Tyler Myers, John Tavares, and Other Sophomore Slump Candidates

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent ISeptember 1, 2010

Tyler Myers, John Tavares, and Other Sophomore Slump Candidates

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 3:  Tyler Myers #57 of the Buffalo Sabres skates with the puck during the game against the Washington Capitals at HSBC Arena on March 3, 2010 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Last season many teams had a rookie emerge as an impact player.

    Players like Matt Duchene, John Tavares, and Tyler Myers have become the foundation upon which their team will build upon.

    Lesser-known rookies like Colin Wilson, Dmitry Kulikov, and Matt Gilroy gave fans reason to believe that they have a bright future in the NHL.

    One of these rookies may become the next Steven Stamkos, who, after a 23-goal, 46-point rookie season in 2008, emerged as an elite player in the NHL during his sophomore season when he tied posterboy Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 51 goals.

    There is always a risk, however, that one of these players will fall victim to the sophomore slump like Steve Mason. The goaltender led the Columbus Blue Jackets to their first playoff appearance in franchise history two years ago, but posted a 3.05 GAA and .901 save percentage last year.

    The better the player, the harder the fall. The following are the 25 most impressive rookies of the 2009 season.

Honorable Mention: Antti Niemi (G, San Jose Sharks)

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    PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09:  Antti Niemi #31 of the Chicago Blackhawks hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime to win the Stanley Cup in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Wachovia Center on
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (wins, gaa, save %):

    26w, 2.25 gaa, .912 %

    Drafted: undrafted

    Analysis:

    Antti Niemi recently signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Sharks. At the time this slideshow was made he was unsigned and experts speculated that he would be heading elsewhere (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/allan_muir/08/31/niemi.news.notes/index.html).

    His outstanding rookie season helped the Blackhawks win the difficult Central Division and win the Stanley Cup. After arbitration and a salary cap-induced roster overhaul, Niemi departed Chicago for the Bay Area during this offseason.

25. Colin Wilson (C, Nashville Predators)

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    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    8g, 15 pt, -2 (35 gp)

    Drafted: 7th overall, 2008

    Analysis:

    The Nashville Predators, a team that relies heavily on the draft to remain competitive, traded up to get Wilson after his first year at Boston University.

    During his freshman year in Massachusetts Wilson was named Rookie of the Year after tallying 12 goals and 35 points in 37 games with the Terriers.

    In his sophomore campaign he led BU in points and was nominated for the Hobey Baker Awardcollege hockey's Heisman Trophy.

    Last season, after spending half the year with Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee, Wilson impressed the Preds enough to earn a roster spot in the team's six playoff games.

    Wilson will have increased responsibility with the departure of Jason Arnott in the offseason.

24. Dmitry Kulikov (D, Florida Panthers)

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    SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 26: Dmitry Kulikov #43 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Montreal Canadiens at the BankAtlantic Center on January 26, 2010 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus, games played):

    3g, 15 pt, -5 (68 gp)

    Drafted: 14th overall, 2009

    Analysis:

    Everyone is going to have a chance to play on the young, unproven Panthers this year and Kulikov looks like he is in great position to take advantage of his situation in South Florida.

    The Russian forward had 62 points in 57 games playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was expected to produce at the NHL-level a year after being drafted.

    In his first NHL season, Kulikov, who never played a game in the minor leagues, was able to produce immediately from the blueline.

23. Matt Gilroy (D, New York Rangers)

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 14:  Matt Gilroy #97 of the New York Rangers skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    4g, 15 pt, even (69 gp)

    Drafted: undrafted

    Analysis:

    Wearing number 97 in tribute to his deceased brother Timmy, Matt Gilroy and his brother originally wore 97 and 98 in tribute to their favorite player, Wayne Gretzky.

    Gilroy played with Colin Wilson in his junior and senior seasons at Boston University, serving as captain his senior year, and beat out Wilson for the Hobey Baker Award after the teammates were crowned NCAA Champions in 2009.

    Signed as an undrafted free agent following his senior season, Gilroy is one of few undrafted players that are able to produce at the NHL level without spending significant time in the minor leagues.

22. Cody Franson (D, Nashville Predators)

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    NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 26:  Cody Franson #32 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 26, 2010 in Nashville,
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    6g, 21 pt, +15 (61 gp)

    Drafted: 79th overall, 2005

    Analysis:

    After spending two seasons in Milwaukee, Franson had a breakout season with the Predators last year.

    In three years with the Vancouver Giants (WHL) Franson's team was crowned WHL champions and was nominated for the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy which is given to the WHL's best defensemen.

