A whopping 22 entry-level slide candidates* made opening-night NHL rosters. The young man’s league is getting younger.
Twenty-two teenagers had a chance to stick in the National Hockey League past the nine-game threshold. A handful passed with flying colours, some have already been sent down for more development, and more linger on the bubble.
(Remember: The second milepost arrives 39 games into a young rookie’s career. Play a 40th game at the NHL level, and you inch one season closer to free agency and arbitration rights.)
Here’s a complete round-up of the rookies who aced, failed, or are still enduring their nine-game tryout.
IN THE CLEAR (played 10 or more games)
When the first-overall pick scores four goals in his NHL debut, the 10-game mark is merely a formality. At a point per game, Matthews is an early contender for the Calder Trophy.
The No. 2 with a No. 1’s confidence has six goals in 10 games and averages significantly more time on ice (19:17) than any other rookie forward. He’s already adopted Teemu Selanne’s goal celebration.
With five assists through 10 games, Marner has rapidly entrenched himself in the Maple Leafs’ top six. Rookie of the Year potential.
Playing big minutes (more than 20 per night), the six-foot, 200-pound Russian defenceman has five assists plus a stack of blocked shots and hits through 11 games in Philly.
“Ivan is 19 years old and he’s playing, if not the most difficult position, certainly the second-most difficult position to play as a young player,” GM Ron Hextall told Philly.com this week.
“He’s done a really good job. Has he had his [bad] moments? Of course, just like everyone else on our team. But I really like the way he’s bounced back and has been a factor for our team.”
Endearing himself to his teammates through his humility and hard work, the London, Ont., native already has seven points in 11 games for the Flyers.
“Eighteen, 19, it doesn’t matter the age,” linemate Jakub Voracek told reporters. “In the NHL, you’re training so hard in the summer that the game is changing so much. When you look at Provorov out there, he’s 19 and he’s crushing guys like he’s 28. He’s a very strong player. Kony is a fast player. They are ready to make an impact on the team and they already are.”
Matthews’ teammate with the Zurich Lions, the Swiss-born fourth-rounder won himself a gig on the Panthers’ blue line and scored his first NHL goal Tuesday night.
As part of a grand plan, the Flames’ brain trust is evaluating Tkachuk on a game-by-game basis, sitting him occasionally. The power forward has four points through nine games. Game 10 will arrive Thursday in San Jose.
The first Coyotes rookie to record a point in his first three games is determined to survive the 10-game mark. He stands at eight, playing as many as 20 minutes some nights.
“This is where I want to be. My whole life I’ve been working toward playing here,” Chychrun told NHL.com. “Every day I am so happy to be able to come in and go to work. It’s been challenging, but it has been fun though. It’s been great to adjust to this level of play – to the speed and to the size of the game at this level.”
Coach Dave Tippett, who also serves as the Coyotes’ executive vice president of hockey, said this to reporter Criag Morgan Tuesday: “He played 23 minutes last night. Do you think we’re just going to say, ‘Hey, go away now?’ ”
ON THE BUBBLE (fewer than 10 games but on an NHL roster)
Getting placed on Leon Draisaitl‘s wing while McDavid’s line draws the tougher defensive matchups gives Puljujarvi every chance to succeed. He scored in his NHL debut but has just one assist in the seven games since. Eight games played, two to go.
Expect Zacha, whose 10th game is on tap Saturday, to stick. His parents, Pavel and Ilona, want to visit in December, but they’re waiting to see if their son will pass the entry-level deadline before booking a flight from the Czech Republic.
One of five rookies on a Coyotes club that should be a treat to watch develop, Strome has popped in and out of the lineup, registering one assist in four games. That Arizona has yo-yo’d young Christian Dvorak back and forth from the AHL could spell more opportunity for Strome.
“He’s had a good week of practice and some work with the skating coach,” Tippett told reporters Wednesday. “He’s very motivated to play well. We could use his skill in there. We’ll see where it goes.”
A skilled and powerful winger, the six-foot-four Crouse scored his first NHL goal this week and remains in the mix after six games.
This second-round winger scored a point per game (45 in 45) for Karpat of the Finnish Elite League last season. For a rookie, Aho brings the ability to score and plenty of professional and international experience (he won world junior gold and was selected to Finland’s World Cup squad) to a club in severe need of offence.
Aho already has five assists and Game 10 is penciled for Saturday.
Zach Werenski Eight points through eight games leads one to believe 2015’s eight-overall pick is safe to stick with a winning Blue Jackets squad.
Five points through six games is a great look for the Swedish centre, who is not known for his scoring flourishes. He missed the first portion of the season while waiting for his work visa to get sorted out.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano is uncertain if the rookie forward will see his 10th game Thursday versus Philadelphia. Beauvillier has one goal and four assists so far.
A second-rounder in 2015, the Colorado native has chipped in two points in nine games from a thin Bruins blue line, but his defensive play has quickly endeared himself to the Boston fan base.
The 19-year-old centre has only squeezed into two games before being sidelined by strep throat. Looks to be in tough to avoid being returned to the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT (sent back to junior or to AHL before 10 games played)
The youngest opening-night player on any NHL roster was outstanding for the 2015-16 Windsor Spitfires, putting up 57 points in 67 games from the back end. After just three NHL games, he was returned there because it beats being a healthy scratch.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native was returned to his hometown Greyhounds after three games and zero points. Tough few days for Speers, who suffered a fractured wrist against Windsor and will miss about six weeks.
The Swedish blueliner and 2015 first-rounder played four games with the big club before being demoted to AHL San Diego, where he’ll develop his game.
Selected 18th overall in 2015, a disappointed Chabot was returned to the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs and hopes to represent Canada at the world juniors.
The defenceman made the cut out of camp and dressed for one pointless NHL game but was wasting his nights in the press box.
*Note: Players aged 18 or 19 as of Sept. 15 before the start of the season are eligible for their contracts to get delayed by one year if they have not played 10 NHL games in a single season previously or in the current season. If a player turns 20 in the calendar year he signs the contract, he is not eligible for an entry-level slide.