7. (8) Anthony Duclair, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Obtained in a trade with the New York Rangers in 2015
Anthony Duclair, like Domi, struggled in December as the Coyotes went through their losing streak, but he is the fifth-leading scorer amongst rookies. In 40 games he has scored 12 goals with 11 assists and is +6 with 20 penalty minutes.
A 20-year-old from Pointe-Claire, Quebec and a lethal scorer during his QMJHL career, he continues to refine the supplementary parts of his game. Duclair can be streaky but his offensive skills and instincts suggest he will be a big part of the Coyotes’ attack for years to come.
Duclair skated in 13 games for Arizona in December, scoring two goals with three assists but was -5 with six penalty minutes while averaging 13:52 minutes of ice time.
8. (NR) Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres
Drafted in the first round (2nd overall) in 2014
Sam Reinhart, taken immediately after Florida selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, returned to junior hockey in 2014-15 and is in his first NHL season as a 20-year-old.
The youngest of the three Reinhart brothers currently playing pro hockey, he has steadily worked his way into a larger role for Buffalo. After averaging less than 15 minutes of ice time in October, he played a season-high 21 minutes against Calgary on December 10th and has been playing on the Sabres’ top two lines since that time.
Reinhart possesses the rare combination of size and disciplined positional play with the technical stickhandling and passing skills needed to be a consistent offensive threat.
After scoring two goals in a game against Nashville on November 30th, he had his best month in December, scoring two goals with four assists and finishing +1 while averaging 18:44 minutes of ice time.
9. (7) Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted in the first round (1st overall) in 2015
Connor McDavid has not played in a game since undergoing surgery for a clavicle injury in early October but remains on our list both because of his impressive start and the high expectations associated with being the top pick in the 2015 draft.
In his first 13 NHL games he scored five goals with seven assists and was -4, averaging 18 minutes of ice time as an 18-year-old. McDavid — like Eichel and Larkin — was young enough to play in the World Juniors but there was almost no chance of him skating for Canada, even without his injury.
He has returned to practice for the Oilers and could be back with the team by the end of January.
Edmonton has missed the playoffs for nine straight seasons since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2005-06, but they are in the thick of the playoff race in the Pacific Division.
With former first round picks Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot all among the team’s leading scorers, McDavid should fit in well on his return, giving the Oilers as much firepower as any team in the division.
10. (tie)(NR) John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
Drafted in the second round (39th overall) in 2011
Gibson has been viewed as the goalie of the future for the Anaheim Ducks since his junior days in Kitchener but has had to bide his time as goalie Frederik Andersen and veteran Jonas Hiller handled goaltending duties for the Ducks in the past two seasons.
The Pittsburgh native appeared in three regular season games and four playoff contests in 2013-14 and played 23 games for Anaheim last season. After starting the 2015-16 season with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL, the 22-year-old has been outstanding since being recalled on November 24th and was selected to join the Kings’ Jonathan Quick in net for the Pacific Division at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.
Like Andersen, Gibson is a big goalie who uses his size to advantage. After playing in the U.S. development program, he represented Team USA in three World Junior tournaments and has also played for the USA men’s squad in World Championship play.
After struggling to start the season, the Ducks have begun to turn things around, going 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. Much of the credit for the improvement belongs to Gibson and Andersen.
In 16 games with the Ducks, Gibson has an 9-6-0-2 record with four shutouts while sporting a microscopic 1.84 goals-against and .926 save percentage. Three of those four shutouts came in December when he was 5-3-1 and had a 1.61 goals-against and .929 save percentage.
10. (tie)(NR) Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets
Drafted in the fifth round (130th overall) in 2012
While Hellebuyck was not as highly-regarded during his junior hockey days with the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes as was the NTDP-trained Gibson, his play for the Winnipeg Jets since being recalled from the AHL at the end of November has been every bit as impressive.
Now in his second pro season after two seasons of college hockey at UMass-Lowell, Hellebuyck played 58 games for the AHL’s St. John’s Ice Caps last season and backstopped the USA to a bronze medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. He was handling the bulk of the goaltending for new Jets’ affiliate Manitoba this season before veteran goalie Ondrej Pavelec went down with a knee injury.
A big goalie who has continued to prove his doubters wrong, Hellebuyck has handled the bulk of the goaltending for the Jets since joining the club. The Commerce, Michigan native has appeared in 15 games and is 9-5-0-1 with one shutout. He has a 1.93 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
The Jets, after reaching the playoffs last season, are battling with Nashville and Colorado for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
In 10 games in December, Hellebuyck was 6-4-0 with a 2.22 goals-against and .926 save percentage.
Others receiving votes (in order): Darnell Nurse, D, Edmonton Oilers; Robby Fabbri, LW, St. Louis Blues; Mattias Janmark, C, Dallas Stars; Colin Miller, D, Boston Bruins; Jonathan Marchessault, C, Tampa Bay Lightning; Oscar Lindberg, C, New York Rangers; Joonas Donskoi, RW, San Jose Sharks.
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