We’re just over halfway through the 2013/2014 NHL season and several rookies have already made big impacts on their respective teams, and have stood out from the rest. Whether it be offensively, defensively, or by agitating the opposing teams, these NHL rookies have earned to right to remain on the big club.
1. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Huberdeau was a top-flight prospect, with a very high skill level. He dominated the QMJHL on a talented Sea Dogs team, and was an asset to Canada’s world junior team. Scouts that I spoke applauded his work ethic, and compete level, but questioned whether or not he was ready for the NHL. This season, not only has he proved that he his ready, but he currently leads the Florida Panthers in points. He has 17 points in 27 games, including 12 goals and is leading the Calder race. Florida is going through yet another rough season, and it’s nice to see that all of these high draft picks are starting to pay off.
2. Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
Schutlz was a highly sought-after free agent in summer, and after signing with Edmonton – it drew some controversy from the rest of the league. Controversy aside, it’s hard to ignore his play this season. Schultz is logging the most ice-time out of any player on the Oilers, at 22+ minutes a night, against the opposing teams best players. Schultz has great offensive instincts and creativity, coupled with high-end skating abilities. He has helped Edmonton’s already effective powerplay, with 4 of his 5 goals coming from it. He has 15 points in 26 games, and is without a doubt the Oiler’s most effective blue-liner, and hasn’t shown any growing pains, adjusting very quickly to the pro game.
3. Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild
Points aside, Brodin is playing outstanding hockey. He is a player that does everything right, and is very smart in both ends of the ice. . He is second on the Wild in terms of average ice time per game, behind only Suter. Did I mention that he’s only 19? His skating is outstanding, and although the offensive numbers aren’t there yet, he is developing very quickly. The Minnesota Wild, and fans should be very excited about Brodin’s development thus far.
4. Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins
Dougie Hamilton is making a huge impact this season for the Bruins. He leads all defensemen on their roster in scoring, and logs big minutes. Hamilton plays in every situation, and doesn’t look like he’s showing any signs of slowing down. He is great defensively, and just as good offensively. He’s still young, so like Brodin, he’s going to continue to develop and improve.
5. Brendan Gallagher , Montreal Canadiens
This was a toss up. I was torn between a couple of players. What stood out about Gallagher is his ability to not only benefit his team, but his ability to frustrate opposing teams. He plays a very hard-nosed game, and is often compared to Brad Marchand, the ‘little ball of hate’. He has 16 points in 23 games, and plays 13+ minutes a night. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in tenacity and skill.
Honorable mentions –
Vladimir Tarasenko – Tarasenko would surely be in the top-5 if it weren’t for his injury. He was on an incredible pace for a rookie, and was helping the St.Louis Blues win every night.
Nail Yakupov – Yakupov is an exciting player to watch. He dazzles fans with his skill, and explosive speed. As skilled as he is, you can see that he has a lot of maturing to do.
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