With the first month of the 2010-11 NHL season in the books, first year players are settling in with life in the big leagues. Although many have previously seen spot-duty at the NHL level, the top rookies this season are already being relied upon to fill big roles for clubs across the league.
Here are the results of the Hockey’s Future Staff Calder poll. As the season continues, Hockey’s Future will poll its staff once a month to track the top rookies in the NHL.
1. Jordan Eberle, RW – Edmonton Oilers
DOB: May 15, 1990
Drafted 22nd overall (1st round) in 2008
After an impressive junior career, including near-legendary play for Canada on the international stage, Jordan Eberle could almost have been considered a household name before he even stepped on the ice at the NHL level. Now at the leading edge of a new youth movement in Edmonton, the Saskatchewan native has continued to excite fans. Tallying a goal and an assist and earning first star honors in his first game with the Oilers, Eberle has four goals and eight points on the season in 11 games. Seeing time in all situations, two of his goals actually came on the penalty kill. Overshadowing teammate Taylor Hall, the top selection in the 2010 draft, the only question now is how bright can Eberle’s star shine?
2. Tyler Ennis, LW – Buffalo Sabres
DOB: October 6, 1989
Drafted 26th overall (1st round) in 2008
A diminutive forward at 5’9 and 157 lbs, Tyler Ennis has never let his lack of size diminish his big league skill. A scorer at every level, Ennis first provided a boost for the Sabres at the end of last season, where he scored nine points in 10 regular season games and added another four in six post season matches. So far this season, the Edmonton native has continued to find the score sheet with two goals and eight points in 15 games. Although Buffalo has struggled early on, Ennis continues to be a bright spot on their roster.
Drafted immediately behind Tyler Ennis, the player who precedes him on this list, John Carlson has taken a back seat to no one on the Washington Capitals blue line thus far this season. With veteran defenders Mike Green and Tom Poti both hampered by injury early on, Carlson has stepped up for the Capitals in a big way. After seeing action in 22 games last season and an impressive showing in the 2010 post season that saw him tally six points in seven games, the 6’3, 208 lbs Carlson is tied for the scoring lead amongst Capitals defensemen with eight points in 13 games. Leading all rookies in average ice-time, at 20 years old, Carlson already seems to have established himself as an institution on the blue line at the Verizon Center.
For all the talk of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (the two would end up being drafted first and second overall, respectively), Jeff Skinner, the 7th overall pick has been the top performer from this summer’s draft class so far. Breaking into the Carolina Hurricanes line-up, Skinner is seeing time primarily on the wing. But no matter where he lines up, the Ontario-native is the early season leader in the rookie scoring race. Collecting 12 points in 14 games, he leads the Hurricanes in scoring and his five goals are second best on the squad. The youngest player in the NHL this season, Skinner is seeing regular power play duty and the 5’10, 193 lbs forward will continue to turn heads as his point totals rise.
A fan favorite with just 30 NHL games under his belt (counting playoffs); P.K. Subban has helped the Montreal Canadiens bounce back from the loss of Andrei Markov. With the former All-Star Markov out of the line-up recovering from knee surgery to start the season, Subban received the majority of the available power play time. Though Montreal’s power play has continued to sputter (and Markov has recently returned to the line-up), Subban has performed admirably for the Habs. With six assists in 14 games, Subban is second among rookie defenders in scoring. Meanwhile, he sees on average more than 21 minutes of ice-time a night, placing him second among all rookies.
Another member of the youth movement with the Oilers, Magnus Paajarvi joined the squad after a strong debut season in the Swedish Elite League as a member of Timra IK. One of the nominees for SEL’s rookie of the year award last year, Paajarvi hopes to have similar success in his first season in North America. So far, the results have been promising. With two goals and six points in 11 games, Paajarvi is tied for sixth among all rookies and is tied with fellow freshman Taylor Hall for fifth in scoring on the Oilers. A speedy winger, Paajarvi will only get better as he continues to adapt to the North American game.
7. Logan Couture, C – San Jose Sharks
DOB: March 28, 1989
Drafted 9th overall (1st round) in 2007
A single game short of being ineligible for Calder consideration this season, Logan Couture has already tied his goal scoring efforts from his 25-game debut last season. With five goals and six points in 12 games, the Ontario native looks to be in San Jose to stay, after spending most of last season bouncing between the NHL and the AHL. Aside from his offensive abilities, Couture also leads all rookies with a 55.5 percent success rating in the faceoff circle. But perhaps the biggest sign of how much confidence the Sharks already have in this 21-year-old is the fact that with Joe Thornton suspended, it is Couture who is getting the call to play on the top line.
The New York Rangers lack of depth down the middle has paid off early on in the season for Derek Stepan. A former standout with the University of Wisconsin and the captain of Team USA’s gold-medal winning World Junior squad last winter, Stepan’s in his first year of professional hockey and already seeing big minutes and big responsibility with the Blueshirts. He’s already started his NHL career with a bang as only the fourth player to score a hat trick in his first NHL game. Faced with the impossible task of continuing that pace, Stepan currently has five points in 13 games for the Rangers. The 20-year-old has already seen his ice time dwindle from a high mark of more than 20 minutes early in the season down to an average of closer to the 10 minute mark over the last five games. Playing alongside Marian Gaborik prior to the Slovakian’s injury, Stepan will be worth keeping a close eye on if he regains his star line mate when Gaborik returns to the lineup.
With Jose Theodore not brought back over the off season and Semyon Varlamov injured to start the year, the Washington Capitals turned to two-time Calder Cup champion Michael Neuvirth to start the season. So far, they haven’t looked back. Appearing in all 13 of Washington’s games so far this season (and starting 12 of them), the Czech-born Neuvirth has a record of 8-3-0 with a goals against average of 2.41 and a save percentage of .914, including a shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes. With Varlamov’s groin injury flaring up again, Neuvirth should continue to get the majority of the starts in Washington for the immediate future.
Like Neuvirth ahead of him, injuries have opened up opportunities for Sergei Bobrovsky. Signed as a free agent over the offseason, the Russian has helped fill the void after playoff hero Michael Leighton continues to struggle with back problems and the Flyers haven’t skipped a beat from their appearance in the Stanley Cup finals last spring. Bobrovsky’s record is 8-2 with a 2.11 goals against average and .927 save percentage, all numbers placing him among the league leaders. The only remaining question might be what happens when Leighton’s healthy?
Other rookies receiving votes (alphabetical order): Mikael Backlund (CGY), Bryan Bickell (CHI), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX), Cam Fowler (ANA), Taylor Hall (EDM), Mark Letestu (PIT), Anders Lindback (NSH), Jamie McBain (CAR), Cory Schneider (VAN), Tyler Seguin (BOS), Kyle Wilson (CBJ)