Rookies take over
We are one month into this NHL season and it is clear that the young guns in the league are starting to take over. From Edmonton to Arizona, rookies have been adding a new sense of excitement that the NHL has not seen since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin came into the league.
The obvious blow to this rookie filled season is the injury to Connor McDavid on Nov 3. There is no one to blame for the injury, just a hockey play that went wrong, but it is a devastating blow for the NHL. For a couple months, we’ll all miss out on McDavid doing something sensational, and the possibility of him captivating some new hockey fans. Through 13 games prior to his injury, McDavid had 12 points with five goals and seven assists, putting him 20th in the league in terms of points. Once again, it is a huge shame that he broke his left clavicle sliding into the boards. While the Oilers will probably be nowhere near the postseason, McDavid will still want to prove himself in his rookie season.
Over in Buffalo is the player drafted right behind McDavid: Jack Eichel. While this fast moving center for the Sabres has not had the same amount of success this season as McDavid, he certainly has the raw talent to be a huge force in this league, and maybe even create a rivalry between the two similar to that of Ovechkin and Crosby. Through 13 games, Eichel has five goals and no assists. While these are some underwhelming numbers at the moment, it is Nov 11th. It is also good to keep in mind that his line mates, Johan Larson and Marcus Foligno, both have no goals on the year, but both with multiple assists. So, I guess the strategy in Buffalo is to feed Eichel which is not the worst strategy considering the hype and college numbers (40GP, 26G, 45A) he put up at the hockey power house Boston University last season.
One other player to keep your eye on this season is Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters (Fun Fact: same OHL team McDavid played for), but drafted third overall by the Arizona Coyotes. At 6’3″ and 187 pounds, Strome has the size and the speed to become a Ryan Getzlaf type-player in the future. While he did not make the opening day roster for the Coyotes and is currently in the OHL, he is putting up some insane numbers for the Erie Otters. With only having played 11 games this season, he has six goals, 15 assists and 21 points. While the OHL is nowhere near the talent level that the NHL is, those numbers are nothing to look over and ignore. With all the rookies putting up very good numbers in the NHL, and the Arizona Coyotes needing excitement in the their market, I would not be surprised to see Strome up for the Coyotes this year.
One last rookie to keep an eye on is Artemi Panarin for the Chicago Blackhawks. Artemi signed with the Hawks during the off season from the KHL in Russia, and has certainly made his name known throughout the league. Through 13 games with the Hawks, he has posted a line of two goals and nine assists. This might be my inner Hawks allegiance coming out a bit, I love this kid. Not a terribly tall or big guy, but he is a playmaker who can finish as well. In the KHL last season, he put up 62 points in 54 games with 26 goals and 36 assists.
With all that said, I still think that McDavid will have the biggest impact on the league this year, and yes, I know that this pick is the biggest cop out prediction of all time. Even though he is out for an extended period of time this season, he already has had heads turning in the league. Through the first month of the year, anytime I turned on NHL Network and ESPN, all they were talking about was how talented and amazing this 18 year old will be. Watch for him to come back and pick up right where he left off and light the lamp plenty of more times in this 2015-16 season.