Backchecking: Ranking The Top 100 NHL Rookies

Scott Cullen
3/21/2009 5:29:00 PM
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As the NHL regular season nears an end, here's a look at the Top 100 rookies of this season, ranked in terms of long-term potential, with some allowances made for immediate impact.

Obviously, an 18-year-old has greater long-term potential than a 25-year-old, but it's possible that the 25-year-old is a safer bet, so there will be some adjusting up and down based on how safe a prospect is in addition to how high their ceiling might be.

It's not an exact science, by any means, but should serve as a good recap of this year's NHL freshmen, although this is not an exercise in handicapping this year's Calder Trophy race. Some players who have not as productive as others this season still may hold more long-term value or potential.

(The first recap of this year's rookies, can be seen here.)

This list of 100 will include only those players that have played at least ten games this season.

1. Steve Mason, G, Columbus
Age: 20
Stats: 29-17-3, 9 SO, 2.25 GAA, .918 SVPCT in 50 GP
Comment: It's no sure thing that a successful rookie season will mean a long and fruitful career, particularly as a goaltender, but Mason has the chance to be a franchise goaltender.

2. Bobby Ryan, LW, Anaheim
Age: 22
Stats: 24-21-45, plus-13, 22 PIM in 53 GP
Comment: Didn't deserve to get demoted to AHL at the start of the season, but has been an impact player since getting recalled, displaying super soft hands for a power forward as he's scored a few highlight-reel goals.

3. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay
Age: 19
Stats: 16-20-36, minus-12, 35 PIM in 68 GP
Comment: Started slowly, as head coach Barry Melrose was probably right that he wasn't ready but, under the guidance of new coach Rick Tocchet, Stamkos is already getting stronger, logging lots of ice time and showing high-end offensive skills.

4. Zach Bogosian, D, Atlanta
Age: 18
Stats: 5-7-12, plus-8, 28 PIM in 36 GP
Comment: A broken ankle cost him a lot of time, but Bogosian has been an impact player as an 18-year-old. As he matures, his offensive production will improve and he'll be a top-pair defender soon enough (if he isn't already).

5. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles
Age: 19
Stats: 5-18-23, minus-11, 48 PIM in 69 GP
Comment: Thrust into workhorse duty right off the bat, Doughty is playing nearly 24 minutes per game. While his defensive game needs to get better, he's gained a lot of valuable experience this year and shown poise to keep expectations high.

6. Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville
Age: 26
Stats: 24-11-3, 7 SO, 2.26 GAA, .922 SVPCT in 42 GP
Comment: His numbers are awfully similar to Mason's, but it's taken some time for the 26-year-old to finally make his mark in the NHL.

7. Blake Wheeler, LW, Boston
Age: 22
Stats: 18-22-40, plus-36, 40 PIM in 71 GP
Comment: Signed as a free agent when he couldn't come to terms with the Coyotes after leaving the University of Minnesota, Wheeler has been sensational, bringing a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 214 pounds) and speed.

8. Patrik Berglund, C, St. Louis
Age: 20
Stats: 17-23-40, plus-16, 16 PIM in 65 GP
Comment: Big, skilled and already playing a sound two-way game, Berglund is going to be a number one centre for years to come.

9. Derick Brassard, C, Columbus
Age: 21
Stats: 10-15-25, plus-12, 17 PIM in 31 GP
Comment: Was off to a fantastic start before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in a rare fight. Injuries have been a problem in each of the last three seasons, though, so he has to prove he can stay healthy.

10. Kris Versteeg, LW, Chicago
Age: 22
Stats: 20-29-49, plus-16, 55 PIM in 66 GP
Comment: A steal of a trade from Boston (for Brandon Bochenski), the scrappy skilled winger leads all NHL rookies with 49 points this season.

11. T.J. Oshie, RW, St. Louis
Age: 22
Stats: 10-20-30, plus-12, 20 PIM in 46 GP
Comment: High-energy, hard-hitting forward has been slowed by injuries, which may indicate a need to dial-back his physical game, but Oshie has been very productive when healthy.

12. Michael Frolik, LW, Florida
Age: 21
Stats: 18-18-36, plus-4, 22 PIM in 68 GP
Comment: Skilled forward has the scoring touch that was expected, with possibly a more responsible two-way game than would have been anticipated right away.

