Two weeks ago, we looked at which rookies might be making it to the crucial 10-game mark and beyond, meaning the first year of their respective entry-level deals would officially be on the books. (Rookies who signed their ELCs at age 18 or 19 and don’t hit 10 NHL games are eligible to have their rookie deals pushed back a year or two.) At the time, we saw several intriguing cases.
Now two weeks later, the picture is a little clearer in terms of which youngsters are here to stay and which need a little more time to develop in the minors.
We begin this edition of the Rookie Notebook with an update on where things stand with those on the bubble.
Here to stay
The top two picks from June’s draft, New Jersey’s Jack Hughes (13 games) and New York’s Kaapo Kakko (12 games), have since passed the mark — no surprise there — while Chicago also wasted no time making their intentions clear with pick No. 3, Kirby Dach. He has a goal and three assists through nine NHL games after joining the club following a three-game conditioning stint with AHL Rockford and has proven he belongs in the big leagues.
Not ready yet
One of the intriguing 10-game cases was Winnipeg Jets defenceman Ville Heinola, whose season-opening NHL stint sat stuck at eight games for a little while as the club pondered the best move. The Jets decided to send him to develop with AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose, with the door still open, per his contract, for him to return to his native Finland.
Still on the fence
The Jets now have another decision to make in David Gustafsson, who has played very limited minutes since getting called up in place of Mark Letestu. With Letestu now ruled out for six months due to a myocarditis diagnosis, the Jets may need to rely more heavily on its depth going forward. Gustafsson is now nine games into his NHL stint, with game No. 10 scheduled for Friday.
Another tough decision on the horizon: The Arizona Coyotes and rookie Barrett Hayton (eight games). He’ll go back to the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds if he doesn’t stick with the NHL club, as he’s not eligible to play in the AHL as a 19-year-old. He’s been the extra forward in Arizona so far this season, slotting in at various spots. He got top-line minutes over the weekend — and produced a highlight-reel between-the-legs assist — but it’s still to be determined whether he’ll stay in the desert.
Joel Farabee (eight games) has certainly looked like a legitimate NHLer during his call-up with the Philadelphia Flyers, showing no signs of slowing down with a pair of goals and three points on the season so far.
The first month of the NHL season saw several strong rookie performances, with plenty of great quotes and milestones. Here’s a round up of some of the standout rookie moments from the past two weeks:
Olofsson shines in October
We learned two things about Buffalo Sabres rookie Victor Olofsson in the month of October:
1. He’s got a very weird pre-game/intermission ritual.
2. He’s basically a one-man power-play unit. The Sabres spent much of October teaching opponents a valuable lesson: Don’t take penalties. Buffalo has been electric with the man advantage, posting a 26.9 power-play percentage — and most of that is due to the Sabres’ newest sniper. All six of Olofsson’s NHL goals have come on the man advantage and just two of his 10 points have come at even-strength. His six-game stint to close out the 2018-19 campaign also yielded two power-play goals, making that eight in all. He has yet to score at even-strength.
The Swedish forward, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2014, currently leads all rookies in goals and was named October’s rookie of the month for his standout play.
Bear, meet Ovi
Edmonton Oilers rookie rearguard Ethan Bear is logging big minutes already this season with the red-hot Pacific club, leading all rookies in average time on ice (21:25) while getting top-pair billing alongside Darnell Nurse. The 2015 fifth-rounder has gone up against some tough competition… and produced some pretty funny post-game lines, too.
Luck not on Farabee’s side
How’s this for bad luck: Philadelphia Flyers rookie Joel Farabee had his first career NHL assist and his first NHL goal overturned by offside challenges during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 24 — his second career NHL matchup.
And get this: teammate Kevin Hayes was the guilty offside party both times.
Justice for Joel pic.twitter.com/LfU694cZgY
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 25, 2019
His luck did turn, finally: Farabee finished the game with a point when he assisted on a third-period goal from — you guessed it — Hayes.
But then, a week later, the bad luck struck again. After forcing overtime with his first (legal) NHL goal on Nov. 1 against the Devils, Farabee’s overtime winner was disallowed due to a distinct kicking motion from the rookie on the goal.