    Nashville will expect increased production from Franson following the departure of Dan Hamhuis in the offseason.

21. Victor Hedman (D, Tampa Bay Lightning)

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    UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 13:  Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New York Islanders on February 13, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Isles defeated the Lightning 5-4.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    4g, 20 pt, -3 (74 gp)

    Drafted: 2nd overall, 2009

    Analysis:

    After four seasons with Modo Hockey in Sweden, Victor Hedman -- who tallied 21 points in 43 games during his last season in his home country -- was drafted second overall and immediately joined the Lightning the following year.

    Minus three is respectable, considering that the Bolts are an offensive-minded team, but Hedman will be expected to extremely responsible in his own end with the revamped Bolts.

    If he plays well the Lightning will be a formidable threat from the back end with Hedman and Pavel Kubina manning the blueline.

20. Erik Karlsson (D, Ottawa Senators)

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    PITTSBURGH - APRIL 16:  Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on April 16, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylva
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    5g, 26 pt, -5 (60 gp)

    Drafted: 15th overall, 2008

    Analysis:

    Less touted than his fellow countryman, but more productive on the ice, Erik Karlsson competed against Victor Hedman in the Swedish Elite League for two years before joining the Senators last season.

    After starting with the team out of camp, Karlsson was sent down to the AHL for 12 games before making his mark in the NHL.

    Motivated by the demotion Karlsson remained productive throughout the rest of the season and played in all six of the Sens' playoff games last season.

19. Jeff Deslauriers (G, Edmonton Oilers)

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    TORONTO, ON - MARCH 13:  Jeff Deslauriers #38 of the Edmonton Oilers watches the play in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 13, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Oilers 6-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Get
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Stats (wins, gaa, save %):

    16w, 3.26 gaa, .901 %

    Drafted: 31st overall, 2002

    Analysis:

    After bouncing around in the minor leagues for four seasons, Deslauriers had a brief stint in the NHL during the 2008 season when he played ten games before his rookie season in 2009.

    With Nikolai Khabibulin aging and in legal trouble Deslauriers, who played 45 games last year, will be depended upon to keep the putrid Oilers in close games.

18. Ryan O'Reilly (C, Colorado Avalanche)

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 08:  Ryan O'Reilly #37 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a faceoff against the Edmonton Oilers during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on November 8, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Oilers defeated the Avalanche 5-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    8g, 26 pt, +4 (81 gp)

    Drafted: 33rd overall, 2009

    Analysis:

    An incredible second round steal, Ryan O'Reilly made the Avalanche out of camp last year and played in all but one game.

    After two years in Pennsylvania with the Erie Otters (OHL), O'Reilly was able to adjust to the NHL game on the fly and, along with teammates Matt Duchene and T.J. Galiardi, help revive the Avalanche franchise as a rookie.

17. Tim Kennedy (LW, New York Rangers)

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 10:  Tim Kennedy #13 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against  the Dallas Stars at the HSBC Arena on March 10, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    10g, 26 pt, -3 (78 gp)

    Drafted: 181st overall, 2005

    Analysis:

    Buffalo upset their natives this offseason by avoiding any major transactions that may improve their team and sending native son Tim Kennedy, who had an outstanding rookie season with the Sabres last year, packing.

    The former Michigan State Spartan had his contract bought out in the offseason after Kennedy filed for arbitration.

    Recently, Kennedy signed with the Rangers, a great, inexpensive pickup for a team strapped by the salary cap.

16. Semyon Varlamov (G, Washington Capitals)

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    WASHINGTON DC, DC - APRIL 23:  Semyon Varlamov #40 of the Washington Capitals defends against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 23, 2010 in W
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Stats (wins, gaa, save %):

    15w, 2.55 gaa, .909 % (26 gp)

    Drafted: 23rd overall, 2006

    Analysis:

    After replacing incumbent Jose Theodore during the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Semyon Varlamov was expected to take over the starting job for Theodore and solve Washington's goaltending problems.

    Rushed into a starting position earlier than expected, the Russian netminder did not live up to expectations and will have to compete with Michael Neuvirth for a starting position next year.

15. Evander Kane (LW, Atlanta Thrashers)

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    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    14g, 26 pt, +2 (66 gp)

    Drafted: 4th overall, 2009

    Analysis:

    After tallying 96 points in 61 games for his hometown Vancouver Giants (WHL) Kane, a prolific scorer who also plays physically, was chosen early in the first round and expected to help turn the Thrashers franchise around.

    Kane made the team out of camp, but was limited to 66 games last year due to a bone fracture he sustained blocking a shot late in his rookie season.