13. Kyle Okposo, RW, N.Y. Islanders
Age: 20
Stats: 16-14-30, minus-8, 28 PIM in 57 GP
Comment: Started slowly, though some of that may have been due to ice time and line combinations, but the scoring winger has showcased his skills much more in the second half.

14. Claude Giroux, RW, Philadelphia
Age: 21
Stats: 5-10-15, plus-7, 12 PIM in 29 GP
Comment: Talented scorer who will be highly productive once he gets consistent quality ice time. As a rookie, he's still battling for ice time among Philadelphia's deep forward corps, but his role will expand in the coming years.

15. Luke Schenn, D, Toronto
Age: 19
Stats: 1-8-9, minus-13, 50 PIM in 60 GP
Comment: Aside from Doughty, the only rookie getting more than 20 minutes of ice time per game. It's been a learning experience with the rebuilding Maple Leafs, but Schenn still looks like he will be every bit the shutdown defenceman one day.

16. James Neal, LW, Dallas
Age: 21
Stats: 23-11,34, minus-10, 39 PIM in 66 GP
Comment: Desperate times on the wings forced the Stars to put Neal into a more prominent role than expected and the promising power forward has proven that he can put the puck in the net. Now, it's a matter of rounding out the rest of his game. 

17. Jakub Voracek, RW, Columbus
Age: 19
Stats: 9-26-35, plus-10, 30 PIM in 69 GP
Comment: Putting up respectable scoring numbers, but has been a pleasant surprise as a two-way player in his first season. There is still untapped offensive potential here.

18. Mikkel Boedker, LW, Phoenix
Age: 19
Stats: 10-17-27, minus-2, 16 PIM in 70 GP
Comment: Responsible young player can already play in every situation, but his scoring will increase in the coming years.

19. Kyle Turris
Age: 19
Stats: 8-12-20, minus-13, 17 PIM in 56 GP
Comment: Probably rushed out of the University of Wisconsin, Turris wasn't ready yet and spent some time in the AHL (4-3-7, minus-1 in 8 GP) before getting recalled. Definitely skilled, but it could be a few years before he's an impact player.

20. Karl Alzner, D, Washington
Age: 20
Stats: 1-4-5, minus-1, 2 PIM in 30 GP
Comment: Has split the season between the AHL and NHL, but his strong numbers with Hershey (3-11-14, plus-21 in 35 GP) indicate that he'll be ready for a big role in D.C. soon.

21. Josh Bailey, C, N.Y. Islanders
Age: 19
Stats: 3-17-20, minus-10, 14 PIM in 56 GP
Comment: Surprised by making the team out of training camp (even if he was injured) and has shown promise as a playmaker. Even if his role is that of setup man, he'll have to light the lamp more often.

22. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles
Age: 23
Stats: 17-12-1, 3 SO, 2.62 GAA, .908 SVPCT in 33 GP
Comment: A strong start with Manchester of the AHL opened the door for his promotion and Quick hasn't looked out of place at all. How will his development affect highly-touted first-rounder Jonathan Bernier, who remains in Manchester?

23. Oscar Moller, RW, Los Angeles
Age: 20
Stats: 7-8-15, minus-3, 14 PIM in 36 GP
Comment: Impressive early, the skilled winger has been slow to rebound from an injury suffered at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

24. Ville Leino, LW, Detroit
Age: 25
Stats: 5-4-9, plus-5, 6 PIM in 13 GP
Comment: Was very productive in a limited amount of time with the Wings and could (perhaps should) be a Top Six forward as soon as next season.

25. Matt Hunwick, D, Boston
Age: 23
Stats: 6-14-20, plus-14, 25 PIM in 43 GP
Comment: Mobile, puck-moving defenceman made a huge impact early, but is now on the fringe of the lineup as the Bruins bulked up the blueline. Interesting potential if he can get an opportunity with consistent playing time.

26. Troy Brouwer, RW, Chicago
Age: 23
Stats: 10-16-26, plus-7, 50 PIM in 60 GP
Comment: Strong power forward who still needs to improve his skating, but he's been reliable and does have a minor-league track record as a goal-scorer.

27. Alex Goligoski, D, Pittsburgh
Age: 23
Stats: 6-14-20, plus-5, 16 PIM in 45 GP
Comment: Talented puck-handler who can run the point on the power play, Goligoski isn't particularly strong so, even with solid production, he has been demoted to the AHL (where he has 2-11-13 and is plus-2 in 17 GP).

