Like any business hockey is about finding the best value out of something that someone else might have considered useless. Managers in the National Hockey League have done a pretty stellar job of that this year…especially with their rookies.
Even though Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were the talk of the town coming into the 2015-16 campaign (and have respectfully each had pretty impressive starts as NHL rookies) there are some other names that have popped up around the league that are truly turning heads. And surprisingly so.
After just over a third of the NHL season has passed us by here is the first installation of the top ten most surprising NHL rookies.
10. Jared McCann (Vancouver Canucks) ~ 19-years-old ~ Drafted in 2014 at 24th overall
There isn’t much to be excited about in Vancouver. At least not about the current season’s prospects. However the emergence of some serious youth talent in what was once one of the shallowest systems in the league has definitely put shone some light on what the future holds.
Coming into 2015 training camp Jared McCann was a longshot at best to make the team. But after a very strong pre-season where he displayed both scoring ability and a physical competitiveness against NHL strength players, McCann won a spot on the team’s opening night roster. He;s one of four rookies on the current Canucks roster.
What happened for McCann was shocking. Out of the gate McCann established himself as the early leader in goals with five in his first nine NHL outings. Since then McCann’s production has stagnated a bit. But let’s be real, whose hasn’t in Vancouver?
9. Anthony Duclair (Arizona Coyotes) ~ 20-years-old ~ Drafted in 2013 at 80th overall
So maybe Duclair had proved something last year when he came out of the gate with New York and recorded seven points in his first 18 games. But when he went back to the Quebec League his stats weren’t nearly as fierce as they were in the year after his draft.
After being traded to Arizona in the Keith Yandle deal Duclair was pretty much a lock to make the Coyotes’ roster this season – regardless of anything. However no one expected that Duclair would be on pace for more than 40 points in his first full NHL season and has been an integral part (along with fellow rookie Max Domi) of putting Arizona in playoff contention. Duclair has solidified himself among the best performing NHL rookies.
8. Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blue) ~ 22-years-old ~ Drafted in 2012 at 86th overall
At this very time last year Colton Parayko was still taking college courses and honing his game with the University of Alaska. After completing his third season with the school he decided to take his game professionally. He played in 17 games for the Chicago Wolves and recorded seven points. It was expected that Parayko would play this year in Chicago to try to develop his pro skills.
Instead Parayko came flying into camp and earned himself a spot on the 2015-16 roster. After 25 games he has recorded 13 points and has a plus-eleven rating. He’s been given significant time on the powerplay and has already notched two powerplay goals. At 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds and just 22-years-old Parayko has quickly moved from being a long term project into a bonafide NHLer, all in his rookie season.
7. Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes) ~ 20-years-old ~ Drafted in 2013 at 12th overall
The son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi and London Knights product, Max Domi was always expected to be a producer for the Arizona Coyotes…just not this quickly. In his first season in the NHL Domi sits second in scoring with 23 points in 27 games. He has scored on 19% of his shots which is 37th in the league.
He’s small in stature but solid on his skates and it shows. He had 102 points for the London Knights in his final year of junior hockey and that scoring ability has seamlessly transferred to his NHL play. Should Domi keep up this rate of scoring he’d be a serious candidate for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
6. Colin Miller (Boston Bruins) ~ 23-years-old ~ Drafted in 2012 at 151st overall
At 151st overall you’re never really expected to play in the NHL. But there’s always a shot if you’re a hard worker. Colin Miller is just that. After two seasons of American Hockey League play in the Los Angeles Kings organization and a 52 point season as a defender in 2014-15, Miller earned himself a spot on the depleted 2015-16 Boston Bruins roster. He’s made every minute count.
He’s only played in 21 of the team’s games but he has scored at a 0.5PPG rate. If Miller were to play a full 82 game season he’d be upwards of 40 points as a defender. Not to mention he’s a plus-five which is a pretty impressive stat for a rookie NHL defenseman.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Top Ten Surprising NHL rookies.