couturier is not the only rookie making a name for himself only a few weeks into his career at the top level.
Matt Read signed with the Flyers organization last March following a four year career at Bemidji State University and made an immediate impact with the Adirondack Phantoms, scoring 13 points in 11 games at the end of the 2010-11 AHL season.
Read, 25, scored 143 points in 147 games at the hockey hotbed of Bemidji State and is making a similar impact on a Flyers team already loaded with talent, having put up five goals and five assists in his first 17 NHL games.
At 25-years-old Read can be categorized as a late-bloomer, but his seasoning at the college level has paid dividends early in his career.
Read's 10 points tie him for sixth highest total on the Flyers, and first among their rookies.
But Read's impressive start also ranks him among the top rookies in the league. Only Buffalo's Luke Adam (13), Nashville's Craig Smith (14) and Edmonton's 2011 first overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (14) have a higher points total.
But it is not only Read's offense that has been impressive.
Read's +5 rating is fourth highest among all rookies and second among rookie forwards, trailing only teammate Sean Couturier (+9).
Read has accomplished this while averaging 15:55 of ice-time per game, fifth amongst all rookie forwards. Almost three minutes of that ice-time comes short-handed, the third highest in that same group.
Despite his rookie status Read has played and flourished in high-pressure situations. Checking the opposition's top lines at even strength, killing penalties, managing the power play and defending the lead in the final minutes of regulation.
Read's maturity and poise gained playing a key role for a contending team in his four year college career allow him to contribute to every phase of the game and he has done so as well or better than any player in the league who matches his own NHL experience.
Playing in the College Hockey America (CHA) Conference at Bemidji State, Read and the Bemidji Beavers were runners-up for the conference championship in Read's freshman year. In Read's sophomore year his team won the Bob Peters Cup as conference champions and advanced to the Frozen Four.
When the men's division of the CHA folded following his junior season, Bemidji State joined the prestigious Western College Hockey Association, a conference known for dominating the Frozen Four (think football's SEC).
Read competed as a senior against some of the nation's top competition and scored 35 points in 37 games.
Following an exit in the conference playoffs on March 18, 2010, Read was signed as a free agent six days later and began his quick ascension up the ranks of the Flyers Organization.
And here we sit, 17 games into the 2011-12 season, the new-look Flyers are tied atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 23 points a piece.
Rookies have played a huge role in the Flyers success so far, from Sean Couturier to Harry Zolnierczyk.
But it has been the old rookie from the college nobody's heard of (and I neglected to mention in an article about rookies with a chance to make the team) who has been the most impressive so far.
On a side note, while researching this article, I think I I think I have answered the question I previously posed to the audience: Whose jersey should I buy?
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