28. Luca Sbisa, D, Philadelphia
Age: 19
Stats: 0-7-7, minus-6, 36 PIM in 39 GP
Comment: Ready sooner than expected and could very well have finished the season with the Flyers if they weren't pushing for a playoff spot and trying to squeeze veterans in under the salary cap.

29. Teddy Purcell, RW, Los Angeles
Age: 23
Stats: 4-11-15, minus-3, 4 PIM in 29 GP
Comment: Surprisingly cut in training camp, Purcell hasn't received a really good look until recently and continues to show the puck skills that should make him a solid scorer, if he can get consistent minutes.

30. Mikhail Grabovski, C, Toronto
Age: 25
Stats: 17-19-36, minus-6, 76 PIM in 68 GP
Comment: It's been an up-and-down season, but Grabovksi has some offensive flair to his game and it would be interesting to see if more skilled teammates could help elevate his play.

31. Brian Lee, D, Ottawa
Age: 21
Stats: 2-9-11, minus-4, 18 PIM in 42 GP
Comment: May not live up to being drafted 9th overall, but has good size and can move the puck well enough to be a defensive regular for many years.

32. Max Pacioretty, LW, Montreal
Age: 20
Stats: 3-8-11, minus-2, 25 PIM in 33 GP
Comment: Power forward prospect was rushed to the NHL, so he'll have to develop scoring touch on the fly.

33. Brian Elliott, G, Ottawa
Age: 23
Stats: 14-4-3, 2.70 GAA, .905 SVPCT in 25 GP
Comment: Proving that he's NHL-calibre, but will likely be battling for backup job next season.

34. Fabian Brunnstrom, LW, Dallas
Age: 24
Stats: 13-10-23, minus-7, 4 PIM in 46 GP
Comment: Definitely skilled, but has a long way to go in terms of aggressiveness and defensive responsibility. If he improves in those areas, Brunnstrom could be a regular 20-goal scorer.

35. Jannik Hansen, RW, Vancouver
Age: 23
Stats: 6-15-21, plus-7, 37 PIM in 52 GP
Comment: Made an impression early as a checking winger, but has had trouble getting back into the lineup since getting hurt, since the Canucks are playing so well.

36. Wayne Simmonds, RW, Los Angeles
Age: 20
Stats: 6-12-18, minus-5, 50 PIM in 70 GP
Comment: Limited offensively, but goes up and down the wing, does his job and enjoys getting involved in the physical play.

37. Andrew Ebbett, C, Anaheim
Age: 26
Stats: 5-18-23, plus-5, 4 PIM in 37 GP
Comment: Undersized and undrafted, the University of Michigan grad put up 166 points in 173 AHL games before earning a spot with the Ducks this year.

38. Chris Stewart, RW, Colorado
Age: 21
Stats: 10-8-18, minus-17, 54 PIM in 46 GP
Comment: Strong forward with decent hands and a willingness to mix it up, but has struggled defensively.

39. Brandon Sutter, C, Carolina
Age: 20
Stats: 1-5-6, minus-1, 16 PIM in 50 GP
Comment: Has seen limited playing time with the Hurricanes (only 8:49 per game), but should get more of a chance in the future.

40. Kevin Klein, D, Nashville
Age: 24
Stats: 4-7-11, minus-1, 17 PIM in 53 GP
Comment: Only sees limited playing time in Nashville, and could probably handle more elsewhere, but finally cracked the lineup after knocking on the door for several seasons.

41. Ryan Jones, LW, Nashville
Age: 24
Stats: 7-9-16, plus-1, 20 PIM in 43 GP
Comment: Hard-working winger who was acquired in the Marek Zidlicky deal and spent some time in the AHL this season. Willingness to go to the net could make him a 20-goal scorer.

42. Ryan Parent, D, Philadelphia
Age: 22
Stats: 0-2-2, plus-3, 8 PIM in 20 GP
Comment: Steady and reliable, with a mature approach, Parent is back from injury and taking a regular turn on the Flyers blueline.

43. Adam Pardy, D, Calgary
Age: 24
Stats: 1-9-10, plus-5, 47 PIM in 50 GP
Comment: Steady and safe, Pardy has emerged as a reliable pro, but has been bumped from the lineup thanks to the trade deadline acquisition of Jordan Leopold.