Farabee has since scored another goal, giving him two on the season, and has learned a valuable rookie lesson: No goal is safe.
Boqvist’s busy week
You thought your week was busy? Chicago Blackhawks rookie rearguard Adam Boqvist has had a jam-packed schedule over the past seven days filled with firsts. Last Wednesday, he scored his first goal as a pro hockey player with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. One day later, he got the call to join the Blackhawks. Saturday brought his NHL debut, with his first NHL goal — a gorgeous snipe — coming Sunday against the Ducks.
Speaking of Blackhawks rookies…
Dach hungry for more
We touched on Dach off the top, with the Blackhawks confirming the rookie will be sticking around beyond the 10-game mark. Dach showed up hungry for NHL experience and has rewarded Blackhawks brass for drafting him third overall last June with a goal and two helpers through nine games.
Also, maybe he’s just actually hungry.
Blackhawks writer Chris Kuc gave us a great glimpse into the day-to-day life of the 18-year-old rookie centreman in a recent article on the team’s website in which we learned that he’s taken up temporary residence with veteran defenceman Brent Seabrook. The article includes plenty of great quotes, but this one might be the best gem in there:
Mahura’s magic debut
The Ducks have built themselves a reputation for drafting and developing strong defencemen. Add Josh Mahura to that list. The 21-year-old registered a goal and five points in a 17-game NHL stint last season, and started off 2019-20 on a historic note.
All three of his season-debut assists on Oct. 29 came in a span of less than three minutes in the second period.
Despite the successful season debut, Mahura’s NHL stint didn’t last long. The Ducks announced Wednesday afternoon that they’ve sent him back to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.
Samsonov’s strong starts
With starter Braden Holtby in a contract year, it’s crucial for the Washington Capitals to figure out what exactly they have in rookie Ilya Samsonov.
So far, they like what they’re seeing. Samsonov, 22, has started five games and won all of ’em, giving him the most wins among rookie netminders so far (Vancouver Thatcher Demko is 4-1 and New Jersey’s Mackenzie Blackwood is 3-2). He has posted a 2.38 goals against average and .915 save percentage, with plenty more starts to come.
Canucks’ Hughes gives fans a fright
Vancouver Canucks rookie Quinn Hughes gave fans a scare last Friday went he fell awkwardly to the ice during the first period against the Ducks. He appeared to catch a rut in the ice, which led him to twisting his ankle and pushing his knee forward. Thankfully, the 20-year-old is just fine after sitting out the remainder of Friday’s matchup and missing Saturday’s game. He was back in action Tuesday against the Blues and came up clutch for the Canucks to tie things up and force overtime. Vancouver lost the game in OT, but gained the peace of mind in knowing their kid was just fine.
Things are looking up for Quinn’s little brother, too…
Devils’ Hughes heating up
Remember that scoreless start that plagued No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes? Safe to say it’s firmly in the rearview mirror. The New Jersey Devils have struggled, but Hughes is now finding his footing. In the six games since registering his first NHL point on Oct. 17, Hughes tallied three goals and three assists.
Like his brother, Jack also had an injury scare Friday night. During a game against the Flyers, the rookie was rocked by a big hit from Matt Niskanen and went down hard. Also like his brother, he too would be just fine — but it must have been a stressful night in the Hughes household.
Bardreau’s first goal gives every undrafted NHLer hope
OK, bending the rules here a little but it’s for a good cause. Though not technically a rookie according to the NHL’s official guidelines, we can’t help but highlight a pretty cool first from New York Islanders forward Cole Bardreau. The 26-year-old (he turned 26 on July 22, which is why he’s no longer considered a rookie) scored his first NHL goal in front of the home crowd on a penalty shot to give his team the lead against the Senators on Tuesday night and help extend the club’s win streak to 10.
Bardreau, a longtime AHLer, was clearly emotional after the goal — as was every single guy on the Islanders bench. Bardreau’s path to the pros went through the NCAA and included several severe injuries, including a broken neck that almost left him paralyzed. Rookie or not, seeing Bardreau find the back of the net under the bright lights Tuesday night will certainly stand as one of the best “firsts” of 2019-20.