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Rookie class deepest in a decade

By: Andrew McGill

Connor McDavid has five goals and four assists nine games into his rookie season.

Connor McDavid has five goals and four assists nine games into his rookie season.

Eat your heart out this year NHL fans because this year’s rookie class is profound and has one of those ‘once in a generation’ feels to it.

Remember the 2005-’06 rookie class? It was stacked. It included the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Thomas Vanek, and Duncan Keith, just to name a few. That’s right, just a few and we’re naming nine. It’s tough to tell so early, but this class may be just as good as that one. If anything, they’re off to very thrilling start.

The race for the Calder trophy will obviously feature headline stars Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, this year’s first and second overall picks respectively, just like it did back in ’05 with Crosby and Ovechkin. They will be under the microscope the most throughout the season, and it will be interesting to watch both of them, but they actually have some serious competition for the Calder this season. Some of their competition will predictably cool off as the season goes on, but for now this class is one of the deepest we’ve seen in 10 years.

Dylan Larkin is another guy to watch as he has made a big impact already in Detroit. The 19-year-old was last year’s 15th overall pick and he couldn’t be left off the Red Wings roster after the preseason he had. Larkin has crazy offensive talent and when paired up with veterans like Henrik Zeterberg and Justin Abdelkader he becomes very dangerous.

The 23-year-old KHL prospect Artemi Panarin joins the Blackhawks this year after signing a two-year contract this offseason. Panarin has eight points in nine games so far for Chicago and he’s looking really good. His speed and elusiveness can be compared to his all-star line mate Patrick Kane, which is quite the compliment.

The future looks real bright for the Coyotes, as they foster two outstanding rookie forwards in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Domi is a very skilled center that can produce in a major way. The son of former tough guy Tie Domi, he brings some of his father’s physical style to play as well. Duclair, who has already registered a hat trick in his young career, compliments him on his left wing.

Jack Eichel has three goals but has displayed incredible ability early in his NHL career.

Jack Eichel has three goals but has displayed incredible ability early in his NHL career.

The list of rookie forwards who have been impressive goes on and includes Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mattias Janmark, and Oscar Lindberg. All of whom have budding potential.

And let’s not forget about some defenseman.

Colton Parayko is a guy that surprised some people and made the Blues roster coming out of camp. He has a booming shot, which he demonstrated by breaking a pane of glass against the Canucks, and he already has three goals on the young season. He is also averaging almost 20 minutes a game, which means he could end up being a great number one D-man.

A guy who may need to develop a little at the NHL level is this year’s fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin. He is going to be a bona fide stud on the blue line in the coming years for the Hurricanes. He has a lot of range and plays a smart defensive game, but once he gets going and starts quarterbacking the power play, forget about it, he’s going one of the best defenseman in the league.

Ben Hutton is another defenseman in Vancouver who is averaging just over 18 minutes a game. For a rookie that’s not very light work, and in the time he’s been giving he hasn’t disappointed, snagging four assists and posting an even plus/minus rating.

Dylan Strome and Darnell Nurse are both guys who didn’t make their club’s roster at the beginning of the season, but if given time at the NHL level could impress. They likely won’t be in the race for the Calder this year, but they’re names to look out for in the future.

It will be fascinating to watch this exciting rookie class grow and continue to put numbers on the boards. With the skill set a lot of these guys are currently showing this year’s Calder race will be more than just Eichel vs. McDavid.

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Andrew McGill

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