The dynamic Elias Pettersson is back skating for Vancouver, Jesperi Kotkaniemi looks like the young centre Montreal has been searching for, and a flurry of trades have opened the door for an intriguing rookie crop in Ottawa.
The kids are all right, except for the ones still struggling to find their way.
It’s our NHL Power Rankings: Rookie Dinner Bill Edition, in honour of the age-old tradition of extravagant team bonding at the expense of the guys with the lowest income.
All 31 teams are ranked in order of the power they’ve displayed over the opening three weeks of the 2018-19 season.
As we approach the 9/10-game threshold for entry-level players eligible to be demoted without burning a year of their NHL contracts, the write-ups focus on the early showings — good and bad — of each club’s rookie class.
Funny, the only team without a single rookie in its lineup is also our Power Rankings’ new No. 1.
The Cup-contending Predators are the only team yet to dress a rookie, despite many believing this could be the season Eeli Tolvanen busts into the bigs.
The Avalanche have given Vladislav Kamenev and Sheldon Dries a little peek, but both depth forwards are still searching for their first NHL point. The Avs’ top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen is scoring enough for the whole team.
Winnipeg has tried a couple of rookie wingers, Kristian Vesalainen and Brendan Lemieux, in its lineup. Their ice time and impact has been negligible so far. We’d like to see more, but it’s a tough roster to crack.
Anthony Cirelli recorded a team-high seven shots on net in the Lightning’s crazy 33-shot, record-setting second period in Chicago Sunday. The pipeline of young Syracuse forwards continues with both Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph contributing as regulars. A pair of mid-round 2015 picks coming into their own.
Brimming with freshmen last season, the only rookie to make the Bs and stick is depth centre Ryan Donato. The local boy done good putting up an impressive nine points during his 12-game look last season. He’s scored just once in October, but the man has hands:
The Sharks have given two undrafted rookie forwards minutes in the early going, Antti Suomela and Rourke Chartier. Of the two, Suomela — an imported star forward from the Finnish Elite League — has most impressed, helping set up three goals.
Russian find Igor Ozhiganov has been a nice addition to the Maple Leafs’ third pairing, but Andreas Johnsson — a tour de force last spring as the Calder Cup’s MVP — has struggled to find his niche, bouncing in and out of Toronto’s fourth line. He has just one lonely assist, but perhaps he needs more ice time (8:43 per game) and a shot on Nazem Kadri’s third line to get going.
Expect Kotkaniemi to survive the 10-game threshold. The teenage centre has arrived NHL-ready, and although he’s still hunting his first goal, he’s making plays and sticking up for the big guy:
Instead of bringing in veterans via free agency, the youth movement in New Jersey continues. Undrafted centre Jean-Sebastien Dea, 24, is off to a hot start, potting three goals through six games. Not too shabby for a guy once thought of as an AHL lifer.
The ballin’-on-a-budget Hurricanes have already dressed five guys on their entry-level deals. We knew Andrei Svechnikov (four points) was the real deal, but how about Warren Foegele (five points), a 2014 pick who’s cracked the ‘Canes top six? The duo sits tied for the rookie lead in shots with 25 apiece.
Nathan Walker, a.k.a. the Australian Gretzky, has made three appearances this season in a limited role and has one helper to show for it.
12. Calgary Flames
Defencemen Juuso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson and forward Dillon Dube have all seen ice time down the lineup, but a true breakout awaits.
The veteran Penguins have flown Finnish pro Juuso Riikola, 24, over the Atlantic to bolster an injured defence corps.
Gone are the days when expansion teams meant opportunities for rookies. The Golden Knights have dressed just one freshman this season, and he’s 25. Tomas Hyka, originally a Kings draft pick, hasn’t been much of a factor in the four games he’s played.
15. Minnesota Wild
Defenceman Nick Seeler and forward Jordan Greenway — a beast of a kid at 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds — have done well to carve out roles for themselves in the bottom half of the lineup.
