Hockeyland Canada profiles the top 10 NHL rookies by ranking them according to overall impact on their teams, and ultimately their chances to win the Calder trophy as the league’s best rookie, you can take a look at past winners http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=24931. To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. Furthermore, a player must not have attained his twenty-sixth birthday by September 15th of the season in which he is eligible.
1. Nathan Mackinnon – Boy wonder Nathan Mackinnon took the league by storm this season, showing dazzling acceleration and a capability to make NHL defenders look like pylons. Mackinnon led all rookies with 63 points in helping lead the Colorado Avalanche to a Central Division title, and is the odds on favourite to take home the Calder trophy. Much like his fellow Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native, Sidney Crosby, Nathan Mackinnon is a generational talent dominating the National Hockey League at the tender age of 18 years young, imagine that.
2. Ondrej Palat – Drafted 208th overall in the 7th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Palat arrived on the scene in 2014 rocketing up the rookie scoring ladder. Ondrej almost caught Mackinnon with 23 goals and 59 points, but ran out of games after starting the year slowly. Ondrej played a key role for the Lightning in the second half of the season especially, as evidence by 14 goals and 37 points in the final 32 games. Palat’s offensive production isn’t the end of the story as he delivered 146 hits and sports an impressive +32 rating.
3. Tyler Johnson – Amazingly undrafted, Tyler Johnson was certainly one of the top three rookies this season as he stepped up big time for Tampa Bay’s Lightning. Amidst a season with significant players, notably Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, coming out of the lineup, Johnson was a consistent presence. Tied for the rookie lead in goals for 24 with Mackinnon, Johnson finished a full 82 games with 50 points and 181 shots. Expect the addition of 2015 Calder contender Jonathan Drouin to lighten the load on Johnson next season.
4. Nick Bjugstad – Bjugstad accomplished an impressive feat for a rookie, he led his team in scoring as a 21 year old, the first in Florida Panthers history. Unfortunately, it was attached with a dubious record since he recorded only 38 points in 76 games, which is tied for the league record for lowest total for a team points leader. Nonetheless, Bjugstad did his part with 16 goals on 185 shots, while contributing in the hits and faceoff department all season long. The record is more a reflection of the team than the player, and with another top prospect on the way in the form of 1st overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Nick Bjugstad and the Florida Panthers have better days ahead.
5. Jacob Trouba – A towering force on the Winnipeg Jets blueline, Trouba overcame an early injury to put together a very strong rookie season. Having lead all rookies in average ice time with 22:26 per game, Trouba played an important defensive role as evident from his 132 blocked shots on the year. The offensive tools were certainly on display, particularly a booming slap shot that helped him record 10 goals and 29 points in just 65 games from the back end. Trouba will be a fixture on the Jets blueline for years to come and may develop into an upper echelon type defender, one that could contend for a Norris trophy.
6. Torey Krug – Leading all rookie defenseman in shots, goals, and points for most of the year, Krug was a key part of the Bruins’ President’s trophy winning season. Krug specialized on the powerplay with 6 goals and 13 assists as he has a knack for getting his shot on net through big bodies like teammate Milan Lucic’s. Krug finished the year with 183 shots, 14 goals, and 40 points, solid numbers for any offensive defenseman. Krug fits an important role on the Bruins’ juggernaut, and should continue to blossom on a very well rounded Boston defensive corp.
7. Hampus Lindholm – Drafted in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft top heavy with elite defensive prospects, Lindholm has not disappointed the Anaheim Ducks who used the 6th overall selection to pick the Helsingborg, Sweden native. After a year adjusting to North American rinks with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, Lindholm joined the Ducks and immediately garnered a significant role. Hampus’ 30 points, +29 rating, and 19:25 TOI played a difference making role in the Ducks’ Western Conference leading season.
8. Chris Kreider – The New York Rangers long prized rookie finally made the impact many expected from his Boston College days. With 17 goals on 136 shots and 20 assists, Kreider used his strength and tenacity to produce offensively. In a season cut short due to an unfortunate hand injury, Kreider was still able to tally impressive totals especially in hits with 146 in 66 games, which highlight his power forward game. If he can work on his consistency, Kreider will be a dominant player that few will have the power to stop.
9. Valeri Nichushkin – This force of nature had the enviable pleasure of riding shotgun with dynamic duo Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Playing with two top 10 finishers in NHL scoring helps, but Nichushkin himself is also oozing with talent, ability, and a frame that can’t be contained. Finishing with a solid 14 goals, 34 points, +20 rating, and 86 hits, Valeri has just given us the sneak preview. Considering this was his first year playing in North America, the sky is not just the limit for this Russian beast, its the view.
10. Sean Monahan – The Calgary Flames’ shining light of the 2013-14 NHL Regular Season, Sean Monahan put up an impressive rookie year for a player just drafted to one of the worst teams in hockey. Some stats suffered like his -20 rating, but 22 goals on 140 shots signify early returns for the Flames’ 6th pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Monahan assumed a prominent role early on, yet continued to grow with more ice time and important defensive responsibility including taking a heap of faceoffs. It may still be a few years away, but once Brian Burke builds a team around him, Monahan should be a regular in the NHL scoring race. The addition of puck wizard Johnny Gaudreau is a good step.
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