    Although his offensive numbers were not off the charts, Kane adjusted to the NHL game well and was a physical presence—as best displayed by his fight with Penguins' enforcer Matt Cooke late in the season.

14. Peter Regin (C, Ottawa Senators)

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    UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 03:  Peter Regin #43 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New York Islanders on April 3, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Isles defeated the Senators 4-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    13g, 29pt, +10 (75 gp)

    Drafted: 87th overall, 2004

    Analysis:

    After playing three years with Herning IK of AL-Bank Ligaen, the premier league in his home country of Denmark, Regin was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NHL Draft by the Sens.

    It took an additional three years in the Swedish Elite League and 56 games in the AHL for Regin to take the ice in an NHL sweater.

    Last year Regin impressed the Sens in camp and played the entire season in the NHL. If he can produce like he did last year the Sens are going to have a tough one-two punch with Regin and newly-acquired Sergei Gonchar.

13. Tyler Bozak (C, Toronto Maple Leafs)

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    TORONTO - APRIL 6: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during a NHL game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on April 6, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    8g, 27 pt, -5 (37 gp)

    Drafted: undrafted

    Analysis:

    After two years at the University of Denver, Tyler Bozak was a highly-pursued free agent, having never been drafted by an NHL team.

    The Ukrainian-Canadian center began the season with the Maple Leafs, but due to salary cap concerns was sent down to the in the AHL regularly throughout the season.

    Bozak will look to take advantage of his strong rookie campaign to earn a full-time spot on the Leafs' roster this year.

12. Jonas Gustavsson (G, Toronto Maple Leafs)

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    ATLANTA - MARCH 25:  Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson #50 of the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on March 25, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Stats (wins, gaa, save %):

    16w, 2.87 gaa, .902 %

    Drafted: undrafted

    Analysis:

    After years of service in various European leagues, most notably AIK of the Swedish Elite League, Jonas Gustavsson had an impressive rookie campaign with the Leafs last year.

    Unfortunately for the netminder, the Leafs will probably turn to recently-acquired Jean-Sebastien Giguere for goaltending duties next year.

11. Artem Anisimov (C, New York Rangers)

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 07: Artem Anisimov #42 of the New York Rangers skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on April 7, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    12g, 28 pt, -2 (82 gp)

    Drafted: 54th overall, 2006

    Analysis:

    After two years with Hartford of the AHL, Artem Anisimov provided the Rangers what they needed in his rookie season: a low-priced, highly-productive scorer.

    If the Rangers are going to return to the playoffs this year after missing the postseason for the first time since the lockout, they are going to need secondary scoring from players like Anisimov.

10. James van Riemsdyk (LW, Philadelphia Flyers)

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    PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09:  James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/G
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    15g, 35 pt, -1 (78 gp)

    Drafted: 2nd overall, 2007

    Analysis:

    Selected second overall behind Patrick Kane in the 2007 Entry Draft, van Riemsdyk spent two seasons with the University of New Hampshire before joining the Flyers this season.

    A point-per-game player in college, van Riemsdyk needed a little time to adjust to the NHL game. Although he only had 35 points last year, van Riemsdyk should thrive with more responsibility next year.

9. Michael Del Zotto (D, New York Rangers)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on February 2, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    9g, 37 pt, -20 (80 gp)

    Drafted: 20th overall, 2008

    Analysis:

    After three years in the OHL, where he scored 10-plus goals each season, it came as no surprise to the Rangers' brass that Michael Del Zotto would be a productive defenseman in the NHL.

    His play transferred over well, Del Zotto was a goal shy of the 10-goal mark and had almost 40 points from the blueline last season.

    The Rangers will lean heavily on Del Zotto as they try to get back to the playoffs after missing the postseason in a shootout last year.

8. T.J. Galiardi (LW, Colorado Avalanche)

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    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 22:  TJ Galiardi #39 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up in the pregame skate against the San Jose Sharks for Game Five of their Western Conference Quaterfinals during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 22, 2010 in S
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    15g, 39 pt, +6 (70 gp)

    Drafted: 55th overall, 2007

    Analysis:

    Colorado reaped the rewards of their outstanding talent evaluation last year when rookies Ryan O'Reilly, T. J. Galiardi, and Matt Duchene took over the slumping franchise, put people in the seats, and shocked the NHL with a major turnaround season.

    After an outstanding season at Dartmouth, Colorado selected Galiardi in the second round of the 2007 draft. Instead of playing his sophomore season with the Big Green, Galiardi joined the Calgary Hitmen (WHL), where he almost had a point-per-game.

