1997-98 Rookie Watch

By pbadmin
Ok, here are the rookies I think we should all watch for to have an impact in the NHL this year. The ones denoted by a ‘*’ indicate the guys I feel are most likely to be serious Calder Trophy Candidates. All these guys have the potential to make the NHL this year but that does
not mean that all of them will. A lot depends on injuries and whether there is room for them. We should all keep an eye on them though and I will be updating the progress of these rookies, and any I might have missed, through out the season. The next update should come shortly after the season starts and I will let you know which rookies made their respective NHL clubs.

Boston Bruins

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(*)Joe Thornton – Big, strong and talented. What more could you ask for. Will almost for sure develop into a top center in the NHL but don’t expect that yet. He is expected (and will) make the Bruins and play a prominent role for them. The ice time should get will make him a top calder trophy candidate.

(*)Sergei Samsonov – He is probably as talented, maybe more talented, than Thornton but lacks Thornton’s size to say the least. At just 5’8″ tall he won’t scare anyone in the corners but will certainly scare opposing defensemen and goalies with his pure offensive talent. Not bad defensively either. Should make the pro team from camp and maybe play with big Thornton.

Cameran Mann – The Bruins might have a future line with these 3 guys. Not as talented as either Thornton or Samsonov but no slouch either. He should develop into a nice 2-way RW. With Samsonov at LW and Thornton at center the Bruins can boast the best rookie line. That is if Mann makes the team. He probably will at some point, if not at the start of the season.

Johnathan Aitken – Aitken won’t likely make the team this year but I thought I’d put him in here to show that the Bruins don’t just have forward prospects. New coach Pat Burns isn’t a favorite of young defensemen so Aitken will likely remain in the AHL for a year.

Buffalo Sabres

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Erik Rasmussen – Rasmussen is pretty close to being ready but will have a pretty tough time cracking the lineup with the Sabres depth at center (Plante, Holzinger, Peca, Primeau, LaFontaine). He has decent size (more than most Sabre centers) and good skill so he might push Primeau to wing if he has a good camp. Rasmussen is the Sabres best prospect and the only one who really has a shot at a prominent role this year. Most Sabre prospects
have made the jump the past year or two.

Martin Biron – Will only play if Hasek gets traded which is unlikely. Will have to wait another year or so.

Carolina Hurricanes

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The former Hartford franchise won’t have any rookies playing prominent roles this year now that Giguere has been traded. Fedotov, Wasyluk and Ritchie might get a look-see at some point this year but there NHL careers are still a year or so away.

Montreal Canadiens

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Montreal has no top prospects ready to make the move except. Theodore will have to sit and wait behind Thibault and Moog. Brad Brown might get some time on defense,
especially if the Canadiens have the injury problems they saw a year ago, but Brown won’t put the offensive numbers nor play a prominent role to be considered a top rookie.

Ottawa Senators

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(*)Chris Phillips – Another young senator who had contract difficulties with the team. Fortunately for Senator fans they have resolved thier differences and Chris will be playing in Ottawa this season. A future solid 2-way defenseman but won’t be rushed with the depth Ottawa has on defense. Playing behind
Redden and Kravchuk might limit his offensive potential which will likely make becoming a Calder Trophy candidate tough but he has the talent if given the chance.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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(*)Alexei Morozov – Talented with a good shot. He will be a goal scorer and is ready to make the jump to the NHL. Might have a slow start coming over from Russia but eventually he will be an NHL great. Before it was Lemieux and Jagr. With Lemieux’s retirement it might soon be Jagr and Morozov running the show in Pittsburgh. If he plays with Jagr this year Morozov will be a
favorite to win the Calder trophy as getting points won’t be a problem.

Robert Dome – Some say Dome is ready now after playing a couple seasons in the IHL. They said the same about Bonk too but he hasn’t been a star in the NHL yet. With Lemieux gone there will be somewhat of a youth movement in Pittsburgh and so if Dome has a good camp he will make the team. Don’t expect as much from Dome as Morozov though.

