7. Nikolaj Ehlers, RW, Winnipeg Jets
Drafted in the first round (9th overall) in 2014
The QMJHL’s third-leading scorer while skating for the Halifax Mooseheads last season, Ehlers is another player making a smooth jump directly from junior hockey to the NHL.
The Winnipeg Jets surprised many by making the playoffs last season with a combination of tight-checking defense and outstanding goaltending. But with players like Ehlers and defensemen Josh Morrissey and Jan Kostalek as well as centers Kyle Connor and Nicolas Petan on the way, the team could play a more wide open style in the future.
Like Panarin, Ehlers is used in a variety of ways and has seen time on the point on the power play. Ehlers lack of bulk was viewed by some as a potential obstacle, but has not been an issue to this point.
The Jets will not surprise teams this year the way they did in 2014-15 — and have cooled a bit since getting off to a fast start — but should be one of the teams to watch in a Central Division that could be the league’s most competitive .
In the first 11 NHL games of his career, Ehlers scored four goals with four assists and was +4 with four penalty minutes, averaging 14:40 minutes of ice time.
8. Oscar Lindberg, C, New York Rangers
Acquired in a trade with Arizona in 2011
If there is a dark horse candidate for this year’s Calder Trophy, it could be the 24-year-old from Sweden. Born one day before Panarin, he is now in the third year of his original entry-level contract with New York. Arizona’s second round pick in 2010, Lindberg was originally acquired by the Rangers in exchange for Ethan Werek in a May 2011 trade.
Lindberg spent his first two seasons in the Rangers’ organization with AHL affiliate Hartford, making his NHL debut in one nondescript game with New York last season. He exploded out of the gates this season, scoring goals in the first three games, including a two-goal effort in the Rangers’ against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third game of the season.
With a deep roster of forwards it has been a challenge for Lindberg to find a full-time role, but his ability to chip in offensively makes him an intriguing prospect. Playing for an opportunistic Rangers team that is once again expected to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference is a plus.
Lindberg scored five goals with two assists and was +6 with two penalty minutes in 11 games in October, averaging 12:21 minutes of ice time. He currently leads all rookies with six goals after scoring a goal with an assist on November 3rd against Washington.
9. Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues
Drafted in the third round (86th overall) in 2012
Signed last spring by the St. Louis Blues following his junior season at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the huge 22-year-old has made an immediate impact on a St. Louis team that is once again expected to challenge for the Central Division crown.
Parayko’s combination of size and mobility are rare. He has frequently skated with veteran Carl Gunnarsson, giving the Blues a second pairing that has been both sound in its own end while at the same time providing offensive support. Parayko leads Blues’ defensemen with seven points in his first 12 games.
In 11 games in October, he scored four goals with three assists and was +7 with four penalty minutes, averaging 20:06 minutes of ice time to lead all rookies.
10. Mattias Janmark, C, Dallas Stars
Acquired in a trade with Detroit in 2015
Janmark was obtained by the Dallas Stars from Detroit last March as part of the deal that sent Erik Cole to the Red Wings. Detroit’s third round pick (79th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft, he is in his first season in North America after playing for Frolunda in Sweden last season.
Playing both wing and his natural center position in his first season with Dallas, Janmark has fit in well on a Stars team with several forwards in their early 20’s, all of whom are contributing. The Stars have been one of the league’s early surprises and could be in the hunt all season if goalies Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen continue to play well.
In his first 11 NHL games, Janmark scored three goals with two assists and had an even plus/minus with no penalties while averaging 13:13 minutes of ice time.
Others receiving votes (in order): Daniel Sprong, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins; Joonas Donskoi, RW, San Jose Sharks; Noah Hanifin, D, Carolina Hurricanes; Mike Condon, G, Montreal Canadiens; Nikolay Goldobin, LW, San Jose Sharks; Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres; Jared McCann, C, Vancouver Canucks; Mikko Rantanen, RW, Colorado Avalanche; Connor Brickley, C, Florida Panthers
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