The NHL All-Star Game was last weekend and the end-of-season all-star teams won’t be revealed until, well, the end of the season. So, yes, perhaps the timing is a little strange to highlight the league’s first, second, third and honorable mention rookie all-star teams.
But I wanted to take another look at the top performers in the NHL’s 2018-19 freshman class, one that goes beyond Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson, Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen. It’s no secret that this trio has emerged as the leading candidates to be finalists for the Calder Trophy, and they’re starting to lap the field.
So, which rookies are faring well in their NHL debut season? These ones:
FIRST ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
F – Elias Pettersson, Vancouver: The runaway Calder favorite is a sublimely talented 20-year-old who leads all NHL rookies in [insert category here].
F – Colin White, Ottawa: He just came back after missing a few weeks with injury, and he had slowed down in the weeks before that. But he remains the NHL’s second-most productive (26 points) and second-busiest forward (15:37 per game).
F – Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa: Nine goals and 16 points in his first 14 games, two goals and seven points in his next 27 games. Hey, there’s going to be ups and downs when you’re a 19-year-old power forward finding your way in the NHL.
D – Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo: Playing more than 20 minutes a night, he’s putting together one of the best-ever seasons by an 18-year-old defenseman.
D – Miro Heiskanen, Dallas: The Stars’ blueline has been hobbled by injuries, allowing Heiskanen to step up and deliver. The 19-year-old leads all freshmen defenders with nine goals while skating more than 23 minutes per game.
G – Linus Ullmark, Buffalo: The Sabres backup tops all rookie netminders in starts (19) and wins (10), with two shutouts and a respectable .914 save percentage.
SECOND ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
F – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal: The Canadiens gambled with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft, and it looks like it’s going to pay off in the form of the No. 1 center they’ve been seeking for years.
F – Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina: He shoots, he scores. Svechnikov leads all rookies with 128 shots and he’s tied for second with 12 goals. The Hurricanes need scoring punch, and they’ve got a heavyweight-to-be in this 18-year-old right winger.
F – Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay: He forced his way into the Lightning’s loaded lineup late last season, and then played all 17 playoff games. And he’s picked up where he left off, chipping in offense as a bottom-six forward (nine goals, 19 points) while leading all rookies in shorthanded ice time (2:32 per game).
D – Dennis Cholowski, Detroit: The most productive rookie defenseman not named Dahlin or Heiskanen. Seven goals, nine power-play points and more than 18 minutes per game.
D – Maxime Lajoie, Ottawa: Seven points and plus-1 in his first six NHL games, seven points and minus-20 in his next 41 games. He’s playing a hefty 19:17 per night, third among Sens D-men and as well third among NHL rookie D-men.
G – Carter Hart, Philadelphia: The franchise’s 20-year-old goalie of the future has arrived. Flyers fans already dreaming of “Hart wins Vezina” headlines.
THIRD ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
F – Dominik Kahun, Chicago: Undrafted 23-year-old native of Germany has contributed offense (eight goals, 22 points) and has the best plus/minus rating (plus-4) among Blackhawks regulars.
F – Mathieu Joseph, Tampa Bay: How do the Lightning keep finding these guys? Drafted 120th overall in 2015, he’s tied for second with Svechnikov for most rookie goals (12) despite a depth role of less than 12 minutes per night.
F – Andreas Johnsson, Toronto: A seventh-round pick in 2013, he has quietly climbed the rookie scoring chart with 10 goals and 22 points.
D – Henri Jokiharju, Chicago: Nobody in the NHL has taken more shots (62) without a goal to show for it, but that’s beside the point. Chicago’s first-round pick in 2017 (29th overall) is an integral part of the Blackhawks’ future.
D – Marcus Pettersson, Pittsburgh: The only rookie defenseman to be traded this season – from Anaheim to Pittsburgh – he’s first among NHL freshmen blueliners in plus/minus rating (plus-12) and second in assists (15).
G – Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey: A small sample size (11 starts) after being called up in mid-December, but back-to-back shutouts in his third and fourth career NHL starts as well as a stellar .926 save percentage bodes well for the future.
HONORABLE MENTION ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
F – Filip Chytil, NY Rangers: After failing to light the lamp in his first 17 games this season, the 21st overall pick in 2017 scored in five straight games in mid-November.
F – Brett Howden, NY Rangers: At 15 minutes per game, he trails only Pettersson, White and Tkachuk in average ice time among rookie forwards. Not much to show for it yet – four goals in 48 games – but he’s a big part of New York’s future plans.
F – Conor Garland, Arizona: The 123rd draft pick in 2015, Garland got the NHL call in early December and was held off the scoresheet in his first seven games. Since then: 10 goals, 13 points in 17 games for the 165-pounder.
D – Rasmus Andersson, Calgary: The 2015 second-rounder (53rd overall) has been solid and serviceable on the Flames’ third defense pair.
D – Oliver Kylington, Calgary: Same as above, except he went 60th overall in 2015.
G –Jordan Binnington, St. Louis: Limited to eight starts, he has impressed when he’s played with a 6-1-1 record, 1.84 GAA and .924 save percentage.