Florida Panthers

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Daniel Tjarnqvist – Tall lanky defenseman (6’2″, 178lbs) who might benefit from the trade of Per Gustaffson but probably needs some development time in the minors. Has good offensive skills but needs to add some muscle to his body to be real effective in the NHL.

(((((((Editor’s Note))))))))

Peter Worrel – A big strong winger who has a shot at making the club. The past 2 years he has accumulated over 450+ PIM in both seasons. He is 6-6 and isnt afraid to drop the gloves with anybody. He is one of the most notable young Panthers in training camp.

Oleg Kvasha – A 6-5, 225 lb winger with really soft hands. He has been praised numerous times by coach MacLean and has a shot at sticking with the team.

John Jakopin – A 6-5 220 lbs Defenseman. With the loss of Gustafson, Jakopin looks like a good person to fill his void. He definitely has NHL size at 6-5 (pushing 6-6), and should stick with the Panthers out of training camp.

New Jersey Devils

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Patrik Elias – Played well in 17 games with the Devils last year. He should have a fairly regular role with the Devils this year either on left wing or at center. He is a good skater that plays well defensively so he will fit in well to the Devils defensive system. He has a bit of a scoring touch as well so will develop into a solid 2-way forward. Won’t put up the offensive numbers to make him a Calder trophy candidate though.

Brendan Morrison – The Hobey Baker award winner will have a tough time cracking the lineup due to the Devils depth at center. He should get a good look at camp though and might be a mid-season callup. Has good offensive skills but has to work on his defensive game to fit into the Devils system.

New York Islanders

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Jason Holland – An offensive minded defenseman with a very good shot from the point. If he has a good camp he will make the team and play a prominent. The Isles have a lot of good young defenseman and Holland is one of them. If he makes the team he will see some power play duty but being behind Berard won’t help much. Roberto Luongo and Eric Brewer, the #4 and #5 picks from this years draft, are still a year or two away.

(((((((Editor’s Note))))))))

Zdeno Chara – A BEAST on skates. Chara is a 6-9 Defenseman who is very intimidating on the ice. On skates Chara tops the 7-0 mark. There are questions about his skating ability and his coordination, but I believe he has what it takes to be a force in the NHL. He will most likely be battling it out with Holland for the last Defensmen spot on the Islanders roster. In my mind it is going to be a toss up. Whoever has the better camp will get the spot. Chara made it to the last day of training camp last year, and possibly this year he will stick with the club.

New York Rangers

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(*)Christian Dube – Will benefit from the Rangers loss of Messier and Tikkanen. Could move into the second line center role if Sundstrom remains on wing. He has great offensive talent. If he gets to play on the second line and with some PP time he will put up some good offensive numbers which might make him a Calder Trophy candidate.

Dan Cloutier – With the loss of Healy to Toronto via free afency and opening has been created as Richter’s backup. Cloutier could fill that role nicely but unless Richter gets injured, or goes into a slump as he has been known to do from time to time, Cloutier won’t get a lot of playing time.

Daniel Vorobiev – Vorobiev should get the chance to play this year. He showed well last year with 10 points in 16 games. He should get 30-35 points this season, maybe more.

Philadelphia Flyers

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(*)Vaclav Prospal – A feisty center with good offensive skills. Had 15 points in 18 games last year and didn’t look out of place. The aquisition of Gratton might hurt him a bit but the Flyers like what they see and will give him the ice time. He could get 60-70 points this year and that should put him in the front of the Calder Trophy race. Vaclav is my pre-season pick to win the Calder Trophy.

Brian Wesenberg – Wesenberg (and Zubrus) will benefit from the trade of Renberg. Wesenberg will develop into a power forward (as if Philly needed another) but need to put some weight on (only 173lbs at 6’3″ tall). May or may not make the team out of camp. That will depend on how he plays as well as how a guy like Pat Falloon plays. Brian should get at least a few games at the
NHL level this year.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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Mike McBain – A two way defenseman who might be ready to jump to the NHL. Plays a solid defensive game and has a good point shot. He should make it to the Lightning’s lineup at some point this year if he doesn’t make the team out of training camp.

