With the hype behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, there were many rookies that were overlooked coming into this season. Here is a look at five rookies that have given many reasons as to why you should be paying attention to them this season.
Note: To be considered a rookie for this list, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any major professional league, played in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league, and have to be 26 years old or younger by September 15th of their rookie season. Read more about the Calder Memorial Trophy at this link.
Simply put, Max Domi is lighting it up. Exploding out of the gate with 10 points in his first 9 games, Max is proving that he has a much different skill set than his father, Tie Domi.
Max’s scoring rate has slowed down in the games since, but he still has 18 points in 21 games this season. In addition to this, a little under a year ago Max played for Team Canada in the 2015 U20 World Junior Championship, scoring 10 points in 7 games alongside current teammate Anthony Duclair. Speaking of which…
Anthony Duclair is making a name for himself by scoring 14 points in the first 21 games of this season, but it’s going to be hard for him to get out of the shadow that Max Domi casts, due to Max’s on ice performance in addition to the fact that his father is Tie Domi.
Anthony Duclair was one of the pieces moved from the New York Rangers to acquire Keith Yandle from the Phoenix Coyotes. He showed lots of promise in his brief stint with the Rangers, scoring 6 points in his first 9 games, and further impressed while playing for Team Canada in the 2015 U20 World Junior Team, scoring 8 points in 7 games.
Both Duclair and Domi make a great one-two punch for the Arizona Coyotes, and are probably two of the main reasons that Team Canada’s U20 team won its first gold in 6 years and the Coyotes are 1 point out of a playoff position. Look for both of these young players to continue adding to their totals and pushing each other in the competition for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
With Pavel Datsyuk’s injury creating a major hole in the Detroit Red Wings roster, Dylan Larkin became the first 19-year-old to debut for the Red Wings since 1990, debuting on the top line alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. The 19-year-old proved he was worthy by scoring this beauty on his first night:
With Pavel Datsyuk returning back to the lineup a week and a half ago, Larkin was given enough time to prove that he belongs in the Red Wings lineup with 10 points in 15 games. Larkin was temporarily demoted to the third line, but has recently been playing again on the top line, bringing his point total to 15 points in 22 games. For a team that has traditionally used older and more experienced players in their lineup, Larkin is letting his play do the talking and making it difficult for Detroit Red Wings to keep him off of their roster.
When a team like the Chicago Blackhawks have been good as long as they have been, the question arises if a team that elite can be sustained, especially in the pro-parity salary cap era. Some teams like the Detroit Red Wings have been able to sustain a long period of prosperity, but that all comes down to a strong management system performing smart trades, clever free agent signings, and well thought out drafts. With Artemi Panarin, the Blackhawks chose the second of the three options.
To be honest, I had no idea who Artemi Panarin was entering this NHL season. That came to a roaring halt when he tagged along Patrick Kane’s ascension to the top of NHL points board with 23 points in 22 games played.
The Blackhawks losing key forwards like Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad were big blows to the organization, but the smart signing of Artemi Panarin to a two-year, entry-level contract is paying dividends for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup 3 times in the past 6 years, and each time the team is stripped down and sold to the highest bidder with players having overinflated senses of value that the team can no longer afford. Each time that this has happened, the Blackhawks have continued to rise out of the rubble and regain their place on top of the hockey world. Panarin is going to continue to have a stunning rookie season, guaranteed by the fact that he is being molded by the veteran mentors of the Chicago Blackhawks.
With the Montreal Canadiens going 9-0 in their first 9 games, the Montreal Canadiens were turning heads at the beginning of this season. While many pointed to World-Class goaltender Carey Price, two of those wins are attributed to Mike Condon, who posted a 1.50 GAA and 0.947 SV%. That isn’t much, but it’s a great start for a rookie goaltender.
When Carey Price went down in late October, Condon was faced with the tall task of taking the reigns as the starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens until Price made his return 9 games later. Over that 9 game period, Condon posted a 5-2-2 record with a 2.39 GAA and 0.904 SV%. His win-loss record is great, but his other numbers aren’t pretty, especially the SV%. However, 5 of those starts were elite caliber (0.935%+) that were skewed by absolute blowout losses on Condon. From this information, we can pull out that Condon is amazing when he has a good game, and awful when he has a bad game. Not really groundbreaking news in the hockey news world, but Condon’s definitely someone worth noting given that he has been able to hold the fort while Price is out with injuries.
Speaking of which, Price fell to injury again last night against the New York Rangers, so the Easter Conference leading Montreal Canadiens are looking to Condon again to help them weather the storm until Price returns from injury.
With such a weak start to his season, the 2014 4th overall draft pick was a big disappointment to the slumping Calgary Flames, only getting one assist in his first 8 games. That was until he got 10 points in 9 games following that slump, putting a shoe into the mouth of his doubters. The Calgary Flames are a shadow of the team that made it to the Conference Semi-Finals last season with an 8-13-1 record, but the burst of energy that the youth within the Calgary system gives glimmers of hope for a turn-around for the rest of the season. If this does happen, you better expect Sam Bennett to be an important part of that.
The loss of Anthony Duclair to the Arizona Coyotes in the Keith Yandle Trade may have been a big blow to the future of the organization, but for a team dedicated to winning now, the New York Rangers have some up and coming talent with Oscar Lindberg.
Lindberg has posted 14 points in 22 games this season, scoring at a consistent and steady pace. Those point production values especially don’t hurt coming from the third liner, making the already offensively deep Rangers that much more dangerous to play against. The Rangers are another case of a team that has performed consistently well in recent years, but with the continued successful drafts and excellent grooming of its youth, the NHL’s most valuable franchise should be able to stay at the top of the standings. It’s safe to say that Lindberg is going to fit well into the rock solid foundation that the New York Rangers have built.
12 points in 21 games is a great start for St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, especially comparing it to last year’s Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Aaron Ekblad, who had 11 points in the same amount of games. Unfortunately for Parayko, this year’s NHL rookie class is ridiculously deep and he has to go above and beyond to make a strong case for him to be a leading candidate for the rookie of the year trophy.
From all of this, it is clear that this year is a ridiculously deep year when it comes to rookies, even when excluding potential generational phenoms Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid. With Jack Eichel off to a slower start than expected (11 points in 22 games), and Connor McDavid out with a broken clavicle until the New Year, these other rookies are given a little bit of time to prove that they have what it takes to be a spoiler for what most people were calling out to be a neck and neck race for the Rookie of the Year trophy, the Calder Memorial trophy.
Cover Photo Credit: (AP Photo/John Locher)