By BRENDAN KYLE JURE
As defined by the NHL guidelines, a rookie is 25 years of age or under and has played no more than 25 games. Here’s a look at 10 rookies from teams in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, all of whom will be on the opening-night rosters of their respective teams.
10. Rob O’Gara — Boston Bruins
The New York native has only played five professional games with the Bruins’ affiliate, the Providence Bruins, on an amateur tryout last season. His lone goal and his defensive play was enough to impress the Boston brass, who offered him a two-year, entry-level contract. The defender gathered attention while playing Ivy League hockey for the Yale Bulldogs. During his four-year career there, he was awarded the ECAC’s Best Defensive Defenseman and NCAA (East) First All American team. O’Gara finished his career at Yale with 51 points in 133 games.
He debuted on the second line with Torey Krug where he averaged 13.11 minutes on the ice and three blocked shots.
9. Brandon Carlo — Boston Bruins
The 19-year-old from Colorado Springs impressed the Boston gaffers during training camp. The six-foot, five-inch tall, 200-pound giant also played for Team USA in last year’s edition of the World Junior competition and ended up being drafted number 37 overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Carlo has played three seasons with the Tri-City Americans (based in Kennewick, Wash.) in the Western Hockey League where he played 186 games and had 76 points, the majority of them assists. Starting the year on the first (defense) line with Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara. Carlo assisted on Brad Marchand’s second goal and had a +/- of 5. The Coloradoan also had an average of 17 minutes of ice time, hinting that he might be be sticking around for a little while.
8. Zach Hyman — Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman is one of the more unique players on this list. Not only is he the oldest at 24 years of age, he is also a published and award winning children’s literature author. He is also the only player on this list to have his jersey displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Toronto-born player was passed over in the OHL draft, after playing with the Hamilton Red Wings (now the Markham Royals) in the OJHL (Ontario Junior Hockey League). In his last season, he was the leading scorer on his team with 42 goals and 60 assists for a total of 102 points. Drafted by the Florida Panthers 123 overall in 2010, he was traded to his hometown team after failing to agree on terms. He played 16 games for the Leafs last season, but still retains his rookie status. Hyman opened up with William Nylander and Austin Matthews against the Ottawa Senators, where they combined for seven points – all four goals in the 5-4 loss came from Matthews.
7. Denis Malgin — Florida Panthers
Malgin is a real sleeper here. The young Swiss centre was drafted 102 overall in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Splitting his time between the two top tiers of Swiss hockey with Zurich SC (Swiss A) and GCK Lions (Swiss B) for the past fours gave him experience with playing alongside fully grown men (he was teammates with Toronto superstar-in-the-making, Austin Matthews). Malgin may not be a high-scoring forward, but he has the grit and hockey sense to make it as a bottom-six forward in the NHL. He does have the potential to become a highly offensive player now that he is in the shadow of Matthews. As of Oct. 16, Malgin played two games for the Panthers and recorded one assist.
6. Mikhail Sergachev — Montreal Canadiens
The 1998-born competitive two-way player who is known for his tenacity and offensive flair had a total of 57 points in 67 games with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. The obvious replacement for the void left by P.K. Subban’s flair and creative displays on the blue line, the Canadien’s will be looking to break in Sergachev slowly instead. Having already made his debut against Ottawa during the season opener, he has already been benched for journeyman Jeff Petry. It’s unknown at this moment if he will be staying around as a scratch or being sent back to the Spitfires or to the AHL.
5. Connor Brown — Toronto Maple Leafs
The Etobicoke ginger may not be the revival player that Leafs fans are looking for, but he is certainly part of it. The small forward is the hardest working player on the ice, possibly because he has a chip on his shoulder after being drafted 156 overall in his draft year. Brown has a knack for offensive punches at the most opportune times. Having 90 points in 110 games for the Marlies, 250 in 199 for his OHL team, the Erie Otters, shows he may be ready to take it to the next level, if his seven points in nine goals for the Leafs over two seasons hasn’t convinced you. A broken foot kept him benched after his first seven games last season with the Leafs, but it shouldn’t be surprising if he lasts the entire season.
4. Brayden Point — Tampa Bay Lightning
Point is defined by grit and sheer speed. Point may have the better deal out of raw talent, though. The Alberta native plays a bigger game than his size suggests, displaying great vision that allows him to make some passes others simply could not. He has 190 assists with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, but the man can shoot, too. A total of 324 points in 252 games in the WHL is an eye-opener for any team and those teams will be kicking themselves for passing over him in the draft. Given some time with the bottom six and with Tampa’s farm team, Point will be a future top-six forward. He is also a dark horse for the Calder.
3. William Nylander — Toronto Maple Leafs
Already having played 22 games last season, Nylander has retained his rookie status, giving him a shot at the Calder. His 22-game stint allowed him to rack up some points (six goals, seven assists) and establish himself as a young, hot prospect for the next season. Nylander is soft on his hands and the best part of his game is his puck handling. He can also thread passes through tight spaces, but isn’t typically a pass-first player. His wrist shot is lethal and he is an overall player, crucial in a power play. Playing on a line with Hyman and Matthews, they have already combined for most points in the NHL currently.
2. Mitchell Marner — Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are loaded with raw, young talent and Marner is no exception. Marner has only played two games with the Leafs and is already regarded as a hometown hero (He grew up in Thornhill). With the London Knights, he ended his OHL career with 301 points, a Jim Mahon Award (most points for a right winger), the Red Tilson Trophy (most outstanding) and the Robertson and Memorial Cup helping him to further awards, including the Ed Chynoweth Trophy (most points in the Memorial Cup). What Marner lacks in strength and size, he makes up for with his incredible offensive prowess. Marner has already scored his first goal as a Leaf against the Bruins and has shown glimpses of the top-line forward he will become.
1. Auston Matthews — Toronto Maple Leafs
This should not be surprise to anyone. Matthews is the first rookie to score four goals in a debut appearance in the NHL. He is also the first player from Arizona to be drafted first overall in the NHL entry draft. The natural scorer and centre man the Leafs needed for the past several years has arrived and may be just what they need to turn the dying franchise around. All Matthews needs is a stable supporting cast that he may have already found in fellow line-mates, Hyman and Nylander.
It would be a mistake to think the nineteen-year-old will jump in as the first-line centre after just two games, though. Matthews is safe in that third-line role where he can develop at his own pace without the pressure of getting four goals a game. A safe bet for Matthews this season would be around the 50-60 point mark. Matthews is the most likely finalist for the Calder but Nylander, Marner and Point will be at his back.