These five rookies had strong showings in their first NHL seasons – and some of them were even rookie of the year candidates. In Year 2, however, the story was much different. These guys struggled to live up to their first-year expectations.
By Jared Clinton
1. Cory Conacher
C, Buffalo Sabres
Early last season, Conacher was a sneaky favorite for the Calder Trophy. The diminutive forward was turning in an eye-opening offensive campaign in Tampa Bay when, out of the blue, he was dealt to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. History will not be kind to that trade. The Senators waived Conacher after he failed to show even moments of the brilliance that put him in the conversation for rookie of the year. In 79 games this season, Conacher failed to match the 11 goals he tallied in his lockout-shortened rookie campaign.
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida Panthers
Before Nail Yakupov began to surge, Huberdeau was running away with the lead in the rookie point race lasts season. The former Saint John Sea Dog made the most of his first season in the NHL, racking up 14 goals and 31 points, but in his second year, he fell short of matching that production. Albeit, the Panthers had the worst power play and one of the worst offenses in the league, but expectations for Huberdeau were much higher than what he delivered.
3. Viktor Fasth, G, Edmonton Oilers
Fasth was the big story of early 2013. Then 30, he had come to North America after back-to-back seasons of outstanding numbers in Sweden. While too old to qualify for the Calder, Fasth was still an NHL freshman. After threatening to unseat Jonas Hiller in Anaheim, Fasth found himself playing not second, but third string in his sophomore year behind Hiller and sensational rookie Frederik Andersen. Fasth was sent packing to the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline.
4. Nail Yakupov, RW, Edmonton Oilers
It’s not so much Yakupov had a terrible year in 2013-14 as it was last season’s shooting percentage was a statistical anomaly. The 2012 first overall pick shot out the lights to the tune of 21 percent, putting him almost three percent ahead of perennial goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos. Yakupov has been the topic of trade speculation, but don’t expect to see him anywhere but Edmonton next fall.
5. Justin Schultz, D, Edmonton Oilers
A highly sought after free agent – who became available when the Ducks failed to sign him after drafting him – Schultz began his pro career in American League Oklahoma City, where he piled up 48 points in 34 games. However, the blueliner has struggled at the best of times this year. While his point totals are appealing, he was among the Oilers worst possession players. In close game situations, Schultz had a Corsi For of 41 percent, the worst of all Oilers defensemen.