NHL Power Rankings: All-Rookie Edition

Connor McDavid scored maybe the nicest goal yet of his young career, finishing a great play by Benoit Pouliot to score on the Red Wings. He now leads the Oilers in goals scored.

That Connor kid seems all warmed up and ready to wheel now, doesn’t he?

When he deked, like, two vowels out of Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek for an Oilers win Wednesday night, the look on his face was better than the look of his hands. (Watch the goal above.)

Not relief like goal No. 1, but joy.

Few things have been more fun in this young NHL season than tracking the rookies. As expected, Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid — five points in his last three games and now his team’s leading goal-getter — have wowed. But from Arizona’s deadly duo to St. Louis’s defensive prospect, the 2015 freshman class goes deep.

For the NHL Power Rankings: All-Rookie Edition, we rank the teams according to overall strength. The write-ups, however, zero in on the first-year players.

Rank Team

Of the four rookie netminders who have seen the ice in this young season, Mike Condon has the best goals-against average, allowing just one goal in his 20-save win over the Senators. The reason Montreal waived Dustin Tokarski.

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Figures the most under-the-radar rookie would be on Jim Nill’s squad, winners of four straight. Sweden’s Mattias Janmark, a third-rounder in 2013, already has two goals, two assists and a game-winner for the Central’s new noisemakers.

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Even the Islanders’ wicked offence couldn’t save goaltender Jean-Francois Berube from .882 save percentage in his NHL debut. He allowed four goal against the Blackhawks on Oct. 10 and has yet to see the crease since.

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Washington has tried unproven forwards Stanislav Galiev and Chandler Stephenson for a couple games each, but the veterans run the ship here and have the club on a three-game tear.

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While KHL scoring champ Steve Moses failed to make the cut in training camp, the Predators have given a little look to forwards Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson.

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Alberta’s Colton Parayko, 22, is off to such a smooth start (three points, plus-3) he may be on his way to playing veteran Carl Gunnarsson out of a job on one of the NHL’s best blue lines. That Robbi Fabbri looks a like a player, too.

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The Jets’ decision to go with a younger lineup looks just swell. Winnipeg is tied for the West’s best goal differential (+7), and Nikolai Ehlers is already a vital cog in the Jets’ power play.

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A top-10 pick in 2012, defenceman Slater Koekkoek drew into the lineup due to Nikita Nesterov’s suspension and Victor Hedman’s minor injury, but the 21-year-old needs more development.

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Swedish sensation Oscar Lindberg shot out the gate like a cannon, throwing up four goals in his first three NHL games. Of course, his 40 per cent shooting accuracy may not be sustainable over the course of his career.

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Hard not to root for a seventh-rounder to make it, and 22-year-old Ontario centre Tyler Graovac is on the brink, having dressed for four games with the Wild.

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While Nikolay Goldobin and Joonas Donskol won’t come close to filling the void left by an injured Logan Couture (broken leg), both young forwards wasted little time getting on the board with a goal.

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AHL graduate Connor Brickley not only grinded his way up to the big club, the 23-year-old’s first NHL goal was a game-winner. He followed that up with a two-assist night versus Pittsburgh.

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Dylan Larkin, 19, is better than a point per game and leads all rookies with a plus-7 rating. Imagine that: Detroit drafting well.

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Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne’s favourite rookie, Max Domi, has company when it comes to first impressions with the Coyotes. Anthony Duclair’s seven points match Domi’s for the freshman scoring race, and 23-year-old winger Jordan Martinook is finding a role with the rebuilding club.

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Dear Mom,
So far life with the Penguins is going pretty good. After five games, I was out-scoring Sidney Crosby. Not bad, eh?
Daniel Sprong
P.S. Things changed in Game 6

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Defenceman Ben Hutton — a.k.a. the reason Frank Corrado is a Maple Leaf — has exceeded expectations, playing big minutes on the back end, contributing three assists and holding a plus-2 rating. Decisions on whether to keep teen forwards Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen loom.

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Artemi Panarin, formerly of the KHL, has transitioned rather seamlessly onto the North American ice. Being part of the champs’ top six helps. Panarin paces all rookies in assists (five) and points (seven), but he won’t be able to make up for the loss of Duncan Keith (out 4-6 weeks after MCL surgery).

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Defensive prospect Chris Wideman, 25, squeezed into Saturday’s game versus Nashville in light of Marc Methot’s concussion, playing 18 shifts and getting off a couple shots.

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Connor McDavid’s breakout weekend — “So, you’re telling me we don’t have to play the St. Louis Blues every other game? Sweet!” — wasn’t just impressive because he put up four points in two days. It’s how he put them up. Giddy up.

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The Flyers have won three of their last four but can’t seem to find a consistent and healthy goalie. Philly is only team that has yet to dress a rookie.

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With the injury bug nipping the Bruins early, 22-year-old Joe Morrow has seen more than 19-and-a-half minutes in three games’ work.

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Tough 207-pounder Andy Andreoff easily leads all rookies in penalty minutes. His 27 PIMs through four (mostly miserable) games trumps the 18 PIMs he saw in his 18 NHL games last year.

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Finland’s Mikko Rantanen, a 2015 first-rounder, made the club in camp. The 18-year-old has fired seven shots in limited looks but is still searching for his first point.

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On the heels of his best KHL season, centre Sergei Kalinin is getting a shot on the bottom half of a weak Devils offence. With just one shot in his first five games, his impact has been slow.

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Perhaps it’s indicative of the Ducks’ ready-to-contend roster that coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t have minutes to spare on freshmen. AHL prospect Chris Wagner has seen 10 NHL games total but has yet to register a point.

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No first-year forward is seeing more ice than Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, who’s getting special teams looks too. Watching his talent develop at an accelerated rate because of the opportunity in Western New York will continue to be a treat.

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He’s no Phil Kessel, but defenceman Scott Harrington is getting a legitimate shot in Toronto — something that eluded him in Pittsburgh. The minus-3 defenceman has averaged more than 15 minutes of ice in his five games.

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Top-five pick Noah Hanifin is getting thrown right into the fire, seeing more than 17 minutes a night, and winger Brock McGinn has scored on half the shots he’s taken.

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Sam Bennett’s slow start has mirrored his team’s. An upper-body injury cost him a game and he has yet to find the back of the net. At minus-13, the Flames have the worst goal differential in the West.

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After Erik chopped off his long hair, William tweeted, “Don’t worry folks, there is still one more Karlsson with ‘The flow’!” That and the fact Karlsson the forward uses a goofy photo of Ross from “Friends” as his Twitter avatar make him awesome. His minus-8 rating less so.

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