As the 2009-10 season continues, the hot starts of many talented rookies are beginning to cool off and the reality of a long, arduous NHL season has begun set in. NHL freshmen have had plenty of time to become comfortable with the daily grind of the big league and those who continue to contribute are becoming valuable additions to their teams.
Here are the results of the Hockey’s Future Staff Calder poll for the month of December.
It took just over 12 and a half minutes for Tavares to notch his first NHL point in his first NHL game. Less than half a period later, he added his first NHL goal. And the 19-year-old’s production has continued. His 11 goals lead all rookies, as do his 22 points in 29 games. November was an especially prolific month for Tavares, highlighted by a five-game point streak that saw him tally eight points. More importantly, his Islanders continue to be in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference, as they vie for their first playoff berth since 2007.
Despite playing for a Philadelphia Flyer squad that is underperforming and has already seen its head coach sent packing, vanRiemsdyk has been a breath of fresh air for the Orange and Black. The Flyers entered the month of November on a winning streak, which went seven games, and vanRiemsdyk had four game-winners, tying him for second in the league. In total, he has six goals and 19 points in 24 games, but like the rest of the Flyers, he is looking for consistency. He has a single assist in his last eight games played.
After a hot start to begin the season, the New York Rangers returned to Earth and so has their freshman defenseman Del Zotto. The Ontario native posted 12 points in his first 12 NHL games, catapulting him to a quick lead in the rookie scoring race, while also providing a boost to the Blueshirts power play. In the 17 games since, Del Zotto has added just five more points and the Rangers proficiency during the man advantage has dropped to the middle of the NHL pack. All told, his 17 points in 29 games continues to lead all rookie defensemen.
A bruising defender in Buffalo, Myers has watched his ice time and responsibility steadily increase as the season progresses. Leading all Sabres in average ice time and second among all rookies, Myers sees time in all situations. Just 27 games into the season, the 19-year-old is trusted with important defensive assignments on a nightly basis on a team that is challenging for the division lead. He’s also no slouch offensively, with his three goals and 15 points placing him second among rookie defensemen and fifth overall on his team.
Like a number of other rookies, O’Reilly shot out of the gate to start the year and took the Colorado Avalanche with him. The Avs were a surprise at the top of the standings early on in the season and O’Reilly was just as much a revelation as a second rounder who immediately stepped in to contribute at the NHL level. However, the results haven’t been as sunny since that hot start. In his last 15 games, O’Reilly has posted just three assists, while the Avalanche have posted a 5-6-4 record and have watched competing teams catch them in the standings. In total, O’Reilly has four goals and 17 points in 32 games, placing him tied for fifth among all rookies, while his +13 leads all freshmen.
Quite simply, Hedman has been a horse for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stepping directly off the NHL draft stage into a roster spot, the big Swede’s offensive totals are respectable with a goal and eight points in 28 games, but it is his play away from the puck that has garnered the most attention. Hedman’s average ice time has led all rookies since the beginning of the season and he is currently second on his team in minutes played, while being just as responsible in special team situations. With that said, it appears the Lightning are being careful that they don’t tire their blue line prodigy too soon. After regularly seeing 25 minutes or more of ice time in the early goings of the season, Hedman, on average, has hit the ice for just less than 20 minutes per game over his past 10 games played.
After four full seasons in the AHL and just nine games of NHL experience over that span of time, the 22-year-old Bergfors is finally getting the opportunity to showcase the talent that led the Devils to select him 23rd overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. One of just four forwards on the Devils to have played in all 28 games so far this season, Bergfors has bounced around the line-up, including seeing some time on the power play. His nine points with the man advantage are tied for most on the Devils and all together, he has nine goals and 19 points, placing him fourth on the team in scoring.
Coming into his own after a slow start to begin his NHL career, Duchene is beginning to bury his chances, but it has yet to change the fortunes of the Colorado Avalanche. After posting just seven points in his first 21 games, Duchene has exploded with seven goals and 12 points in his last 11 matches. Second among all rookie forwards in ice time, Duchene is starting to make the most of his opportunities and it is only a matter of time before his offensive output results in wins for the Avs.
After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002, the Dallas Stars aimed to quickly change course and return to the post-season for the 2009-10 year. Benn is a key part of the Stars’ reloading and has quickly made an impact in the Dallas lineup. His 68 hits so far this season are second among all rookie forwards and third among Stars forwards. Meanwhile, he’s shown that he is no slouch offensively either, with five goals and 16 points in 29 games this season, playing in a complementary role. That might be a sign of things to come for this promising rookie as he is currently third in power-play time among rookie forwards.
After serving notice during the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, Varlamov has started to live up to expectations in Washington. Starting the season by sharing time with incumbent netminder Jose Theodore, Varlamov’s record of 12-1-2 has pulled him ahead as the go-to guy for the Capitals. His .924 save percentage ties him for seventh in the league, as does his 2.21 goals-against-average. The Capitals find themselves atop the standings for the Eastern Conference and Varlamov is a huge part of their early success.
Other rookies receiving votes (alphabetical order): Artem Anisimov (NYR), Jason Demers (SJ), Matt Gilroy (NYR), Michael Grabner (VAN), Evander Kane (ATL), Dmitry Kulikov (FLA), Tuukka Rask (BOS), Tom Wandell (DAL)