To me, one of the more exciting aspects of the NHL is witnessing the rookies make a name for themselves in a big way.
Thus far, the 2013 campaign has been no different.
We are only a little more than one week through the season and a handful of rookies are already making a serious run for the Calder Trophy award. It’s fascinating to watch these amateur hockey players jump to the big leagues like it’s nothing. These guys are transitioning to the pros swimmingly, showing a ton of maturity at such a young age. So, which players have made the biggest splashes through a week of action? Let’s take a look.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues: Through the first few games, Tarasenko has taken the NHL by storm. On opening night, the Russian sniper posted his first career goal just six minutes into the contest. On the year, he has four goals and four assists. Tarasenko is a born goal scorer with great hands and tremendous individual ability to drive past defenders. The transition to the NHL may have been a tad bit easier for Tarasenko, seeing as he debuted in the KHL at just 16-years old. Playing on a line with a tremendous passer in Andy McDonald and an improving Alexander Steen, Tarasenko will have tremendous opportunity to win the Calder, especially playing on one of the best teams in the league.
Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning are the hottest offense in the league (4.83 goals per game) and the emergence of Conacher has a lot to do with it. Conacher has managed to tally nine points in just six contests, easily placing him into the top 10 among NHL scorers…as a rookie. The 23-year old may have the best chance of winning the Calder, assuming he continues to play on a line with captain Vincent Lecavalier. Tampa Bay’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now, courtesy of the big name guys as well as a certain rookie left winger.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers: After notching a three-point night during the season opener, Huberdeau has been held without a point ever since. It’ll be a lot more difficult for Huberdeau to outplay some of the other rookies, considering the Panthers are looking like one of the worst teams in hockey. However, the return of Kris Versteeg and eventual return of Stephen Weiss can only help the 19-year old. He is an extremely dynamic talent with the puck on his stick and has a very promising future in the big leagues.
Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers: It is quite rare for a rookie defenseman to be one of the centerpieces of a team’s offensive attack. However, that is the case with Schultz. He is an extremely talented offensive defenseman with tremendous puck-moving skills and the ability to find the open man with ease. Schultz already has five points on the year and will continue to produce points playing with tremendous young offensive talent.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: Earlier in the week, the Habs informed their rookie that he would be staying with the team this season. So far on the season, Galchenyuk has tallied five points and with increased ice time on the horizon, expect more points from the 18-year old. No that is not a typo. He really is just 18. With forward Max Pacioretty expected to miss 3-4 weeks, Galchenyuk may be called upon to play a larger role in the offense.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins: I absolutely love this kid. Actually, the only people that may love Hamilton more than me are the Bruins. The team announced that their 19-year old defenseman would be staying with the team all season and for good reason. He has four assists on the year and has seen time with Zdeno Chara on the blue line, which means the Bruins must think very highly of their rookie. Hamilton has tremendous athleticism to go along with great two-way ability.
Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers: The first overall pick of the 2012 draft is beginning to showcase clutch ability, finding the knack for scoring goals in crucial situations. On the year, Yakupov has four goals in six games. Arguably the best goal scorer among the group to match his tremendous hands, Yakupov may already have a target on his back. He could very well win the Calder, but if he doesn’t, I’m sure he will get the non existent trophy for best goal celebration, right?