NHL Rookie Notebook: Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov leads rookie scoring race

Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov scores his first NHL goal in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings in NHL debut.

Every week throughout the 2020-21 season, we’re highlighting a handful of rookie performances and milestones from around the league.

This week, we’re checking the leaderboard to see who’s atop the stat sheet in several major categories.

GOALS: Pius Suter, Chicago Blackhawks (6)

The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks remain one of the biggest surprises of the 2020-21 season, their third-place position in the Central Division standings defying pre-season expectations. Much of the club’s success in the first half of the year has been due to a strong — and surprising — crop of rookies that includes forwards Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev, defenceman Ian Mitchell, and sudden star goaltender Kevin Lankinen.

Suter, 24, currently leads all rookies in goals with six. His first three came in the same game for his first career NHL hat trick. He’s also one of five rookies to have scored an overtime winner — perhaps ones of the prettiest we’ve seen yet this season:

Suter is tied for third in goals and fourth in points among his Blackhawks teammates.

POINTS: Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (15)

The Minnesota Wild have an absolute star in Kirill Kaprizov. While we already knew that prior to the season — his KHL resume made him an NHL standout before he even took his first strides in North America — the 23-year-old winger keeps finding new ways to wow us.

The NHL’s assists (11) and points (15) leader among rookies also leads all Minnesota teammates in those categories, too. Kaprizov’s playmaking has been on full display with passes like this:

But it’s his skating and edgework that truly separates him from the rest and puts him in elite territory:

POWER-PLAY POINTS: Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators (5)

The play of forward Josh Norris has been a bright spot in Ottawa. As the Senators get acquainted with the young group of fresh faces in the lineup, Norris has quickly become known as a power play specialist, leading all rookies in points scored with the man advantage (2G, 5 Pts).

Fellow Senators rookie Tim Stützle also has a pair of power-play markers, recently seeing time on the first PP unit.

AVERAGE ICE TIME: Mikey Anderson, Los Angeles Kings (21:24)

The Los Angeles Kings are on a roll, winning six straight games and hoisting themselves out of the West Division’s basement. While it’s the veterans who have been propelling this latest push, there are also some rookies doing a little heavy lifting.

Defenceman Mikey Anderson has been excellent this season, and while he’s not at Drew-Doughty-ice-time levels just yet (who is?) he’s playing veteran minutes. His 21:24 average ice time per night is first among all NHL rookies, second among Kings d-men, and third on the Kings behind Doughty and Anze Kopitar.

SAVE PERCENTAGE: Kevin Lankinen, Chicago Blackhawks (.921)

In addition to having the best win-loss record (8-3-3), Chicago Blackhawks netminder Kevin Lankinen also has the best save percentage (.921) of all rookie goalies this year. Of all the surprising rookie performances this season, the 25-year-old Finn has got to be the most unlikely hero as he grabbed hold of Chicago’s starting job and is backstopping the club back into contention. His numbers have him currently ranked as the league’s seventh-best goalie overall, while ranking first among all netminders league-wide in… points? Yup — he’s got two assists to his name.

GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE: Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota Wild (2.37)

Lankinen and Washington Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek have played more games, but Minnesota Wild netminder Kaapo Kahkonen is on a roll and quickly gaining ground in goalie wins (he’s 7-4-0 in 11 starts — just one win back of Lankinen and Vanecek).

Since Minnesota’s return from an extended COVID-19 shutdown, Kahkonen and the Wild have been nearly unstoppable. The rookie netminder has a four-game win streak going and hasn’t let in more than two goals per game in that time, which has him atop the goals against average standings among first-year goalies. After starting the season as a backup behind Cam Talbot, he’s certainly making a strong case to be the No. 1…

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