The NHL has become a young man’s game. With the combination of the salary cap and younger players more NHL-ready than ever, we’re seeing more players make the jump from the CHL to the NHL. Expectations now dictate that your first-round picks should be NHL regulars within two years of being drafted. But, for lower picks, the developmental curve can take a little longer. Some players have an immediate impact in the NHL, while others take time learning how maintain an NHL job.
This list of NHL debuts features a bit of everything.
9. Alex Formenton (OTT): Definitely not something to write home about unless you consider Formenton was just 5-foot-7 three years ago playing minor hockey. Less than a month after his 18th birthday, Formenton made his NHL debut, logging 4:54 of even strength ice-time as the Senators fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Capitals on Saturday.
8. Victor Mete (MTL): Not many people projected the 100th overall pick from the 2016 draft to start the season in Montreal, but the smooth-skating Mete forced the Habs’ hand in camp. Mete played 18:43 including 2:44 on the PP, finishing with one shot and a plus-1 rating in an opening night 3-2 win in Buffalo. He’s played another three games since.
7. Nolan Patrick (PHI): The second pick in the 2017 draft finally put an end to hernia issues before a facial abscess slowed him down in development camp. Declaring himself 100 per cent healthy for the first time in a year allowed Patrick to start the NHL season on time. Although he did not register a point in his debut, Patrick won 56 per cent of his face-offs, saw some PP time, while playing a total of 13:30 with three shots. Seeing him healthy had to put the Philadelphia brass at ease. In his fourth game, Patrick posted his first goal.
6. Nico Hischier (NJ): Hischier didn’t pick up a point in his NHL debut, but not for a lack of effort. The first overall pick played more than 15 minutes, registering six shots while seeing time on both the power play and penalty kill. Hischier was, however, awarded the “jacket” as the Devil who most sticks up for his teammates after approaching Erik Johnson who’s hit knocked Kyle Palmieri out of the game.
5. Kailier Yamamoto (EDM): Ten years ago there was little chance a 5-foot-8, 154-pound player would’ve been taken in the draft, let alone with the 22nd overall pick. Yamamoto dazzled in the pre-season enough to earn an opening night start with the Oil. The recently turned 19-year-old logged 6:33 in the Oilers’ 3-0 shutout of Calgary to fire the first salvo in the renewed battle of Alberta. In his second game on Monday his ice time increased to 11:53.
4. Sonny Milano (CLB): Not a true NHL debut, but it had taken more than two years for the 16th overall pick from 2014 to score an NHL marker. Milano played a total of seven NHL games spread out over the past two seasons, trying to find his scoring touch. The former Plymouth Whaler netted the game-winner 1:07 into the first period as the Blue Jackets shutout the Islanders 5-0 to kick off their season.
3. Alex DeBrincat (CHI): The Blackhawks always find a way to integrate good young talent into their lineup. Add DeBrincat to the list. After three straight 50-plus goal seasons with Erie in the OHL, DeBrincat earned a spot in the Hawks lineup after impressing in camp. He picked up an assist in a 10-1 route of Pittsburgh. His stat line was impressive with 17:38 TOI, 3:29 of which came on the PP. He had four hits, and was a plus-2 in the contest.
2. Pierre-Luc Dubois (CLB): Feeling the immense pressure of having gone behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine in the 2016 draft, Dubois missed out on the NHL party in 2016-17. He was sent back to Cape Breton, then traded to Blainville-Boisbriand in a roller coaster season, grinding it out in the QMJHL. Dubois wasted no time getting his first NHL goal in his first NHL game played, as part of a 5-0 defeat of the New York Islanders. Of course, father Eric, who is an assistant coach in Manitoba was there to witness it first hand.
1. Jake DeBrusk (BOS): The second of three-straight first-round picks for Don Sweeney in the 2015 NHL Draft, DeBrusk spent the entire 2016-17 season with Providence in the AHL. DeBrusk took the positivity from a solid 2017 playoffs into a hard-working off-season and earned a spot with the Bruins on opening night. With his family in attendance, DeBrusk had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win at home against Nashville.