The Detroit Red Wings used seven rookies during the 2006-07 NHL regular season. Two defensemen, Kyle Quincey and Derek Meech, got limited viewing in a handful of games while five forwards, Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Kopecky, Matt Ellis and Darryl Bootland got more playing time thanks to several rounds of injuries.
Hudler played in most games of all the rookies on the team with 76 posting 15 goals and 25 points. He was plus-16 with three power-play goals and four game winners.
His numbers might not look overly impressive, but when considering the limited amount of ice time he got (average of 10:02 minutes), it looks much better.
Hudler started the season as a 13th-14th forward, alternating with several others but in the second half of the season he caught fire as some of the regulars were out with injuries, and never looked back.
His improved skating and defensive game will give him an even bigger role on the team for next season. His offensive instincts are quite good and he should be able to double his offensive production with some more quality ice time.
Valtteri Filppula, C/W
Filppula has arguably been the best overall rookie on the team this season, although his numbers (10 goals and 17 points in 73 games) don’t match Hudler’s.
Filppula started the season on the farm, although coach Mike Babcock indicated that he was ready for the NHL. But because of the numbers game on the Wings roster, he wouldn’t be able to get quality ice time so that he could develop his overall game.
But in the end, it didn’t take long for Filppula to change the mind of the Red Wings brass. Thanks to some early injuries up front, the Wings recalled Filppula after only three games on the farm and he was to stay with the team for the reminder of the season.
The young Finnish forward has been very effective with his dozen-plus minutes that he has been averaging in the pro game. He has seen some time both on the PP and PK units. He’s showing that he has the potential to round out as a very valuable second-line center for the Red Wings, in the not so distant future.
Tomas Kopecky, LW
The 25-year-old forward was a revelation last year in the AHL, ripping up the scoreboard. For this season he was expected to carry on the momentum and earn a regular spot in the NHL.
The season started fine for the hulking forward as he got some limited ice time (about seven minutes a game) in the first 26 games, before his season came to an abrupt ending as he suffered a broken collarbone.
That was very unfortunate for the former second-round pick in the 2000 NHL entry draft, as he was just getting a taste for the pace of the NHL. Nonetheless, he showed enough in the first 26 games that the Red Wings brass signed him to a new two-year deal.
For next season he will be expected to bring his size and work ethic to the rink as well as some secondary help on the scoring front. He has the tools to be a very effective third line winger down the road.
Rest of the pack
The rest of the Red Wings rookies got a very brief stay in the NHL. Matt Ellis played in 16 games, but only averaged about five minutes of ice time. He didn’t register any points and was minus-1.
Darryl Bootland was dressed for six games and saw only four minutes of ice time on average in those games. He didn’t register a point, but he did pile up 9 PIM’s.
The two other rookies were defensemen, Derek Meech who only dressed for four games and saw about six minutes of ice time on average and Kyle Quincey who suited up for six games and averaged about 11 minutes of ice time. He did also manage to record his first NHL goal during that span.
Kyle Quincey is the one with the best pro potential of these rookies. He has the size, skating and physical presence that is required to be an effective shutdown defenseman in the NHL. He also has solid puck skills and is comfortable with the puck.
Look for him to fight for a regular spot in the 2007-08 season.
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