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Checking in on the NHL rookies

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Elias is the knight the Canucks needed.

Getty Images/USA TODAY Sports/Peter Rogers Illustrations

A few years ago I discussed an upswing of NHL ready rookies entering into the league. Among the top 10 players in the leagues in terms of points 7 of them are aged 25 of younger (including the top three players). When you look at it from just goals, two of the top three and four of the top ten are under 25, each of the top four players in power play goals are under 23. This trend has not slowed down at the start of this year, eight rookies sit atop the top 200 in the league in points. Five rookies are in the top 150 in terms of goals and four rookie defenseman are among the top 50 defensemen in points.

1. Elias Pettersson

The 5th overall pick in the 2017 draft, he looks like the Norris favorite at this point. 16 games into the season, he leads all rookies in points (18); goals (11), tied in power play points (6 – Dennis Cholowski). My biggest concern with him is his insane 26% shooting which is a full 10% higher than most hockey players. The beauty of Elias is he is a two way player, so he’s not just cherry picking up by the far point, he’s legit working his butt off on both sides of the ice. Vancouver desperately needed him and his timing could not be better with the Sedin’s retiring last year.

2. Colin White

The 21st overall pick in the 2015 draft, he spent time with Boston College and intermittent parts with the Binghamton Senators and some brief stretches with the Ottawa Senators. Sitting on the 2nd line with Brady Tkachuk it is a lot of fun to see two rookies and Mark Stone take the NHL by storm.

3. Brady Tkachuk

I think he is the 2nd best rookie in this class and 9 points in 9 games is not a bad start to reinforce that narrative. I would also add that Brady and Colin are on the top PP line for the Senators as well. “Insert another obligatory comment about how great all Tkachuks are here”

4. Oskar Lindblom

I covered him in an article earlier this year:

5. Brett Howden

You will notice a theme amongst most of these rookies, they are on teams that were projected to be terrible this year and THUS, are giving their rookies serious ice time. Brett has 11 points in 19 games this season to go with a game winning goal and a robust 19% shooting. Having spent most of his recent time with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors where he racked up 60+ points in three consecutive season, he spent a very brief stint in the AHL scoring three goals in games last year.

6. Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Montreal’s 3rd overall pick in the draft this year, he came over from the Finnish league and has scored three goals and has 10 points through 20 games. He’s not playing a ton, sitting on the third line with Artturi Lehkonen and Kenny Agostino, he is only playing 13 minutes a game (18th most on the team) which will hinder his point production unless it changes.

7. Maxime Lajoie

The 133rd pick in the 2016 draft, Max, like Brett, had a handful of successful seasons in the WHL, only Max played on the Swift Current Broncos. He put up 15 points in the AHL last year and has not lost a step going into the NHL this season. He currently has 9 points through the first 20 games including give goals (three of which are power play goals). He is playing the third most minutes on the team and should see plenty of opportunities going forward.

8. Rasmus Dahlin

Continuing on the defenseman love, Rasmus is not disappointing in the anticipation from the 1st overall pick. 10 points, a +plus six (best among rookies) and a game winning goal is excellent from a defenseman.

9. Dennis Cholowski

As I continue on my defense section, it’s crazy to see four defenseman among the top 10 in rookie points. The 20th overall pick in 2016, he has seen success in the BCHL (Chilliwack Chiefs), NCHC (St. Cloud St), AHL (Grand Rapid Griffins), and WHL (Prince George Cougars AND Portland Winterhawks). He’s a top four defensemen for them (and boy do they need some young talented defenseman) and he is seeing some time on their 2nd PP unit (he has six Power Play points, tied with Elias Pettersson).

NHL: New York Rangers at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

10. Henri Jokiharju

Of all the names on this list, this is the one I have never heard of. Drafted 29th overall in 2017, he put up 71 points across 63 games last season in the WHL (Portland Winterhawks) and this year he has 10 assists across 21 games played. He is among the top four d-men and he’s on the top power play line.

The three I am most optimistic about are Elias Petterson, Brady Tkachuk and Rasmus Dahlin but since those are low hanging fruits, I’ll extend this to Maxime Lajoie and Dennis Cholowski who are both tearing it up on defense (and both are under 35% owned).