Washington Capitals

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Jaroslav Svejkovsky – With Tocchett leaving for Pheonix via free agency Jaroslav will make the team playing RW on the second line behind Bondra. He had 10 points in 19 games last year. He is sometimes compared to Dino Cicarelli. Not big but won’t shy away from heavy traffic and had good goal scoring skills. Could get 25 goals and 50-55 points this year.

Alexander Volchov – A very talented offensive center who will soone be ready for the NHL. Volchov can also play wing where he may end up considering that Oates has resigned in Washington pushing Pivonka, Juneau and Hunter down a line. Will have to produce offensively or he won’t make the team.

Nolan Baumgartner – Suffered from injury problems last year Baumgartner might now be ready, and healthy enough, to make the Capitals defense but that won’t be an easy task. The Capitals are very deep on defense. Nolan will likely need to start the season in the AHL to get back into game shape after playing only 8 games last year due to injury.

Richard Zednik – Great speed and goal scoring ability. He should soon be ready to make the team but like Volchov will have to show he can produce offensively before he gets a regular shift.

The Capitals want to win now while Oates, Housley, Cote, Johansson etc. are still playing well. This means that any of the above prospects might be packages to bring in a top-flight forward like a Mogilny or a Hull. If any of these
guys go to a team lacking depth they should all benefit and get more playing time.

Chicago Blackhawks

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Dan Cleary – Who knows what Chicago got with this draft pick. They could have an offensive star or they could have a bust. He had a poor, by Cleary’s standards, season last year getting only 80 points in 64GP in the OHL. The previous year he had 115. He seemed to have lost interested and wasn’t motivated. Some think it is because he thinks he has accomplished everything he could at the junior level and needed more of a challenge to keep his
interest. If this is the case and if the Blackhawks can give him a challenge then it was a good pick. If he had a poor season because he has a poor work ethic then it was a risky pick. He will get a chance in Chicago this year because the Hawks lack depth but it is up to Cleary to take that opportunty and make the most of it.

Jean-Yves Leroux – A very good power forward prospect with a good scoring touch but won’t become a prolific scorer. He has some good size and plays gritty. Exactly what the Hawks like, want and need. There will be a spot for him to take if he plays with the grit and enthusiasm he is known for.

Dallas Stars

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Roman Turek – Turek is the stars best prospect and one of the best goalie prospects around. With Moog and Irbe leaving via free agency he will play backup to free agent signee Ed Belfour. He is big, tall and can cover a lot of the
net. He is pegged as the Stars goalie of the future and this year will be his first real chance at the NHL level that he can be that guy.

Sergei Gusev – Gusev is a good skater with good puck handling skills. If he makes the team he will help the Stars transition game. With all the other experienced defensemen on the Stars he won’t be rushed into pressure situations which is always good for development.

Jason Botteril – The Stars signed Botteril to a contract this summer and if he plays well in training camp he might make the team. Otherwise he could be a mid-season call-up/injury replacement. He is a power forward with good size and strength and some good offensive skills. He can probably benefit from
some time in the IHL.

Detroit Red Wings

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(*)Anders Eriksson – With the unfortunate injury to Konstantinov and the ever aging defense of the wings, Eriksson will play for Detroit this year. That is, if he wants to. He showed up to camp last year 10 pounds overweight and that kind of thing doesn’t impress Bowman. He has the skills and talent to develop into a Lidstrom type of defenseman. He ahs very good size at
6’3″ adn 218lbs. He just has to play hard and work at his game. If he does that he could be a Calder Trophy candidate.

Mike Knuble – Knuble is almost ready for the NHL. He is big and strong and some offensive talent but won’t be a point per game player. If the Wings have trouble signing Federov or Kozlov he could make the lineup coming out of training camp.

Pheonix Coyotes

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Jason Doig – Doig is a big, strong physical defenseman and that is what the Coyote’s could use on defense. A little more experience and some better discipline and Doig will be a useful defenseman. He won’t contribute a lot offensively though.

Brad Isbister – He has good size and strength and enough offensive skill to eventually develop into a good second line winger. That won’t likely be this year but he should see some time in the NHL.