16. Anaheim Ducks
Sam Steel owns the more bad-ass name and first-round pedigree, but 19-year-old Maxime Comtois — the 2017 second-rounder who put up pinball numbers in the Q — put up seven points through nine outings. Naturally, Anaheim gave Comtois his 10th start Tuesday, burning the first year of his deal.
Top-heavy with payroll, the mildly resurgent Blackhawks have received handy contributions from rookies like forward Dominik Kahun (six points) and defenceman Henri Jokiharju. The 2017 first-rounder has put up five assists and a plus-3 rating while skating 21:02 per night alongside Duncan Keith.
Despite missing four games (so far) due to his concussion, the dynamic Pettersson still leads all Canucks and all freshmen in goals (five) and points (eight). The Calder is his to lose.
19. Ottawa Senators
The significant injury suffered by first-rounder Brady Tkachuk (six points through his first four NHL games) is eased somewhat by the solid performances of Colin White and the out-of-nowhere Maxime Lajoie, who’s putting up a point per game from the back end like Erik Who?
Late-blooming winger Ross Johnston was never drafted and played for the ECHL Missouri Mavericks as recently as 2015-16. The 24-year-old Charlottetown native saw a personal-best 24 games with the Islanders last season but has squeezed into just one this fall. He notched an assist, so… point per game!
21. Buffalo Sabres
Through nine games, Casey Mittelstadt has yet to locate the back of the net. The Sabres’ much-celebrated first-overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, has already scored a game-winner and is logging an impressive 19-minutes-plus per game. Meanwhile, Linus Ullmark leads every major rookie goaltending category among a relatively thin crop.
22. Edmonton Oilers
The speedy Kailer Yamamoto, a 2017 first-rounder, notched his first NHL goal. Defenceman Evan Bouchard, a 2018 first-rounder, is getting shots on the Oilers’ second power-play unit.
23. Dallas Stars
Miro Heiskanen, the prospect Dallas refused to give up for Erik Karlsson, is getting more than 20 minutes of action nightly. Ironically, he’s paired with EK65’s old partner, Marc Methot, in the Stars’ top four.
For the third straight season, Columbus has brought up 2015 first-round D-man Gabriel Carlsson for a limited stint. The lanky Swede (6-foot-5) has seen all of 9:21 in ice time total this season.
Winger Oskar Lindblom, a 2014 fifth-rounder, has cracked the lineup and contributed two goals skating on the Flyers’ third unit.
26. New York Rangers
First-round forwards Filip Chytil and Brett Howden are looking comfortable in roles for the rebuilding Rangers’ top nine, putting up six points combined.
27. Arizona Coyotes
Scouting the KHL, the Coyotes signed defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin after the 24-year-old had five seasons of pro experience with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv under his belt. The big Russian has popped in and out of the Arizona lineup and has more often than not been a healthy scratch.
28. St. Louis Blues
St. Louis’s much-heralded crop of prospects is making its way into the lineup, as Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas and Sammy Blais have all made the bigs. No breakouts just yet; their roles have been limited.
29. Florida Panthers
Juho Lammikko, a 2014 third-rounder out of Finland, and the undrafted Jacob MacDonald — seemingly a minor-league lifer — have each made their NHL debuts this season.
The floundering Kings have given a trio of freshmen a chance in the early going, but depth forwards Jaret Anderson-Dolan (since returned to Spokane), Austin Wagner and Sheldon Rempal have combined for just one assist and a minus-7 rating through 12 man-games played.
A clear sign of a rebuilding franchise: The Red Wings lead the league in games played by freshmen. Six Detroit rookies have appeared in at least six games already. Most impressive is top-pair defenceman Dennis Cholowski, whose work running point on the Wings’ top power-play unit has helped the 20-year-old earn five points already. Cholowski leads all NHL rookies in average time on ice (22:14).