Dreger: Top 10 impact rookies in 2009-10 season

Darren Dreger
10/1/2009 12:02:12 AM
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This season's crop of NHL rookies offers strength in all areas.

There's a number of defencemen ready to make the jump, while up front we find a mix of talent from last summer's NHL entry draft, plus names of players who have required a bit more time to develop their game. Not to be overlooked, goaltending, where we'll start this season's list of top 10 rookies.

Number 10: 

Jonas Gustavsson.  The "Monster" is a prototypical late bloomer.  The 24-year-old's pre-season was hampered by a heart procedure, but we saw enough to see the talent that led Farjestad to the Swedish Elite League title last season.

Number 9:

Erik Karlsson.  The Senators' 19-year-old defenseman has the potential to be the Sens' power play quarterback this season. He's highly skilled with the puck and once he learns the defensive aspects of the NHL game, he will make an impact.

Number 8: 

Matt Gilroy.  The Rangers signed the 25-year old defenceman this summer as a free agent and describe Gilroy as an outstanding skater who is expected to push the pace of the game, spend time on New York's power play and contribute offensively.

Number 7: 

Semyon Varlamov.  Last year's playoff revelation could very easily win the Calder Trophy this season.  The Capitals say the number one job belongs to Jose Theodore, but Varlamov's 13 straight postseason starts last spring indicate the 21-year old is ready for a bigger role.

Number 6: 

Matt Duchene.  Colorado's first choice, third overall in June's entry draft, Duchene is Colorado's second line centre and the 18-year-old doesn't appear to have many challengers capable of bumping him out of that role.

Number 5:

Ville Leino.  The 25-year-old forward showed enough in a combined 20 regular season and playoff games last season for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to pencil him in, full time, alongside Jason Williams and Valtteri Filppula

Number 4: 

James Van Riemsdyk.  Drafted second overall in 2007, Philadelphia questioned the big forward's competitiveness; but the 20-year-old has erased those concerns with an inspired performance during training camp.

Number 3:

Nikita Filatov.  The Blue Jackets believe Filatov should be good for at least 40 points.  That might be conservative based on the 19-year old's speed and quick hands. He scored four goals in eight games last season - including a hat-trick against Minnesota.

Number 2:

John Tavares:  The Islanders have been careful not to burden Tavares with sky-high expectations. But Tavares accepts the fact that all eyes will be watching.  Some question the 19-year-old's skating but nobody questions the OHL's all-time goal leader's ability to score.

Number 1: 

Victor Hedman: Tampa Bay needs something good to dominate the headlines and Hedman has been nothing but a good news story. The 18-year-old defenceman has demonstrated extraordinary poise to go along with excellent skating and passing skills.

These ten men are Calder Trophy contenders in a field of NHL rookies that league executives deem to be as strong as we've seen in many years.

Darren Dreger

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