44. Colton Gillies, LW, Minnesota
Age: 20
Stats: 2-4-6, minus-2, 14 PIM in 38 GP
Comment: Not yet ready for NHL action, but has projectable size that can make him at least a solid checker.

45. Ondrej Pavelec, G, Atlanta
Age: 21
Stats: 3-6, 3.55 GAA, .884 SVPCT in 11 GP
Comment: Excels at the AHL level; but could be blocked in Atlanta.

46. Matt D'Agostini, RW, Montreal
Age: 22
Stats: 10-9-19, minus-14, 16 PIM in 48 GP
Comment: Has shown more of a scoring touch than expected, but has to improve as a two-way player if he's going to establish a long career.

47. John Mitchell, C, Toronto
Age: 24
Stats: 9-16-25, minus-15, 29 PIM in 66 GP
Comment: Steadily improving and getting a good look down the stretch, he could tighten up his defensive play to advance his NHL career.

48. Cal Clutterbuck, RW, Minnesota
Age: 21
Stats: 8-5-13, minus-5, 63 PIM in 66 GP
Comment: League's leading hitter can play a regular role as an agitator/checker.

49. Nikolai Kulemin, LW, Toronto
Age: 22
Stats: 11-12-23, minus-9, 18 PIM in 64 GP
Comment: Hustles and isn't afraid to get involved, but offensive production may not be enough to climb the depth chart.

50. Chris Butler, D, Buffalo
Age: 22
Stats: 0-3-3, plus-3, 16 PIM in 35 GP
Comment: Decent puck-moving defenceman was pressed into action when injuries hit the buffalo blueline. May have a future if he continues to develop.

51. Anssi Salmela, D, Atlanta
Age: 24
Stats: 1-3-4, plus-3, 8 PIM in 20 GP
Comment: Hard-pressed to get into the lineup with New Jersey, but has played better than 20 minutes per game in first three games with Thrashers.

52. Viktor Tikhonov, RW, Phoenix
Age: 20
Stats: 7-6-13, minus-2, 16 PIM in 51 GP
Comment: Good skater with a defensive conscience who can kill penalties.

53. Colin Fraser, C, Chicago
Age: 24
Stats: 5-10-15, plus-2, 51 PIM in 69 GP
Comment: Gritty checking forward is making his mark after three full seasons in the American Hockey League.

54. Darren Helm, LW, Detroit
Age: 22
Stats: 0-1-1, minus-7, 4 PIM in 16 GP
Comment: Good skater and checker has played well in AHL this season, struggled with Wings.

55. Jack Hillen, D, N.Y. Islanders
Age: 23
Stats: 1-5-6, plus-2, 12 PIM in 28 GP
Comment: Undersized puck-moving defenceman who has played well in his second-half audition with the Isles.

56. Lauri Korpikoski, LW, N.Y. Rangers
Age: 22
Stats: 6-8-14, minus-8, 14 PIM in 57 GP
Comment: Strong blue-collar forward who could develop into a good checker.

57. Boris Valabik, D, Atlanta
Age: 23
Stats: 0-5-5, minus-11, 128 PIM in 45 GP
Comment: Mammoth (6-foot-7, 240 pounds) blueliner whose lack of mobility can be exposed defensively, but he's also capable of tangling with the heavyweights.

58. Antti Pihlstrom, LW, Nashville
Age: 24
Stats: 2-5-7, minus-1, 10 PIM in 48 GP
Comment: Solid enough checking winger who sees limited ice time and produces little offensively.

59. B.J. Crombeen, RW, St. Louis
Age: 23
Stats: 9-4-13, minus-8, 112 PIM in 55 GP
Comment: Tough guy who showed some offensive ability after coming over from Dallas, but he's settled into a fourth-line role.

60. Brett Festerling, D, Anaheim
Age: 23
Stats: 0-5-5, plus-5, 18 PIM in 40 GP
Comment: Safe, steady and could very well earn a regular turn at some point in the future.

