Hockey’s Future All-Rookie Teams

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

Now that the regular NHL season has passed and the writers at Hockey’s Future have been given an opportunity to reflect, it is time to name the inaugural All-Rookie Teams, both first and second. Without further ado, here they are:

1st Team Left Wing
Ryan Malone – Pittsburgh Penguins: At 6’4” and 215 pounds, Ryan Malone has the proto-typical size for a power forward in the making. Garnering all but one first place vote, the freshman winger put together a season of 22 goals and 21 assists which ranked him third in scoring on the Pens. While it is true he also had a –23 plus/minus rating, it is also a fact that the team he played on was overmatched on a nightly basis due to lack of experience. The son of a Pittsburgh scout, Malone’s best month came in February when he put up 7 goals and 3 assists.

1st Team Center
Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins: A surprise coming out of training camp, no one expected the 19-year-old to make the Bruins much less be the glue that held the second line together. In 71 games tricky Bergeron slid and slithered his way to 16 goals and 39 points while charting a respectable +5. He probably would have cracked the 40-point barrier had it not been for a separated shoulder that caused him to miss the end of February and most of March. Despite that, he looks to have found himself a home in Boston in time for the playoffs.

1st Team Right Wing
Michael Ryder – Montreal Canadiens: Ryder came out of nowhere to nail down a position with the big club in training camp after a great season in the AHL. Finishing second on the team to linemate Mike Ribeiro in scoring, the Newfoundland native put up 25 goals and 38 assists while powering his way to a +10. His 215 shots attest to the fact that he was never afraid to pull the trigger when the opportunity arose. A unanimous choice as a first teamer, his season makes him one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy.

1st Team Defense
Joni Pitkanen – Philadelphia Flyers: Another unanimous choice as a first teamer, Pitkanen saw extensive time on the Flyers power play tallying 8 goals and 19 assists in 71 games while putting up an eye-popping +15. Possessing great size, strength, and speed, the rookie has come along at exactly the right time to take over the Philly blueline from a slowly fading Eric Desjardins. Thanks to Desjardins’ broken arm, the Finn will be thrown into the fire in the NHL playoffs. Count on Pitkanen making the NHL All-Star team sooner rather than later.

1st Team Defense
Dan Hamhuis – Nashville Predators: The future of the Preds backline, Hamhuis started off slowly but came on as the season progressed, taking on some power play minutes and doing a yeoman’s work in shorthanded situations. He finished with 7 goals and 19 assists for the year and charted a –12 for a young Nashville team that made it into the playoffs for the first time this season. His offensive coming out was against Pittsburgh on March 4 when he tallied 1 goal and 4 assists. He looks like he’ll be an all-around rearguard for years to come.

1st Team Goaltender
Andrew Raycroft – Boston Bruins: The third unanimous pick among the first teamers, if Michael Ryder doesn’t win the Calder trophy it will be because Raycroft does. Spectacular at times, Raycroft has had a good set of fundamentals drilled into him and has ridden those all the way to the starter’s job in Beantown in his freshman year. For the season he is 29-18-9 with a 2.05 goals against average and a .926 save percentage, the latter ranking fifth among netminders this year.

2nd Team Left Wing
Nikolai Zherdev – Columbus Blue Jackets: Following a bit of cloak and dagger early in the NHL season, Nikolai Zherdev made his debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets and how lucky were they that he did. In only 57 games the Ukrainian winger tallied 13 goals and 21 assists while playing –11 hockey on a sorry Columbus side. A bit of a slow starter in his first year in North America, the freshman came on like gangbusters towards the end registering 6 goals and 10 assists in March.

2nd Team Center
Tuomo Ruutu – Chicago Blackhawks: Ruutu entered the season as the odds on favorite to walk away with the Calder Trophy, but a start of the season in which he had only put up 3 goals and 4 assists by the end of December put away that notion. However, as the year progressed he started to come on and down the stretch he was almost unstoppable racking up 15 goals and 13 assists from the beginning of February to the end of the season. One thing he is going to have to watch out for in the future is his defensive play as his ugly –31 will attest.

2nd Team Right Wing
Trent Hunter – New York Islanders: Originally getting the call two years ago in the heat of the Isles playoff series versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, this year Hunter proved he could handle the big boys and was here to stay. A streaky scorer, he lead his team in points with 25 goals and 26 assists, and topped that by leading the Isles in game winning goals with 7. However, the real strength of Hunter is that he is accomplished defensively registering a +23.

2nd Team Defenseman
John-Michael Liles – Colorado Avalanche: Topping all rookie defensemen in points with 34, John-Michael Liles has drawn comparisons to New Jersey’s Brian Rafalski, the league’s poster boy for short defensemen. Liles starred on the power play for the Avs, often teaming with Rob Blake and down the stretch he was hotter than hot tallying 5 goals and 11 assists in his last 17 games. What’s even more impressive is that he missed three games in late March with a knee injury and it never affected his performance. It’s because of Liles that Colorado felt safe in dealing Derek Morris at the deadline.

2nd Team Defenseman
Marc-Andre Bergeron – Edmonton Oilers: If there was someone who could have challenged Liles for the scoring title among rookie defensemen it was Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Edmonton Oilers. In only 54 games he had 9 goals and 17 assists. Standing only 5’9” and weighing 190 pounds, Bergeron is another of the new school of smaller is better blueliners that are becoming commonplace in the NHL. In addition to that he was a sterling +13, which is proof positive that size isn’t everything.

2nd Team Goaltender
Sebastien Caron – Pittsburgh Penguins: When Marc-Andre Fleury started to go south someone had to pick up the pieces in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins. That someone turned out to be Sebastien Caron, who despite a weak team in front, still managed to keep his head above water. While his 3.74 goals against average or his .883 save percentage might not be all that impressive it should be noted that in 40 starts he faced 1179 shots or nearly 30 shots per game, many from prime areas on the ice.