Forty-one rookies earned places on NHL opening night rosters in 2009, down significantly from a total of 76 last season.
Los Angeles and St. Louis had led the way in 2008-09 with seven and six first-year players making the team out of training camp, respectively, but no team boasted more than three this year (Colorado, Detroit, LA, NY, San Jose, and Toronto all with three).
Last season, only two of the 30 teams did not open the season with a rookie on its roster (Buffalo and Colorado). This year, the number jumped to nine teams, with Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Minnesota, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis not boasting a freshman.
Headlining the list this year was the quartet already dubbed the "Fabulous Four" — the top players chosen at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. First overall pick, center John Tavares of the New York Islanders, is this year’s most high-profile rookie. Tavares’ long-awaited NHL debut comes after the Mississauga, Ontario native racked up 433 points (215 goals, 218 assists) in 247 games over four seasons with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights of the OHL.
He is followed by towering defenseman Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay, and centers Matt Duchene of Colorado and Evander Kane of Atlanta.
Another member of the ’09 draft class to make an opening night roster was Colorado’s second-round pick, Ryan O’Reilly, who together with Duchene forms a rare duo of 18-year-old pivots on the same team.
Another top draft pick – albeit from two years ago – who made the cut was forward James vanRiemsdyk of Philadelphia. A standout at the University of Hampshire the past two seasons, "JVR" made the Flyers after an outstanding camp/preseason and is expected to contribute right away on the contending team.
Speaking of collegiate players making the jump to the pros, Matt Gilroy, last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner as the NCAA‘s top performer at Boston University, earned a spot on the Rangers roster and will compete for minutes on the Broadway backline.
Three rookie goaltenders made their debuts on opening night, if not in game action then at least in uniform. Seymon Varlamov, fresh off of a dynamic playoff run during which he established himself as the Capitals’ starting goalie, is back for his first full season with the team.
Jimmy Howard, still technically a rookie despite having appeared in nine NHL games since the 2005-06 season, will back up Chris Osgood in Detroit. Swedish import Jonas Gustavsson will serve in a similar role behind Vesa Toskala in Toronto.
Below is a complete list of the rookies who made the opening night roster for each NHL team.
Atlanta: Evander Kane
Buffalo: Tim Kennedy, Tyler Myers
Columbus: Nikita Filatov
Dallas: Jamie Benn, Tom Wandell
Edmonton: Ryan Stone
Florida: Dmitry Kulikov, Shawn Matthias
Montreal: Gregory Stewart
Philadelphia: James vanRiemsdyk
St. Louis: None
Vancouver: Sergei Shirokov
Washington: Semyon Varlamov