Like Halloween, juice and hope, this week’s Power Rankings are strictly for the kids.
Now four weeks into the season, we’re curious to see how the new guys are fitting in.
Who’s wowing with their maturity? Who’s in over their head and may be better served by further development? Who’s jumped into the extremely early Calder conversation?
In our NHL Power Rankings: How’s Your Rookie Doing? Edition, we highlight the progress or struggles of the NHL’s freshman class, club by club.
All 31 teams are ranked in order of their current awesomeness, while the write-ups focus on a rookie (or two) of note wearing your favourite sweater.
Connor Clifton — the 24-year-old defenceman who hipped the world to the phase “Cliffy hockey” during the Bruins’ injury-depleted run to the final — has been solid and serviceable in limited use this season. He has yet to register a point but is a plus-3 and has tilted the ice in Boston’s favour when called upon.
The P.K. Subban trade opened up ice time on the Predators’ blue line for someone younger and cheaper. Dante Fabbro has leapt at that challenge, seeing more than 19 minutes a game, potting a pair of goals and racking up a plus-6 rating on a powerhouse team.
Backup goalie Ilya Samsonov, 22, has won as many games as he’s started (four), posting a decent .913 save percentage in those outings and at least planting the idea that Washington might be OK in net if it can’t fit impending UFA Braden Holtby into its salary cap in 2020-21 and beyond.
Defenceman Noah Dobson is caught in limbo. The defence prospect has squeezed into just three games so far, but can’t develop in the AHL and needs something more challenging than junior. Forward Oliver Wahlstrom, 19, has also been given a peek at the NHL, but has yet to be trusted with a regular role on a red-hot club.
Cale Makar, our early Calder bet, is tied for the lead in rookie points despite playing defence. He’s logging 18:42 per night and earning prime minutes on the Avalanche’s power play.
Quinn Hughes has been a revelation, quarterbacking a rejuvenated Canucks power play to the tune of eight points while logging more than 20 minutes a night. Behind him, Jacob Markstrom has certainly held his own, but rookie Thatcher Demko has been fantastic in his few starts, going 3-1 and besting all freshmen goalies with a .941 save percentage and 1.73 goals-against average.
The Penguins’ rash of injuries has helped open the doors for young faces like Sam Lafferty and John Marino to hop into the fray. Lafferty has racked up 3-3-6 in 10 outings. He’s winning most of his draws and has a game-winner to boot. The fringe forward is certainly making a case.
Seventh-round gem Olofsson has sniped six power-play goals with his whippy hockey stick and dead-accurate aim, giving him a share of the rookie scoring lead (10 points) as he makes the most of all that shared ice time with Jack Eichel.
“It’s a lot of fun to be on the same team and on the same ice as him,” Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said of 2018 fifth-overall pick Barrett Hayton. The 19-year-old has three points in four games.
The Golden Knights have already called upon a couple rookie D-men in Jake Bischoff and Nicolas Hague, but it’s the franchise’s first-ever entry-draft choice, Cody Glass, that looks like a sure NHLer. The prospect has come up, played nearly 15 minutes and night and contributing points at even-strength and the power play.
Martin Necas has found himself a nice fit on Carolina’s third line and top power-play unit. The 12th-overall pick in 2017 has six points through a dozen games.
12. Anaheim Ducks
A pair of prized prospects upfront, Sam Steel and Max Comtois have made the leap, skating around 15 minutes each and combining for eight points thus far. The future is coming fast in Anaheim.
With three goals already, Nick Suzuki — a Vegas first-rounder and the centrepiece of the Max Pacioretty deal — has made a positive impression on a critical fan base. The way he’s performed on Hockey Night in Canada, he sure looks like an NHLer to these eyes.
14. St. Louis Blues
On the topic of learning team-first habits, brought up this week by Alex Ovechkin, Maple Leafs coach said: “Look at the age of St. Louis.” It speaks volumes that the Blues have thus far decided to defend their crown without dressing a single rookie.
15. Edmonton Oilers
Ethan Bear has been tossed right into the fire. The 22-year-old defenceman’s 21:16 per night paces all rookies in average ice time, and he has delivered with own-zone play that has received rave reviews, plus four points on his resume. A nice fifth-round (2015) find for an organization that has taken some heat for its drafting.