Dan Focht – Will have a tough time cracking the lineup this year but he has a good future. He is very big (6’5″, 225lbs) and has pretty good agility. He won’t do big things offensively. He will just be big and physical. Think Peter Popovic with more agility and more of a mean streak. Likely a year away but the Coyotes could use his size.

St. Louis Blues

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Jamie Rivers – An offensive defenseman in junior that is slow to develop. He is currently 22 and this will be his year to show whether he can play at the NHL level. He has the skill offensively but has to learn to take fewer risks with the puck and play more physical defensively. Libor Zabransky – A physical defenseman capable of getting around 20 points per year.
He has 5th or 6th defenseman potential and with the lack of depth on the Blues defense he has a good shot at getting ample ice time this year.

Rory Fitzpatrick – Rory is a solid stay at home defenseman with some good size but very little offensive capabilities. At least 2 of Rivers, Zabransky and Fitzpatrick should get prominent roles in St. Louis, if not all 3.

Cris McCalpine – Much like Rory Fitzpatrick. A stay at home physical defenseman. He should make the team in some capacity. Likely as a 5th or 6th defenseman.

Jochen Hecht – Hecht is a good two-way player who is almost ready to play in the NHL. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp he will be a mid-season call-up. He has decent size. All the 20 year old German needs to do is adjust to to the North American style of hockey. When he does that he will play and play a lot.

Toronto Maple Leafs (the youth movement)

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Alyn McCauley – Alyn has a job that is his to lose. He will be given the opportunity to play as a second line or third line center. He has good offensive skills and has good two-way potential and has good leadership ability. He isn’t overly big at 5-11, 185lbs but as long as he isn’t intimidated he should be fine.

Jason Podollan – Similar to McCauley in the sense he has a job to lose. If he plays well in training camp he will play somewhere with the Leafs, either as a right winger or a center. He should develop into a second line player who will play a good two-way game.

Brandon Convery – This is likely his last chance with the Leafs. He has had chances previously and hasn’t taken advantage of them. McCauley and Podollan are now ahead of him on the depth chart and he will likely have to beat on of them
out for a job. This offensively talented center is beginning to look like a bust though.

Mike Johnson – Mike could also benefit from the Leafs youth movement. He signed as a free agent out of U.S. college late last year and was a nice surprise when he joined the Leafs. He showed some nice speed, some offensive skill and some much needed enthusiasm. If he can do that in training camp he will earn
himself a job.

D.J. Smith – A big, rugged defenseman who could earn himself a job in training camp. He showed some nice offensive skills in the OHL last year getting 67 points in 63 games. He will compete with Zettler, Macoun, Yushkevich and Wolanin for the last few position on the defense squad.

Martin Prochazka – Martin is now 25 years old and the Leafs have finally convinced him to come over and try our the NHL. He has some good scoring ability but don’t expect him to do what Berezin did last year. He could be a useful 3rd line player.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

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Ruslan Salei – The Ducks thought he was ready last year when they drafted him out of the IHL as a 21 year old. He played 30 games last year for the Ducks and had 1 assist and was a -8. He showed he wasn’t quite ready and was sent to the minors. He will be given another chance this season as the Ducks are still looking for some defense help.

Mike LeClerc – Big, tough and has some scoring ability. Anaheim’s lack of depth on LW, and up front in general, means there is a spot for him to take. He has the potential to score 25 goals and be a solid physical two-way winger. He might need a little more development time in the AHL though.

Daniel Trebil – Like Salei, he will be given the chance to make the team and could very well do so. He has good size and some offensive ability. Look for either him or Ruslei to get regular shifts on the Anaheim defense.

Calgary Flames

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J.S. Giguere – He is ready to be an NHL starting goalie but do the Flames have room for him. Tabaracci being the veteren should have the starting job. The Flames must decide whether to use Roloson or Giguere as his backup. Giguere is a top goalie prospect and is the Flames goalie of the future. The question is just when will that be?

Daniel Gauthier – Gauthier has good size and is a great checker. Something the Flames could use on defense. He isn’t going to be a power play quarterback but he can chip in offensively now and again. He will be a mainstay on the Flames defense for many years to come and that should start this year.

