With the NHL season drawing ever closer, it’s the perfect time to make bold statements that you’ll regret come the season end in April.
So in true bold statement spirit, here are the rookies I think you should know about going into the season.
The twist though, I will not talk about Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) or Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets) because that would just be an easy way to use the word count that I don’t actually have, but it’d also waste your time because i’m sure you know exactly what to expect from these two.
As well as excluding Matthews and Laine, I’ll also exclude guys like Matt Murray (for obvious reasons) and William Nylander (22 games already in the NHL) just to focus on newer guys to the league.
So lets begin.
Dylan Strome – Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes have a ridiculous prospect pool, easily one of the best in the league. But the guy to focus on is Dylan Strome who’s spent his junior OHL career with the Erie Otters. He played under Connor McDavid’s shadow two seasons ago, but last year he showed that his stats weren’t inflated by McDavid and that he is an incredibly exciting prospect to take very seriously.
Last season for the Otters he posted 111 points in 56 games and will likely get a chance to crack the NHL this year at the start of the season.
He’s not been cut yet (But by the time I publish we’ll probably know his fate for the year)and he deserves a shot to make the NHL this year and I can’t see any reason why Arizona wouldn’t try him out in the league before deciding to send him back to junior before he burns a year of his entry level deal.Embed from Getty Images
UPDATE: As I was editing, the Coyotes announced Strome had made the opening night roster
Mitch Marner – Toronto Maple Leafs
Marner will be with the Leafs for their opening game, but he could be playing under the radar a bit. Obviously Matthews will get all the attention and he may even be less focused on than William Nylander, but Marner is in a tough spot with his career.
He is obviously way too good to go back to junior, but while he has bulked up over the summer, he may still need time to adjust, but he’s not eligible to go to the AHL. So its NHL or nothing for Marner this year.
Similarly to Strome, he’s surely worth the nine game stint before his entry level deal kicks in to see if he is worth keeping around for a full 82 game season. Last year he posted a 116 point season, being named CHL Player of the Year after he also dominated the playoffs with 44 points in just 18 games for the London Knights.
Now it’s time for Marner to really crack the NHL as a teenager, but the Leafs also need to weigh up if they think putting him in the NHL for a full season would be rushing him.
Honestly, Marner will probably feature all season in the NHL.
Jesse Puljujarvi – Edmonton Oilers
The consensus number three pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft who fell to fourth and gave the Oilers their latest bit of luck when the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois instead, Puljujarvi has a decent chance of making an impact this season if he’s featured all year.
His games not as refined or as skillful as Matthews and Laine who went ahead of him in the draft, but he’s a great 200 foot player who won’t be in the hunt for Rookie of the Year honours but if the Oilers stick with him all year, he’ll have a solid debut campaign.
The Oilers will need to weigh up whether or not they want to nurture this talent in the AHL for a bit or even back home in Finland, but when Puljujarvi does make the NHL full time he won’t take long to show his potential as a solid two-way winger.
Matthew Tkachuk – Calgary FlamesEmbed from Getty Images
Another first round pick from this summers draft, Tkachuk has impressed enough at camp to earn a chance at making the NHL full time at just 18-years old.
Last season he was Mitch Marner’s teammate for the London Knights and was a dominant player in his rookie OHL season after coming from the USHL. In 57 games he stormed his way to 107 points and a further 40 points in just 18 post-season games.
Now in camp he’s been showing off his talent that he may have got from his U.S Hockey Hall of Fame dad Keith who played 18 season in the NHL, but Tkachuk could join a very talented and young forward unit for the Flames, joining other high draft picks Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan as well as the recently re-signed Johnny Gaudreau.
While he won’t be a top six forward straight away, in a third line capacity Matt Tkachuk could be a dark horse for Rookie of the Year.
Ivan Provorov – Philadelphia Flyers
The first blueliner on my list, Provorov was the 7th pick in the 2015 draft and now has a chance to crack the NHL at 19-years old.
Philadelphia have already given this kid a spot on the opening night roster, along with another youngster in Travis Konecny. It’s arguably harder to come into the NHL as a teenager if you’re a defenseman so Provorov will have his work cut out for him to last the 82 game season.
Born in Yaroslavl, Russia, Provorov has spent much of his time in North America playing the last two seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, and his offensive prowess could make him a great future top pairing defenseman for Philly, but this year will likely be a learning curve if he’s kept around for the season.
Jimmy Vesey – New York Rangers
This guy better be good. All signs suggest the former Havard University captain will be a good player but after this summer the Rangers will hope he’s pretty good pretty soon.
Admittedly, the Rangers don’t have to worry too much, he’s not earning a great deal and he could easily be sent down to the AHL, but after being traded from the team who initially drafted him (Nashville) to the Buffalo Sabres, he held out and picked the Rangers to start his NHL career with after four-years at Havard.
He was a great performer in NCAA, he posted 46 points last season, a little bit down on his 58 point season the year before. In 2012-13 he was part of the USA World Junior team that won gold, and in 2014-15 he was part of the USA mens (yes senior level) team that won Bronze at the World Championships, and he didn’t do bad with 3 assists in 9 games.
I don’t see any reason why Vesey won’t adapt to life in the NHL this year, as a potential third liner for the blue shirts, he’ll probably be good for north of 30 points and have a solid start to his career, the only way is up and he could even go on to challenge for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Sebastian Aho – Carolina HurricanesEmbed from Getty Images
The last guy on my list (before my honourable mentions) is Finnish winger Sebastian Aho, who last year made the Hurricanes look like they may have got a steal in the second round in 2015.
Aho is a highly intelligent player who put up a point-per-game pace for Karpat in the Finnish top division last year with 45 points in as many games.
He was also dominant internationally for Finland, he was on a line with Laine and Puljujarvi at the World Juniors, helping the hosts to a gold medal, as well as adding 7 points in the World Championships where he added to his medals with a silver.
He was taken with the 35th pick back in 2015 but coming into the season with the Canes, Aho could be a suprise package to be one of the more dominant rookies this season.
First theres the advantage of having played with men for bits of the last three seasons, he’ll be used to that, maybe not at the same level as the NHL but his previous experience will help him.
But secondly he’s a very cool and calm player that won’t get rattled easily. So if he does have a slow start to his NHL career, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sebastian Aho turn it on one game and not slow up.
I won’t list too many because this season there are a lot of rookies who need your attention, but here are some for the sake of it;
Zach Werenski – Colombus Blue Jackets
Mikko Rantanen – Colorado Avalanche
Shea Theodore -Anaheim Ducks
Pavel Buchnevich – New York Rangers
Pavel Zacha – New Jersey Devils
Matthew Barzal – New York Islanders
Jakob Chychrun – Arizona Coyotes
Josh Morrissey – Winnipeg Jets
And many many more…