This young 2019-2020 NHL season has already given us a nice look at some impactful rookies making a name for themselves in the NHL. Prior to the season, there was a short list of Calder Trophy finalists that many had on their prediction list. Names like Jack & Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar and Kaapo Kakko lead the way with most analysts and talking heads. Now that we are a few games into the season, there are new names that have entered the Calder race. Let’s take a look at how this crop of talented rookies are faring in the NHL.
Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto Maple Leafs
7 games played: 2 goals, 3 assists, +5, 14 SOG in 15:43 ATOI
Cracking the top six in Toronto is going to be tough for this talented rookie. But Mikheyev seems to have secured a spot on an underrated third line. Spending almost 65% of his time on ice, alongside Alexander Kerfoot and Trevor Moore, he is making the most out of his playing time. Don’t expect Mikheyev to get much power play time right now. If he keeps this production up, there is a chance he could knock Kasperi Kapanen off of that second unit.
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
5 games played: 0 goals, 6 assists, 4 PPP, 3 SOG in 19:17 ATOI
With the departure of Tyson Barrie, all signs pointed to Makar taking the top power play spot in Colorado. To no one’s surprise, he took it and ran with it. He not only took that top power play spot, but he is currently top pairing as well, playing the facilitating role next to Nikita Zadorov. As long as Makar holds onto that top power play spot, he is in a phenomenal position for continued success on a stacked Colorado team. We could see a season that rivals Rasmus Dahlin’s stellar season last year.
Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres
6 games played: 5 goals, 2 assist, -1, 5 PPP(all goals), 15 SOG in 18:11 ATOI
Posting four points in Buffalo’s final six games of last season, Olofsson showed he was able to contribute at the NHL level as a rookie. Adding a solid preseason to his short resume, Olofsson earned a spot on the opening day roster and he hasn’t looked back. Playing on the top line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Olofsson was put into the best possible scenario to succeed. Now he also finds himself on the top power play, where he’s scored all five of his goals. A legit scoring threat on the power play with one of the best young centers in the league, Olofsson looks to have found himself a home on Buffalo’s top line.
Ville Heinola, Winnipeg Jets
5 games played: 1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 8 SOG in 19:17 ATOI
Winnipeg has had a rough start to the season for their defensive crew. Dustin Byfuglein hasn’t decided if he is retiring or not, Josh Morrissey has missed time due to injury, and Dmitry Kulikov has missed time due to personal reasons. These roster issues had lead to Heinola taking on a much more prominent role in Winnipeg. With both Morrissey and Kulikov making their returns, Heinola could find himself in a more sheltered role, or even sent back to Manitoba. Hopefully it’s not the second option.
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
5 games played: 1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 1 PPP, 8 SOG in 20:01 ATOI
Bouncing between the first and second power play and defensive pairings, Hughes seems to fit right in at the NHL level. Logging the highest average time on ice and the most shifts per game among all rookies, 25.3 shifts, Hughes is proving all of his fans right. He has a very secure spot in Vancouver and it’s only a matter of time before he locks down the top power play spot.
Those are a few of the more impactful rookies so far in this young season. Now, let’s take a look at some other popular names and how their inaugural season is going.
Jack Hughes, NJ Devils
6 games played: 0 goals, 0 assists, -4, 12 SOG in 15:50 ATOI
The top pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft, Hughes saw an immediate role in the top six of New Jersey. Playing alongside Jesper Bratt and Nikita Gusev, Hughes seemed to be set up with solid supporting forwards early in his first season. Unfortunately, the early season success has not come for Hughes yet. He was moved down to the third line. Most recently his linemates were Jesper Boqvist and Wayne Simmonds. Don’t let this stilted start to the season, and subsequent demotion, sour you on Hughes. He is an elite talent. Sometimes it takes a minute to get used to the next level of play.
Kaapo Kakko, NY Rangers
3 games played: 1 goal, 0 assists, -1, 4 SOG in 15:25 ATOI
Following Jack Hughes in the 2019 NHL entry draft, Kakko was seen as a lock for a top six role in NY. A spot he still holds despite, what some would call, a slow start. Kakko has seen some power play time, mostly second unit, as well as a short stint alongside the top line pair of Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. Kakko, like Hughes, seems destined for a great career. Don’t let a slow start sway your opinion on this talented, young winger. By seasons end, Kakko will be one of the more impactful rookies in the league.
Dante Fabbro, Nashville Predators
6 games played: 1 goal, 0 assists, +3, 6 SOG in 19:24 ATOI
When Pernell-Karl Subban was traded to the NJ Devils, the popular opinion was that Fabbro was going to step into a top pairing role, and possibly take the top power play spot. But people seemed to have forgotten about how deep the defensive squad is in Nashville. Roman Josi took that top power play spot, and Ryan Ellis took the top pairing spot that was vacated by Subban. Fabbro is a talented young defensemen, but he is clearly the fourth option in Nashville. This is no fault of his, Nashville just has 3 very talented players in front of him. He is in a great spot to learn and progress his game quickly.
Finally, a few players that have played well and could be on the brink of becoming impactful rookies.
Cody Glass, Vegas Golden Knights
7 games played: 2 goals, 3 assists, 2 PPP, 14 SOG in 14:56 ATOI
Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes
7 games played: 2 goal, 3 assists, +2, 1 PPP, 10 SOG in 14:14 ATO6
Sam Lafferty, Pittsburgh Penguins
4 games played: 3 goals, 2 assists, +3, 11 SOG in 13:56 ATOI
Barret Hayton, Arizona Coyotes
2 games played: 0 goals, 1 assist, 3 SOG in 11:28 ATOI
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens
5 games played: 0 goals, 1 assist, -1, 1 PPP, 5 SOG in 14:32 ATOI
Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals
3 games played: 2 wins, 1 loss, .944 save %, 1.43 goals against average
There are more players that we can discuss, but this list should give you a good idea on just how many impactful rookies are currently making a name for themselves in the NHL right now!
You can discuss this article and many more over at the Overtime Heroics Forums.