    Galiardi was called up late in the 2008 season after playing most of the year in the AHL, but only played 11 games and was not considered a rookie. This year he netted 15 goals in 70 games and established himself as an important part of the turnaround in the Rockies.

7. Jamie Benn (LW, Dallas Stars)

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 10:  Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the HSBC Arena on March 10, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    22g, 41 pt, -1 (82 gp)

    Drafted: 129th overall, 2007

    Analysis:

    Another steal in the 2007 draft, Jamie Benn, a fifth-round pick in 2007, is a major part of another rebounding franchise—the Dallas Stars.

    After two seasons in the WHL, the latter in which he had 82 points in 56 games, Benn emerged as a reliable scorer for the Stars.

    Dallas should plan on building around Benn and other young stars as they try to emerge from the increasingly difficult Pacific Division in the near future.

6. Niclas Bergfors (RW, Atlanta Thrashers)

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    ATLANTA - MARCH 25:  Niclas Bergfors #18 of the Atlanta Thrashers against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Philips Arena on March 25, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    21g, 44 pt, -10 (81 gp)

    Drafted: 23rd overall, 2005

    Analysis:

    A major part of the trade that sent longtime Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils last season, Niclas Bergfors is an emerging star in the NHL.

    Surrounded by youth in Atlanta, Bergfors is a major part of the Thrashers' desperate effort to turn the franchise, which has yet to win a playoff game, into a contender and bring fans back to Philips Arena.

5. Tuukka Rask (G, Boston Bruins)

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    PHILADELPHIA - MAY 07:  Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins tends net against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the Wachovia Center on May 7, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylv
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (wins, gaa, save %):

    22w, 1.97 gaa, .931 %

    Drafted: 21st overall, 2005

    Analysis:

    The Boston Bruins have been criticized over the years for lopsided trades, but their deal that sent Andrew Raycroft to the Maple Leafs for Tukka Rask will help ease the pain for hockey fans in Boston.

    Instead of relying on aging goaltender Tim Thomas, the team can now prime Rask to be their franchise goaltender. With a revamped team, Rask will benefit from the Bruins' postseason run last year.

4. Jimmy Howard (G, Detroit Red Wings)

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    DETROIT - MAY 4:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings defends the net against the San Jose Sharks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on May 4, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    Stats (wins, gaa, save %):

    37w, 2.26 gaa, .924 %

    Drafted: 64th overall, 2003

    Analysis:

    Yet another standout from the 2003 NHL Draft class, Jimmy Howard emerged as a long-term solution for the Red Wings in net.

    The Syracuse native was outstanding at the University of Maine, but some questioned if he could make it out of the AHL. Howard unseeded longtime Wing Chris Osgood and took advantage of his first opportunity in the NHL.

3. Tyler Myers (D, Buffalo Sabres)

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    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    11g, 48 pt, +13 (82 gp)

    Drafted: 12th overall, 2008

    Analysis:

    After three years in the WHL, Texas native Tyler Myers had an outstanding season with the Sabres last year. His 11 goals and 48 points from the blueline gave Buffalo a much-needed offensive jolt.

    Tomas Vanek should show up next year, but without the addition of any other major offensive threats in the offseason the Sabres will be relying on Myers to have another big season next year.

2. John Tavares (C, New York Islanders)

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    UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 11: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders signs autographs for fans following his game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on April 11, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    24g, 54 pt, -15 (82 gp)

    Drafted: 1st overall, 2009

    Analysis:

    Named CHL Player of the Year after breaking Wayne Gretzky's OHL record of 70 goals in a season, Tavares unsuccessfully pushed to be eligible to participate in the 2008 NHL Draft.

    Ranked as the top prospect in the 2009 draft after four years in the OHL, he was chosen by the Islanders as the cornerstone of their franchise's turnaround.

    With 24 goals and 54 points in his rookie campaign, Tavares showed great promise of becoming an outstanding player in the NHL and the man to turn around hockey on Long Island.

1. Matt Duchene (C, Colorado Avalanche)

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    GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 04:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on March 4, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Avalanche 3-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Ima
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Stats (goals, points, plus-minus):

    24g, 55 pt, +1 (81 gp)

    Drafted: 3rd overall, 2009

    Analysis:

    Overshadowed by all the hype surrounding John Tavares, Matt Duchene, who competed against Tavares in the OHL, tallied one more point than the Islanders superstar and was a major part of the turnaround in Colorado.

    In his final season with the Brampton Battalion, Duchene had 79 points in 57 games. Capable of becoming an all-time great and playing alongside many other young players in Colorado, Duchene and the Avalanche have a great future in the NHL.

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