The first half of the season is just wrapping up and what an exciting half it’s been. The Ranger’s have emerged as a team to watch out for, Evgeni Malkin has looked like… well Evgeni Malkin, the Bruins have looked invincible at times (like during that 10 game win streak) and a number of rookies have looked pretty darn impressive (Gabriel Landeskog, Jhonas Enroth and Adam Larsson to name a few). It’s a great time to be a hockey fan as the league has never been so competitive with new teams rising into contention nearly every season. This year features the new look Ottawa Senators and the feisty St. Louis Blues, two teams that have just started finding success because of their drafting and development of talented young players. Many teams are discovering now that this is the key to winning, drafting well. Haven’t you ever wondered why some teams never improve (while factoring in financial barriers) despite getting top picks year after year? It’s because they lack a good scouting team, which is something that can destroy a franchise. I’m a firm believer that one good draft selection can save a franchise, and many teams have found some stars this year.
Let’s take a look at this year’s Calder Trophy (awarded to the top NHL rookie) Race and establish ourselves a top rookie for the first half of the 2011-12 NHL Season.
Bronze: Matt Read, RW, Philadelphia Flyers: Read has been a bright spot for a Flyer’s squad jam packed with talent and looking to make a cup chase. Read has put up respectable fantasy hockey numbers while giving Philly 15 goals (1st amongst rookies) and 16 assists while showing that he belongs in the NHL. Philadelphia is one of the best teams at finding players that come in and make an immediate impact, and it looks like they’ve picked themselves a winner again. Read is going to be a big part of his team’s success this year and in years to come.
Silver: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers: RNH has been unbelievable this fantasy hockey season for the Oilers, operating at a nearly point-per-game pace while having many fans linking him to The Great One (Wayne Gretzky). His 35 Points (22 assists – 1st among rookies) are the most out of any rookie, and he’s played in only 38 games; he’s just that good. Hopkins has shown good chemistry playing on a line featuring fellow young stars Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall (a former #1 pick himself). Its been fun to watch that line grow and mature together, but as a whole Edmonton has been having a rough season in the standings. That is why Ryan Nugent Hopkins is not my pick for top rookie.
Gold: Adam Henrique, C, New Jersey Devils: Talk about coming out of nowhere and making a huge impact, Henrique stormed into this season and hasn’t slowed down yet. His 34 points (2nd amongst rookies) and four shorthanded goals (1st in NHL) don’t tell the full story. Henrique has added stability to a line featuring two of the game’s premier talents in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, which is why I give Henrique the edge over any other rookie. Henrique has played at their level and even taken their games to a new level with his superb speed and understanding of the game. Henrique has a knack for making smart passes and reads passing lanes very well (which explains his four SHGs). If you haven’t gotten a chance to see him play yet don’t be so quick to judge that Hopkins is by far the best rookie, because New Jersey may have found themselves a star as well.
Do you like these Rookies? Think they stink? Let Me Know!