Before the pandemic-shortened season, there was little reason to doubt that wild winger Kirill Kaprizov would thrive in his 24-year-old rookie season. Kaprizov, the youngest player to score 100 goals in KHL history, dazzled and finished one vote away from becoming the first unanimous Calder Trophy winner since 1993. Few, if any, prospects enter the NHL at that level. of security.
But, due to limited games last year, several young players this season have shown their talents and yet retain your rookie status. A trio of top-line players from the USA in 2019, Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, Spencer Knight, sneak past Calder’s eligibility limit as they compete with true newcomers looking to make their mark in the 2021-22 season. With the season about to begin, here are the best rookies to watch.
Cole Caufield | Montreal Canadiens | RW
Wherever Caufield has gone, the goals continue. He broke the all-time goal record for Phil Kessel’s US National Hockey Team Development Program, scoring 126 times in 123 games. He led the NCAA in goals (30) last season and scored four goals in 10 regular season games with Montreal as well. Once again, he took gold at the 2021 World Juniors, won the Hobey Baker award with Wisconsin and scored 12 points in the Canadiens’ surprise run to the Stanley Cup final. All in the span of six months. Not bad for the 5’7 ”, 162-pound prospect who dropped due to size concerns.
Ahead of his first full NHL season, Caufield is set to meet second-year standout Nick Suzuki on the Habs’ top line. The duo dominated the power play in the postseason, helping Montreal beat their opponents 8-1 and accounting for 40% of Montreal’s extra strength goals. Caufield opened as the betting market favorite to win the 2022 Calder Trophy, and his status as a favorite likely won’t change as long as his sniping prowess continues.
Trevor Zegras | Anaheim Ducks | C
Zegras showed his ability to make two-way plays in Anaheim, dishing 10 assists in 24 games despite Anaheim’s allergy to scoring. Still, the Ducks … patiently … enacted their development plan. It started with the AHL affiliate of the Ducks. He then won a call-up in late February and played wing to ease his transition, but returned to San Diego after his first multi-point performance to gain experience at center, his natural position. The 2021 Junior World MVP changed the AHL and NHL jerseys two more times before the season ended.
The No. 9 pick in the 2019 NHL draft, Zegras displays a quick skating and serene puck layout that rivals only Jack Hughes in his class. Not to mention the slippery handling of the sticks, any. Meanwhile, the Ducks have slipped into an arduous rebuilding and succumbed to the league’s second-worst goal differential since 2018. Zegras is expected to not only stay with the team, but push for a top-six spot and lead the pack. Anaheim youth movement.
Spencer Knight | Florida Panthers | GRAM
A seductive disc manipulator? An explosive skater moving through the tubes? A calm, collected and collected netminder? Knight displays all the traits that characterize an elite NHL goalkeeper and has expectations to match. With the No. 13 pick, the Panthers made Knight the best-selected goalkeeper since the Kings selected Jack Campbell at No. 11 in 2010. Knight built on his international success (.940 save percentage and average. of 1.63 goals against en route to junior world gold) to the pros, where he became the youngest goalkeeper to win his first four games.
The sensation didn’t end there: Knight replaced a beleaguered Sergei Bobrovsky and blocked the Lightning, saving 36 of 37 shots as the Panthers took Game 5 of their first-round series. (Tampa Bay responded with a resounding 4-0 at the end of the series.) Therein lies the drama and the biggest obstacle to Knight’s rise. Bobrovsky, and his $ 10 million annual capital cap running through 2026, remains 1A, but the prolonged shaky game could see Knight challenging a more even platoon sooner than not.
Moritz Seider | Detroit Red Wings | D
Before 2020, Seider hadn’t earned many superlatives beyond best German blueliner prospect in nearly two decades. He wasn’t even one of the top three European defenders in his draft class. That changed, fast. Seider, at age 19, joined Rögle BK of the Swedish Hockey League for the 2020-21 season. There he scored seven goals and 28 points, led Rögle BK to the league final and took the defending honors of the year. He became the youngest winner in the award’s seven-year history.
Seider, a two-way right-handed defender who can play with the puck and with an advantage, has gone from having a reach on draft day to a likely roster lockout on opening night. He can thrive in the power game, where the Red Wings have scored the second fewest goals per game in the last three seasons. Following the instructions of another big-bodied blue player, Niklas Kronwall, Seider hopes to become the best defenders of Detroit’s future.
Jamie Drysdale | Anaheim Ducks | D
The 19-year-old Drysdale, picked No. 6 in the 2020 NHL draft, has become used to gaining more minutes than his age suggests. He became the seventh 17-year-old defender to play for Canada at the World Juniors, joining names like Scott Niedermayer and Wade Redden. Last year, Drysdale debuted with a goal and an assist in a win over the Coyotes when he was 18 years old. That was after winning the AHL Rookie of the Month with the San Diego Gulls.
Drysdale, a skilled skater and prototypical power play quarterback, will lead the rebuilding of Anaheim in the backend as Zegras tries to do the same from the start. And like Seider, Drysdale’s only barrier to significant playtime is how much he can handle this early in his career.
Vasily Podkolzin | Vancouver Canucks | RW
Heading into the 2019 NHL draft, it could be argued that Podkolzin was the third most talented prospect behind Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Podkolzin, at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, boasted dominating physical attributes fused with a finishing touch and a defender’s penchant for stealing discs. The problem? It had no paper production in a limited ice time from KHL.
The Russian winger broke through, scoring six goals and five assists in SKA St. Petersburg’s run to the KHL Conference Finals. It shows glimpses of your potential during the preseason. In a Canucks team looking for a recovery campaign, Podkolzin offers offensive firepower while the Blue Line hopes to assemble a respectable unit.
Marco Rossi | Minnesota Wild | C
Last November, Rossi tested positive for COVID-19 while playing for the Zurich Lions of the Swiss National League. He recovered and played in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, but extreme fatigue began. When he arrived in Minnesota for training camp, Rossi failed his heart test. Doctors diagnosed Rossi with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. He couldn’t walk, much less skate.
Rossi received authorization to resume training in May. Now, he’s fighting for a spot on the Wilds’ 23-man roster. The No. 9 pick in the 2020 NHL draft, Rossi led the entire CHL in scoring with 120 points for Ottawa’s 67 in 2019-20. The Austrian playmaker also excels on his own side, and was considered one of the best defensive forwards in his class.
Quinton Byfield He broke his left ankle in a preseason loss to the Coyotes and is out indefinitely, but had overtaken Gabe Vilardi as the Kings’ second-line center last season … Lucas raymond debuted at 16 in the Swedish Hockey League and has the talent to break the Red Wings roster, even if he starts the season in the AHL … Jeremy swayman won the Mike Richter award as the best goalkeeper in the NCAA in 2019-20 and had an average of 1.50 goals against and a save percentage of .945 to accompany a 7-3 record with the Bruins last year. Tuukka Rask remains entrenched as Boston’s unquestioned starter … Bowen byramUnlike Seider and Drysdale, he has a bigger hill to climb in terms of playing time on the Colorado Blue Line.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.