Five Rookies Who Aren’t Getting Enough Attention This Season
The ability to play against excellent competition in college or at the junior hockey level is making it easy for young players to succeed in the NHL. This notion is being proved true on a nightly basis this year with dozens of rookies making solid contributions to their team. Since Matt Murray, Patrick Laine and Auston Matthews seem to be getting most of the media attention, there are a lot of young players getting overlooked this year. These are the five NHL rookies that are not getting enough attention this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander
William Nylander would be in the running for the Calder Memorial Trophy in most years, but he is arguably the third best rookie center on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Playing behind Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews has caused Nylander’s great season to be completely ignored by most hockey fans. Nylander has tallied 10 goals and 21 assists in his first 47 games, and he is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho
Sebastian Aho’s 15 goals rank third among rookies, but playing for a bad Carolina Hurricanes team has caused the Finnish winger’s great season to go virtually unnoticed. In addition to scoring 15 goals, Aho has also created 15 assists in his first 49 NHL games. Aho has quickly become a key member of the Carolina offense, and his stats should only increase as he gets more playing time.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Zach Werenski
Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets is easily having the best season of any rookie defender and is already considered one of the best young players in the NHL. Werenski posses a rare ability to create offense from the blue line while also playing excellent defense. His 31 points are the ninth best total among all defensemen in the NHL. Zach Werenski’s ability to play a near perfect game each night is one of the main reasons the Blue Jackets are surprising everyone with their dominating performance this season.
Detroit Red Wings: Anthony Mantha
The Detroit Red Wings have not had to rely on a rookie in a long time, but they have been forced to use a very young roster this year. The extended playing time has helped Anthony Mantha quickly become a star. He currently has 11 goals and 12 assists in only 35 games. Detroit’s long playoff streak may come to an end this year, but they have a very promising future with Anthony Mantha and several other young stars on the roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs; Nikita Zaitsev
Just like his teammate William Nylander, Nikita Zaitsev is not getting much attention this season because of the other excellent rookies on the Toronto Maple Leafs. At the age of 25, Zaitsev is much older than most NHL rookies. The experience gained playing in Russia has greatly helped Zaitsev succeed in his first professional season in the United States. The Maple Leafs continue to rely on the experience of Zaitsev by having him play more than 22 minutes a game, which leads all rookies. He still has a lot to learn on offense, but the ability to play solid defense is far more important to Toronto right now.