January 20, 2013
The NHL season has begun (finally) and today we'll take a look at the rookies who made the team and my projection of what they may produce in this 48-game season. Of course, roles may change in the next few weeks that will alter production but it's still fun to project. Rule number one is don't overreact to a small sample size, which one game certainly qualifies as.
Mark Scheifele, Jets- The Jets are looking to break him in slowly, he is starting the season as a wing on the fourth line, but that could change suddenly if Winnipeg struggles at all offensively. Current projection: 15 points.
Justin Schultz, Oilers- It looks as if Schultz is being paired with Nick Schultz to start the campaign. This move is being done not only to confuse announcers but because Nick's stay-at-home style will allow Justin to join the rush guilt-free. That combined with power-play time should equal points for the mature rookie. 22 points.
Nail Yakupov, Oilers- Yakupov has the advantage of having another scoring line on his team to draw the opponent's top defensive players as well as taking off some pressure. Yak will play on the second line and power-play unit with Hemsky and Gagner. 29 points.
Jakob Silfverberg, Senators- Skated with Spezza and Michalek opening night and looked like he belonged. The better news was that he stayed on that line with a man advantage. Silfverberg is explosive and very exciting to watch. 36 points.
Alex Galchenyuk, Canadiens- Currently skating on the second line and not seeing a lot of power-play action, but that should increase as the season unfolds. I'm a little concerned about the team overall and how it will affect his play. The Canadiens looked very unorganized in their opening match. Galchenyuk may be better served returning to the OHL for this year. 23 points, assuming chemistry in Montreal improves.
Dougie Hamilton, Bruins- Will see decent minutes at even-strength, but limited power-play opportunities. Will be a fixture in Boston for years to come, but, sorry poolies, not this year for Hamilton. 9 points.
Brandon Saad, Blackhawks- Was a healthy scratch opening night, after starting to come on at Rockford prior to the lockout ending. He may be sent back to the AHL. Update: Saad will be given first shot at playing with Toews and Hossa on the 'Hawks top line, due to Dan Carcillo's injury. 14 points. 20 points.
Sven Baertschi, Flames- Much is expected of Baertschi after his five game emergency recall last spring, when he scored three goals, but I don't see him getting a ton of points this season. Opponents will be in his face, and careful not to let him get space to shoot. 26 points.
Cam Atkinson, Blue Jackets- Atkinson possesses an accurate shot with a very quick release and other teams are aware of the threat. He will be a good point producer in the NHL, but needs more talent around him. Atkinson's numbers will only be so good playing with R.J. Umberger and Derick Brassard. 31 points.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers- With three points opening night, Huberdeau is on pace for 144 points. Don't check my math, and don't bet on him getting three points every game. Carolina was atrocious, but Huberdeau also seemed to click with linemates Peter Mueller and Alexei Kovalev and will be among the rookie scoring leaders. I just don't think he'll run away with it. 33 points.
Mikael Granlund, Wild- As with Yakupov, he's not on the top line, but his linemates won't be as good as Yakupov's. If they stay together, Matt Cullen is a crafty veteran who will help Granlund, and Granlund could help Devin Setoguchi get the puck in space. Granlund is a special talent. 40 points.
Chris Kreider, Rangers- One of my favorite rookies, but won't be given the opportunity to play on a scoring line or on the power-play. Kreider still has good long-term potential. 13 points.
Paul Postma, Jets- Postma is second on my list of rookie defenseman this year, and I own him in all of my keeper leagues. So I'm all in on Postma. He has good offensive skills and instincts, but isn't a liability defensively, so I expect him to become a fixture on Winnipeg's blue line for years to come. He will start out on the second power-play. 15 points.
Jaden Schwartz, Blues- Tarasenko will be garnering most of the attention, but there's another skilled rookie forward in St. Louis. Unlike his fellow newcomer, Schwartz will start in the bottom six with no power-play time. His time will come in another season or two. 14 points.
Stefan Matteau, Devils- New Jersey's first-round pick from last summer was not expected to make the Devils, and may only be there for the six game limit to send players back to junior. Matteau is a banger with some scoring potential, but the offense is a work in progress that will probably take a few years to develop.
Scott Laughton, Flyers- Not a prolific offensive player, Laughton is a high-energy type who does a lot oflittle things that help teams win. That's not to say he won't be productive, he could reach close to 70 points in time. Laughton reminds me of a young Kirk Muller. 16 points.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues- Currently playing with creative playmakers Andy McDonald and Alex Steen, Tarasenko should rack up the points in St. Louis. He has fantastic one-on-one skill and can make defensemen look silly. 42 points.
Cory Conacher, Lightning- The sleeper rookie, Conacher skated with Lecavilier and Teddy Purcell and scored in Tampa Bay's first game. Oh, he also saw almost five minutes on the power-play. Conacher's offensive skill is for real, pick him up if he's available in your league. 38 points.
Mikhail Grigorenko, Sabres- A pure offensive player, Grigorenko may be sent back after six game unless he shows quickly that he can produce points this season. 16 points.
My current top five for Calder Finalists are Tarasenko, Granlund, Huberdeau, Schultz and Conacher.
Thanks for reading. You can direct questions to @RichDillon17 if you'd like.