The good news for this years NHL rookie class is that the players who have succeeded expectations in their first season far outnumber those who haven’t quite met them. While there are numerous rookies who are excelling this year, I could really only pick out three players who haven’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon them coming into the season.
It should be noted that these three players are and will remain excellent young players and are simply experiencing some rookie blues through the first two months of their careers.
Jonathon Blum, Nashville Predators: A year ago Blum appeared in 23 regular season games for the Predators and then all 12 of the club’s playoff contests. In those games he looked anything but a rookie and had fans and management thrilled about his prospects coming into this year.
Still classified as a rookie skater, things haven’t been quite as smooth for the smooth-skating defenseman this time around. The 22-year-old has played in 28 games for Nashville and has registered just five points on the year. While points are bound to be hard to come by playing behind the likes of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, Blum has averaged 18 minutes of ice time per game so his production cannot be blamed on a lack of playing time.
What it is more troubling however is the fact that Blum is a team worst -12 on the year as he has had a tough time with his defensive coverage.
David Rundblad, Ottawa Senators: Selected as the defenseman of the year in the Swedish Elite League a year ago, Ottawa fans were thrilled at the chances of Rundblad following the footsteps of fellow Swedish rearguard Erik Karlsson and becoming a dynamic player on the Sens blueline this year. Lacking the gifted natural offensive ability that Karlsson possesses, the 21-year-old Rundblad failed to deliver on that notion and struggled both offensively and defensively in 24 games with the club.
Despite his struggles, Rundblad remains a very good defensive prospect and that is what makes general manager Bryan Murray’s decision to trade him so curious.
With Ottawa ranking as the worst team in the league in goals against, many would have expected Murray to look for some help on the blueline but instead he cited a need for more offense and sent the promising young defenseman to Phoenix in exchange for maligned forward Kyle Turris. Should Rundblad go on to reach his high potential and Turris fail to meet his; this could end up being a disastrous trade by the organization.
In Phoenix, Rundblad will again have the chance to measure himself against a fellow Swede as he will now play alongside 20-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the Coyotes blueline.
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers: One of the big pieces in the Mike Richards trade, Schenn’s disappointment hasn’t been a reflection of his play on the ice but rather his inability to even get on the ice this year. The fifth-overall pick in 2009, Schenn was acquired from LA expected to somewhat fill the shoes of the departed Richards but injuries have wreaked havoc upon his season.
Due to salary cap issues the Flyers assigned Schenn to Adirondack to start the year where he was a dominant player collecting eight points in just four games. He was called up in late October but was only able to get into four games before breaking a bone in his foot. Upon his return from the foot injury Schenn was again assigned to Adirondack before being recalled in early December. However, his time with the Flyers would again be short lived as he played two games before suffering another injury; this time a much more serious one. The 20-year-old was diagnosed with a concussion and has been sidelined ever since.
Having recently been cleared to practice, one can only hope that his symptoms will be cleared and will not be recurring. Unable to register a point in his six games with Philly this year, Schenn will certainly be itching to get back in the lineup and resume his promising young career.
Resident of Windsor, Ontario. Extensive knowledge of both the NHL and junior hockey in Canada, particularly the OHL. Writer for THW covering the Winnipeg Jets and the OHL as well as covering Phoenix Coyotes prospects for Hockey’s Future.