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Monday, 28 January 2013

Early NHL Rookie of The Year Race

One of the most interesting things to watch during the NHL season is the NHL rookie of the year race. Watching to see how young rookies adapt their games to the NHL style of hockey and watching them "light it up" in their own way. Some rookies make immediate impact on the scoreboard, while others do the dirty work that often goes unnoticed. With the 2013 NHL season 6 games old there have already been some young rookies making a name for themselves- time to look at the early favourites in the NHL Rookie of the Year Race.

[caption id="attachment_2197" align="alignright" width="266"]20wings4 Vladimir Tarasenko[/caption]

First we'll take a look at the St. Louis Blues best rookie Vladimir Tarasenko who has been on fire putting up 8 points while averaging roughly 14 minutes of ice time. Taresenko is leading all NHL rookies in scoring, is an impressive +5 and is the early favourite for the Calder Trophy. It doesn't hurt Tarasenko that the Blues are arguably one of the best teams in the tough Western Conference and will likely make a deep playoff run providing the rookie lots of time and opportunities to develop his game.

Tarasenko has quick hands, incredible vision and top notch speed- all the qualities needed to be an elite NHL player. The kid has the complete package, only time will tell if he can live up to his full potential.

The next rookie turning heads around the league is Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher who is 2nd in rookie scoring with 7 points. Much like Tarasenko, Conacher is only averaging around 15 minutes of ice time but is still managing to put up solid numbers. Depending on what side of the fence you're on Conacher is also considered to be one of the early favourites in the running for the Calder Trophy. The Lightning have no shortage of stars with Steven Stamkos, Matt Carle and Martin St. Louis but the next name you'll want to learn is Cory Conacher.

Conacher went un-drafted but managed to catch on with the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL and helped lead them to a Calder Cup championship. Conacher was named top rookie in the AHL last season putting up 80 points and the Admirals wouldn't have had the success they enjoyed without the star rookie. With his relatively short stature 5 foot 8 and 190 pounds many are touting him to be the next "Martin St. Louis", heck that guy had a fairly decent career no?

The rookie to garner the most "talk" and speculation over the first few games is Oilers First overall pick Nail Yakupov- unfortunately the talk hasn't all been positive. After scoring a goal to tie the game with 4 seconds left against the Los Angeles Kings, Yakupov took off for a controversial celebration. Despite all the talk about Yakupov from his goal celebration he really hasn't lived up to expectations early on putting up only 2 points in the first 4 games.

Yakupov may be having a difficult time adjusting to the smaller NHL ice and having less time to make your decision in the flow of a game- but he's looked good. No matter how his rookie year pans out, Yakupov will be a focal point around the NHL for years to come.

Next we move to Yakupov's teammate- Justin Schultz who has proved he was worth the hype this offseason ranking 3rd in rookie scoring with 5 points. Not

[caption id="attachment_2199" align="alignright" width="300"] Justin  Schultz Justin Schultz[/caption]

only is Shultz putting up points he's also eating up ice time, averaging 24 minutes a night- pretty solid minutes for a rookie. Schultz has great vision and poise with the puck and has elevated his game ranking amongst the top NHL defencemen.

Schultz is coming off a great start in the AHL putting up 48 points in 34 games and with only 6 penalty minutes. Schultz knows how to shutdown the opposition without taking a penalty, an invaluable skill for a young rookie defenceman. The Oilers lucked out getting their hands on Schultz who may turn out to be an elite NHL defenceman one day.

Next we'll take a look at the Boston Bruins top young defenceman Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton hasn't exactly gotten off to a brilliant start on the blueline but is starting to look more comfortable with the Bruins. He's one of the top 4 Bruin defencemen averaging roughly 18 minutes a night and putting up 3 points. Look for Hamilton to get more and more comfortable carrying the puck and jumping up in the rush- hopefully potting his first goal in the next few games. Much like Schultz, look for Hamilton to evolve into a top notch NHL defenceman in the future.

Lastly we'll touch on one of the highly touted NHL prospects from out West- Mikael Granlund with the Minnesota Wild. Granlund has put up 2 points in the Wild's first 4 games and has adapted well to the NHL. Look for Granlund to really up his game and turn into one of the top rookies in the league this year, he has all the potential to be a future NHL star.

Other rookies who haven't quite gotten off to fast starts- at least on the scoreboard. Include Alex Galchenyuk with the Canadiens, Mikhail Grigorenko with the Sabres and Brendan Smith with the Red Wings. Look for these 3 to step their games up over the coming weeks and start putting up some major points for their respective teams.

My early predictions for 2 of the final 3 top rookies are Vladimir Tarasenko and Cory Conacher. Who do you think will be one of the top rookies at the end of this shortened season?


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