The Next 40:
61. Nathan Oystrick, D, Atlanta
62. Tomas Plihal, LW, San Jose
63. Benoit Pouliot, LW, Minnesota
64. Byron Bitz, RW, Boston
65. Karri Ramo, G, Tampa Bay
66. Nathan Gerbe, C, Buffalo
67. Patric Hornqvist, LW, Nashville
68. Jesse Winchester, C, Ottawa
69. Kevin Porter, C, Phoenix
70. Tyson Strachan, D, St. Louis
71. Lukas Kaspar, LW, San Jose
72. Martins Karsums, RW, Tampa Bay
73. Liam Reddox, RW, Edmonton
74. Steven Wagner, D, St. Louis
75. Matt Smaby, D, Tampa Bay
76. Nathan McIver, D, Vancouver
77. Darroll Powe, C, Philadelphia
78. Paul Szczechura, C, Tampa Bay
79. Brandon Prust, LW, Phoenix
80. Tim Conboy, D, Carolina
81. Peter Regin, LW, Ottawa
82. Chris Conner, LW, Dallas
83. Brian Boyle, C, Los Angeles
84. Sean Collins, D, Washington
85. Derek Dorsett, RW, Columbus
86. Cody Bass, C, Ottawa
87. Peter Olvecky, C, Minnesota
88. Jaime Sifers, D, Toronto
89. Joey Crabb, RW, Atlanta
90. Jeremy Williams, RW, Toronto
91. Nate Thompson, C, N.Y. Islanders
92. Jason Jaffray, RW, Vancouver
93. Patrick Dwyer, RW, Carolina
94. Andreas Nodl, RW, Philadelphia
95. Ilya Zubov, C, Ottawa
96. Dustin Jeffrey, C, Pittsburgh
97. Jamie McGinn, LW, San Jose
98. Theo Peckham, D, Edmonton
99. Chris Minard, LW, Pittsburgh
100. Brendan Mikkelson, D, Anaheim

Notables with Not Enough Action (fewer than 10 games)
Nikita Filatov, LW, Columbus
Age: 18
Stats: 4-0-4, plus-3, O PIM in 8 GP
Comment: A potential game-breaker who already has his first NHL hat trick.

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, G, Edmonton
Age: 24
Stats: 3-2, 3.57 GAA, .889 SVPCT in 8 GP
Comment: Earned a spot in the bigs, but plays little behind Roloson.

Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis
Age: 19
Stats: 0-1-1, even, 2 PIM in 8 GP
Comment: Future power play QB needed more time in junior to develop.

Jonathan Ericsson, D, Detroit
Age: 25
Stats: 0-2-2, plus-1, 4 PIM in 8 GP
Comment: Recent call-up could be another late-round steal by Red Wings.

Kari Lehtonen, G, Atlanta (5-0, 1.18 GAA, .966 SVPCT in last 5 GP)
Filip Kuba, D, Ottawa (0-6-6, even in last 4 GP)
Kristopher Letang, D, Pittsburgh (1-6-7, plus-1 in last 7 GP)
Erik Cole, RW, Carolina (3-8-11, plus-6 in last 8 GP)
Andrew Brunette, LW, Minnesota (3-4-7, plus-2 in last 7 GP)
R.J. Umberger, C, Columbus (3-4-7, plus-1 in last 6 GP)

Miikka Kiprusoff, G, Calgary (2-2, 4.49 GAA, .851 SVPCT in last 5 GP)
Brian Campbell, D, Chicago (0-1-1, minus-5 in last 5 GP)
Jay Bouwmeester, D, Florida (0-0-0, minus-3 in last 5 GP)
Milan Hejduk, RW, Colorado (0-0-0, minus-7 in last 6 GP)
Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose (0-1-1, minus-4 in last 7 GP)
David Bolland, C, Chicago (1-0-1, minus-4 in last 7 GP)

"I think he's a terrific player. He went down a notch in my books after that." - Rick Tocchet didn't like Alexander Ovechkin's 50th goal celebration.

"One word: Ugly. It's embarrassing. I'm sick to my stomach." - Avalanche RW Ian Laperriere, after an 8-1 loss to Edmonton.

"My eyes were as huge as basketballs there." - Flames RW Eric Nystrom, describing his breakaway goal against the Stars.

"The referee said if (Bogosian) was injured, (Cooke) would have gotten five minutes. He was injured - he just didn't lay on the ice." - Thrashers coach John Anderson

"This game's fair. If you do things right and do them right longer, you tend to win more often." - Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

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Scott Cullen can be reached at

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