Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
The Atlantic Division has arguably the best group of rookie players in the NHL, with Adam Henrique and Matt Read among favorites to compete for the Calder Trophy.
The 2011-12 rookie class in the division is probably the best the Atlantic has seen since Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter all made their NHL debuts in 2005-06. Below are the top three rookies in the Atlantic Division as based on their overall performances in the 2011-12 regular season.
Adam Henrique, C, New Jersey Devils – Henrique is often dismissed as one of the top rookies because he has the luxury of playing between two of the most talented players in the NHL in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. But that shouldn’t diminish how much Henrique’s presence at center has meant to the Devils success this season. He has been among their leaders on faceoffs, plays considerable ice time in all situations and, most importantly, is their first-line center. On the season, Henrique has 15 goals and 31 assists through 66 games. At 22, Henrique still has some rough edges in his game. He has gone into some scoring droughts this season, though with continued progress and maturation his production should gradually even out, especially if he continues to play with elite wingers.
Matt Read, RW/LW, Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers lead the league in goals scored by rookies with 53 goals, with 20 of those credited to the versatile Matt Read. A little bit older than most rookies at 25, Read has been used in a variety of roles for the Flyers, anywhere from first-line wing to playing a more defensive role in the bottom-six. But, regardless of where Read has played, he has been solid. Read has been recently playing on the Flyers third line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. He has not been as offensively productive of late, but has instead been fairly reliable at both ends of the ice. Instead of cashing in his own scoring opportunities, Read has created opportunities for his linemates. On the season, Read has 20 goals and 21 assists through 70 games.
Carl Hagelin, LW/RW, New York Rangers – Though Hagelin got a late start to his rookie campaign, not seeing any NHL action until November 25th, he made the most of his chance, managing four points in his first four games. He was not an overly consistent player at the start, going through several cold droughts before exploding for multi-point games. But, as Hageling has become more acclimated to the NHL style of play, those wrinkles have ironed out some. More notable is his defensive play, which wasn’t particularly inspiring to begin with, but has improved to the point where Rangers head coach John Tortorella is comfortable playing Hagelin 17 minutes a game, including the occasional shift on the penalty kill. Hagelin has recently seen a fair amount of time on the Rangers top line along with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards and has been quite productive, managing seven points in his last five games. Through 55 games this season, Hagelin has 14 goals, 23 assists and a NHL rookie-leading plus-22 rating.
Atlantic Division Notes
New Jersey Devils – Veteran Patriak Elias has seven goals and 16 assists in his last 25 games. The forward has had a productive season so far with 25 goals and 45 assists in 73 games, the most points he has managed since 2008-09.
New York Islanders – High-scoring college forward prospect Anders Lee stated he would return to Notre Dame for at least one more season. In his prior two seasons, Lee has a combined 41 goals and 37 assists in 84 games.
New York Rangers – The Rangers beat the Red Wings 2-1 in overtime last night to give themselves a three point lead in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Ryan Callahan scored the game winning goal, his 27th of the season and his eighth game-winner.
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers will host the Washington Capitols tonight in what promises to be an intense matchup. Rookie Sean Couturier has recently been deployed as a shutdown center between wingers Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo. Despite the center’s relative inexperience, he has quickly established himself as an impressive two-way presence.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Since captain Sidney Crosby’s return to the lineup, Pittsburgh has scored 20 goals in four games. Crosby has 21 points in 12 games this season. The Penguins will host the Nashville Predators tonight in what could be Alex Radulov’s first game with Nashville since he left for the KHL in 2008.