(*)Hnat Domenichelli – He played well with Iginla in junior and will now be given the chance to do that again. He is smallish but skilled both as a playmaker and a scorer. He has great speed and plays with some grit. He and Iginla will be given the chance to repeat what they did in junior. If they can do that
. Hnat will be a potential Calder Trophy Candidate.

Colorado Avalanche

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Mark Denis – Colorado might boast the best goalie in the NHL and the best goalie prospect. Those being Roy and Denis respectively. Denis is ready but there is no room for him yet. Roy still has lots of time left.

Eric Messier – Eric played well during the playoffs. He is tough and is a defensive minded defenseman. He is ready for the NHL if the Avalanche can find a spot for him.

Wade Belak – Belak is one of the toughest guys around. At 6’4″ and 213 pounds opponents better hope that he doesn’t get tough on them but hs usually does. He plays a physical as shown by his 320 PIM in the AHL. He, like Messier, is ready for the NHL but the Avalanche have to find a spor for him.

Edmonton Oilers

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Joe Hulbig – Hulbig is a big, strong left winger. He isn’t going to produce a lot offensively but will play well defensively and add some toughness to the Oilers lineup. He has a chance to make the Oilers who are always in a youth movement.

Steve Kelly – Kelly is a very speedy (Sather loves speed) center who should fill the role as second line center behind Weight or third line center if when Arnott or Marchant are playing center. Not a super offensive center but his speed should put some pressure on opposing defensemen.

Los Angeles Kings

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(*)Olli Jokinen – Olli has all the skills it takes to be a great player in the NHL and many think he is ready although he will have to make the adjustment to the North American style of hockey. He has good size and will be a good two-way forward. If he can make the quick adjustment to North America he could be a Calder Trophy candidate.

Jamie Storr – Yet another top goalie prospect ready to take the leap to the NHL. The Kings have decided to bring Storr along slowly. That is why they traded for Fiset and Dafoe last year. Now that Dafoe has been traded to Boston the Storr and Fiset should share the duties in net.

Pavel Rosa – Rosa scored 60 goals in junior last year and the Kings hope he can bring some of the to thier offense this year. Rosa has enough size that he shouldn’t be intimidated in the NHL. He can play either center or RW. He could end up at RW with Jokinen, Ferarro and Perreault playing center.

San Jose Sharks

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(*)Patrick Marleau – Marleau may have been the most talented/skilled player in the draft last year and even though he was the youngest player selected he is ready for the NHL now. He may push Friesen back to his original position of LW to form a Friesen-Marleau-Nolan line. Marleau is going to develop into one of the best offensive forwards in the NHL and the Sharks are going to give him this chance this year.

(*)Andrei Zyuzin – Zyuzin is the Sharks power play quarterback of the future. Zyuzin is most often compared to a Zubov or Ozolinsh. The Sharks have a lot of veteren defensemen so he won’t be rushed into pressure situations which is good for his long-term development but not for his Calder Trophy chances.

Marco Sturm – Like Marleau, Sturm will be an offensive center. He will be coming over from Germany this year and may need some time in the minors to adjust but he should be with the Sharks at some point this year. With Marleau, Zyuzin and Sturm the Sharks have some great players to step up and join Nolan and Friesen to form a good nuclaus of core players.

Vancouver Canucks

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(*)Mattias Ohlund – Maybe the best defenseman not playing in the NHL last year. At 6’3, 210lbs he has the size to be a dominant defenseman although he doesn’t play a real physical game. With the size of the contract he signed with the Leafs that the Canucks matched he will be expected to play well and play a lot. This is good because the Canucks need help on defense and Ohlund should add some good two-way play. If he gets the power play time to put up some good offensive numbers he could be a Calder Trophy candidate.

Peter Schaefer – Peter is a prolific scorer with 49 goals in 61 games last year in the WHL. He has the skill to play in the NHL but not the size. He will likely start the season in the AHL and if he adjusts well there he could be promoted to the Canucks.

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