Fourth-liner Carter Verhaeghe has just a single assist, but the 2013 Maple Leafs draft choice’s long, winding road to the big time is a testament to both the kid’s drive and the Lightning’s ability to make NHLers out of longshots. Jon Cooper compares Verhaeghe’s journey to that of Tyler Johnson.
Alexandre Texier and, to a slightly lesser degree, Emil Branstrom are finding their way in the world’s best league. And with so many veteran Columbus forwards lost over the off-season, the sooner they can be trusted to make an impact at both ends of the rink, the better.
They call him Souperman lover, yeah. Ilya Mikheyev is stronger than a locomotive and faster than a speeding bullet. He leads all rookies in points, shots, plus/minus and borsht per 60 — despite only getting used on the penalty kill, not the power-play.
19. Florida Panthers
Only the Blues and Flames have fewer man-games by rookies (zero). The Panthers’ 21-year-old defence prospect Riley Stillman squeezed into a single game. He was put back in the cupboard after going minus-3 and fighting Travis Hamonic in just 14 minutes of NHL work.
20. Calgary Flames
The Flames are exercising patience with their prospects and have yet to dress a rookie this season.
Five different rookies have appeared for the Flyers so far, but none have seen more than six games. Nineteen-year-old Joel Farabee, Philly’s 2018 first-round pick, has averaged 2.5 shots per game but, due to an offsides call, is still searching for his first NHL goal. Farabee’s Twitter bio reads simply: “Trying my best.”
22. Winnipeg Jets
Depended upon more than expected due to the Jets’ rash of blue line injuries, Ville Heinola ranks fifth in average ice time among all rookies. Only Makar and Quinn Hughes have more points from the back end. Eyes in Winnipeg are curious to see if the good-looking prospect reaches Game 10 and triggers his entry-level deal.
23. Dallas Stars
Of the four freshmen the shaky-start Stars have given a peek in October, Dennis Gurianov has shown best, earning 10 games and contributing a pair of goals in limited use.
24. New York Rangers
The Rangers’ 31 games played by rookies is a healthy reminder of where they sit in their rebuild project. Harvard alum Adam Fox scored his first goal this week and has been skating more than 16 minutes nightly. The dynamic Kaapo Kakko has a pair of goals, but his minus-12 rating puts him last on his club in that category.
25. San Jose Sharks
The underwhelming Sharks have tested out an NHL-high seven rookies at various positions this month, defenceman Mario Ferraro the best of the bunch. They’ve combined for 43 man-games played and a grand total of one goal.
Centre Kirby Dach is going to stick in the NHL, the club announced, at the tender age of 18. “He’s been a bright spot for us,” coach Jeremy Colliton told reporters Wednesday. “He immediately showed he was comfortable in this league.”
27. Minnesota Wild
Defender Carson Soucy has been one of the few young, bright spots for the ageing Wild, earning a healthy 14 minutes a night and doing a fine job in his own zone. It says something that the kid is a plus-5 on a minus-14 club.
28. Ottawa Senators
Pierre Dorion has used six(!) rookies in his lineup already. While the debate will endure whether an Erik Brannstrom, Drake Batherson or Logan Brown might be better served dominating in the minors than losing games in the NHL, the Sens simply don’t have enough dependable, productive veterans to keep the kids from getting a taste.
The continued health issues of Cory Schneider have paved the way for 22-year-old second-rounder Mackenzie Blackwood to seize more than 325 minutes of crease time already, tops among all rookie netminders. Blackwood’s 2-2-2 record means he’s been between the pipes for every standings point earn by his struggling club.
Steve Yzerman is wisely taking a patient approach, keeping most of his prospects in the minors. Taro Hirose is an exception. The undrafted winger out of Michigan State has five assists through 13 games, and Detroit is looking for him to be a key cog in their power play moving forward.
The youth movement is underway in L.A. as a pair of unsung prospects, defenceman Matt Roy and centre Blake Lizotte, have been called upon for regular roles with the big club. Carl Grundstrom, acquired from Toronto in the Jake Muzzin trade, was called up this week and hopped on the scoresheet his first game.