6. (8) Oscar Lindberg, C, New York Rangers
Acquired in a trade with Phoenix in 2011
Playing on a New York Rangers team with veteran scorers like Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, the 24-year-old Lindberg has seen limited ice time for New York, but only Zuccarrello has scored more goals to start the season. In his first 28 games, Lindberg has scored 10 goals (one behind Zuccarello) while chipping in seven assists. He is currently fourth in scoring for the Rangers despite averaging 12:45 minutes of ice time.
Born one day before Panarin, Lindberg is the oldest of the players in our top 10 and is in his third season in the Rangers’ organization after four seasons with Skelleftea in Sweden. He played in one NHL game with the Rangers’ last season, spending his second season with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. He scored a career-high 28 goals during the regular season for Hartford and was a key player for the that team during their run to the Eastern Conference finals in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Despite some recent struggles, the Rangers are once again one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, battling with Washington and the Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Lindberg scored four goals with five assists and had an even plus/minus with 14 penalty minutes, averaging 12:42 minutes of ice time in 14 November games.
7. (1) Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted in the first round (first overall) in 2015
Connor McDavid was well on his way to an outstanding rookie season — recording points in seven straight games at one point — before suffering a collarbone injury in an October 3rd game against Philadelphia, an injury that eventually required surgery.
In his first 12 NHL games he scored five goals with seven assists and was -3, averaging 18:32 minutes of ice time.
With McDavid out of the lineup, 19-year-old second-year pro Leon Draisaitl has shown some scoring ability and the Oilers have improved under first-year head coach Todd McLellan. Edmonton is in the thick of the entertaining Pacific Division race.
Originally expected to be out for up to four months, McDavid is reportedly healing faster than expected and could return sooner.
8. (6) Anthony Duclair, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Obtained in a trade with the New York Rangers in 2015
Duclair, like Domi, spent most of last season in junior hockey, returning to the Quebec Remparts following the 2015 World Juniors after starting the season with the Rangers where he appeared in 18 NHL games. A teammate of Domi’s on the gold medal Canada squad at the 2015 WJC, he has been another key contributor for the Coyotes.
Obtained by Arizona from the Rangers as part of the Keith Yandle trade last March, Duclair is the Coyotes’ fifth-leading scorer and is tied with Calgary’s Sam Bennett for fifth amongst rookies with 15 points, one point ahead of Eichel.
Duclair is a highly-skilled scorer with blazing speed who will also get involved physically. In 27 games this season, he scored eight goals with seven assists and is tied with Lindberg and Pittsburgh’s Sergei Plotnikov for ninth amongst rookies with 16 penalty minutes.
Duclair skated in 12 games for the Coyotes in November, scoring three goals with four assists, and was +3 with eight penalty minutes while averaging 15 minutes of ice time.
9. (NR) Sam Bennett, LW/C, Calgary Flames
Drafted in the first round (fourth overall) in 2014
The Calgary Flames were expected to build on last spring’s playoff run but have struggled out of the gate this season. Despite the slow start, the 19-year-old Bennett has held his own after making the jump directly from the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs to the NHL.
Capable of playing both center and wing, he has primarily skated on Calgary’s second line while steadily being given more responsibility. Tied for seventh with Parayko amongst rookies with 13 points, he has scored five goals with eight assists in his first 25 games and was -3 for a Calgary squad that was -29 overall.
In their first 26 games of the 2015-16 season, the Flames have allowed a league-high 94 goals while scoring just 65 of their own and are battling with Edmonton to stay out of the Pacific Division cellar.
Bennett has gotten his points in bunches, getting eight of his 13 points in four multi-point games. His ice time has steadily increased as he averaged 16:17 minutes of ice time in 12 games in November after averaging 14:20 in his first 11 games. He scored four of his five goals in November and had four assists while finishing -2.
10. (7) Nikolaj Ehlers, RW, Winnipeg Jets
Drafted in the first round (ninth overall) in 2014
Nikolaj Ehlers cooled off a bit after a red-hot start but held onto the final spot in our poll. A dynamic scorer during his junior career with Halifax, the 19-year-old from Denmark has the full package of offensive tricks with the skating ability and instincts to create scoring chances.
With a deep group of young forwards in Winnipeg, Ehlers has seen mostly third-line duty skating with another high-end skill forward in Alexander Burmistrov. While they have not yet produced at the level their individual skills suggest they might, there is certainly potential to do so.
After last season’s playoff run — based largely on playing tight-checking, close-to-the vest defensive hockey — the Jets could open things up a bit as players like Ehlers begin to trickle into the lineup. Highly-touted rookie goalie Connor Hellebuyck recently made his NHL debut due to an injury to starter Ondrej Pavelec and early returns are encouraging. The Jets should be in the middle of the Central Division race all season.
After scoring four goals with four assists in his first 11 games, Ehlers scored one goal with two assists and was -1, averaging 14:43 minutes of ice time in 14 games in November.
Others receiving votes (in order): Mike Condon, G, Montreal Canadiens; Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers; Colin Miller, D, Boston Bruins; Klas Dahlbeck, D, Arizona Coyotes; Robby Fabbri, LW, St. Louis Blues; Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres; Darnell Nurse, D, Edmonton Oilers.
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