These 10 rookies would have to really pick up their pace to join the Calder Trophy conversation, but they’ve all made a significant impact on their team’s’ fortunes thus far – and a promising NHL future awaits.
On Friday, we looked at the top 10 rookies in the NHL this season. No doubt, one of those kids – most likely Vancouver’s Brock Boeser or the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal – will claim the Calder Trophy in June. But the league’s rookie pool is far deeper than the 10 freshmen who have floated to the top.
So, here’s a look at the second tier of first-year NHLers this season. The youngsters listed below are long shots for the Calder, but they’ve all made a significant impact on their team’s’ fortunes thus far, and a promising NHL future awaits.
Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils
Tied for the scoring lead among rookie defensemen, Butcher made a splash with three assists in his NHL debut and racked up nine helpers in his first six games. A mobile skater who’s adept with the puck, he has a bright future as a point-producing blueliner who can run the power play. He leads all freshmen (and sits in the top 10 league-wide) in power play assists, and trails only Barzal in assists by a rookie. The Devils’ blueline desperately needed a boost, and they’re getting it from Butcher.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets
If you were going to pick one player from this second cut of rookies who could force his way into the Calder conversation with a big finish down the stretch, Dubois is a good bet. He’s centering the Blue Jackets’ top line and has been making a bigger impact – and putting up better numbers – as the season has progressed. Look at it this way: coach John Tortorella has entrusted his team’s No. 1 center duties to a 19-year-old rookie. That’s not something you see every day.
Alexander Kerfoot, Colorado Avalanche
After four years at Harvard, Kerfoot jumped from the NCAA to the NHL and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s not big (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), but he’s smart and speedy and knows what to do in the offensive zone. The Avs’ resurgence is one of the NHL’s biggest surprise stories of the season, and Kerfoot is a big part of the team’s success. He’s only a handful of points out of the top five in rookie scoring, and he should continue to get ample opportunity the rest of the way. With 12 goals on 46 shots in 50 games, the natural-born playmaker could stand to shoot the puck a little more often.
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen have hogged the rookie headlines coming out of Boston this season, and deservedly so. But DeBrusk is turning in a solid freshman season in his own right. He’s got a shot at 20 goals, which would be an impressive feat considering he’s only seeing about 14 minutes of ice time per game, and not much in the way of power play production – just one of his 11 goals have come with the man advantage.
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils
A sixth-round pick (162nd overall) in 2016, the 19-year-old Bratt was a big surprise when he made the Devils out of training camp and got off to a hot start. He had three goals and six points in his first three games, and five goals and 12 points through 13 games. He’s cooled off, with seven goals and 19 points in his past 39 contests – but that’s still a pretty good pace for an off-the-radar teenager. Also impressive: he’s a regular on both the penalty kill and power play for New Jersey.
Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings
The 2014 first-rounder (29th overall) got into 25 NHL games last year – one more and he would’ve lost his rookie eligibility for this season. After being held without a point in his first five contests in 2017-18, Kempe broke out with a hat trick and four-point game against Montreal on Oct. 18, and stayed hot with six goals and nine points in a five-game span. A skating winger who can score and isn’t afraid to muck it up, Kempe looks like a good fit in L.A. for years to come. With 16 goals, he’s tied for fifth among NHL rookies despite the fact his average ice time is the lowest among the league’s top 20 freshmen scorers at just over 13 minutes per game.
Malcom Subban, Vegas Golden Knights
It didn’t work out for Subban in Boston, and then he got hurt shortly after Golden Knights starter Marc-Andre Fleury went down with injury early in the season, missing a chance to step in. But since he’s been back, Subban has stepped up – along with pretty much everybody else in Vegas – winning 11 of 15 starts and posting solid stats (.912 save percentage, 2.59 goals-against average) in the process. Given Fleury’s injury history, Subban will likely get another crack at the No. 1 job sooner rather than later.
Alex Tuch, Vegas Golden Knights
Drafted 18th overall by Minnesota in 2014, Tuch was traded to Vegas as a payoff to stay away from exposed Wild players such as Eric Staal and Matt Dumba in the expansion draft. A power winger who can skate, Tuch’s on pace for a 40-point season – and he’s just scratching the surface.
Christian Fischer, Arizona Coyotes
Another power forward who’s only going to get better as he becomes acclimated to the NHL. Clayton Keller’s hot start put him on the map as the Coyotes rookie to watch, but with 13 goals, Fischer is just two behind his more famous first-year teammate. He’s good in the trenches, but his skating needs work.
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Just like Matt Murray usurped Fleury for the starting job in Pittsburgh, Jarry is pushing Murray for the No. 1 gig. Well, not quite, but Jarry has proven he can take over the Penguins crease in a pinch. He’s 9-4-4 with impressive underlying numbers (.919 save percentage, 2.44 GAA).