Most of the pre-season scuttlebutt pitted two so-called generational players, Edmonton Oilers center and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, in a duel for the Calder Trophy. Advantage McDavid. As the calendar flipped over to November, Eichel had racked up four goals in 11 games, putting him in a tie for 12th in rookie scoring. McDavid, meanwhile, sits atop the rookie race.
But that doesn’t mean his trophy has been gift wrapped. There are several other freshmen putting up
impressive offensive totals and playing important roles early on. Here are the five most productive: 5. Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings (15th in ’14) Expectations of Larkin were sky high, if partially because he was such a rarity for the Red Wings. Larkin was the team’s highest drafted player since Martin Lapointe was selected 10th in 1991. You don’t get very many top picks when you’ve been as consistently great as the Wings have been over the last quarter century. When Larkin left the University of Michigan to sign with Detroit, he became the
first teenager to suit up for the Wings since Jiri Hudler in 2003. Larkin scored in his NHL debut against Toronto on Oct. 9 and has three goals and eight points in 11 games.
4. Nikolaj Elhers, RW, Winnipeg Jets (ninth overall in 2014) There’s a reason Elhers was slotted fourth in The Hockey News’ Future Watch 2015 rankings. The Danish right winger showed he had speed to burn while starring for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads – and at the World Junior Championship – as he racked up 37 goals and 100 points in 51 games. He’s fit right in well in Winnipeg, too. Elhers has scored four times and added five assists, while averaging 14:35 of ice time over 12 games. He’s also getting plenty of chances. Elhers is fourth among rookies with 33 shot attempts.
3. Artemi Panarin, LW, Chicago Blackhawks (free agent) The Blackhawks signed Panarin to a two-year entry-level deal in April, hoping the skill he used to rack up 26 goals and 62 points with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL would translate to the NHL. So far, so good. Panarin scored on his first NHL shot and hasn’t looked back. Panarin, 24, has mostly skated with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, creating the most effective scoring unit for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Panarin has two goals and 10 points in 11 games.
2. Max Domi, LW, Arizona Coyotes (12th in ’13) The entire hockey world knew Max Domi was creative in the offensive zone based on his major junior days. Did you see the
between-the-legs pass he made to Bo Horvat at the 2013 Memorial Cup? How about his play at the last
World Junior Championship? Well, the former London Knights captain certainly hasn’t lacked confidence in his first season with the Arizona Coyotes. His highlight reel goal against Minnesota, which started with him nearly catching a lob pass on his stick, is just one of the things that garnered him praise from another once-great rookie –
Teemu Selanne, who started his NHL career playing with Domi’s dad, Tie, in Winnipeg. The younger Domi is averaging a point per game, with 11 in 11.
1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers (first in ’15) There isn’t much left to say about the most-anticipated prospect to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby. Sure, McDavid struggled to find the scoresheet in his first four games, netting just a single goal. But the former Erie Otter has been nearly unstoppable almost from the time he moved off a line with 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall. McDavid recorded four goals and 11 points over a seven-game point streak
while playing alongside Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov, another former No. 1 pick. That streak ended as the Oilers lost a tough one to Calgary on Saturday night. Still, McDavid leads all freshmen with 12 points.