Every month, Stayclassy.net will review the crop of rookies we’ve listed below and provide insight into how the young stars of the NHL are progressing in their debut seasons.
Every NHL team not named Detroit Red Wings or Pittsburgh Penguins was looking at the annual Draft Combine this week. This is the last stop for all draft-eligible players in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft where teams get a final look at the top ranked prospects. Some call the Combine useless but I personally I like it. Although, I do have to question anything where watching 18 year-old kids blow chunks is generally considered a good thing. It reminds me a lot of those youtube video’s of people trying to master the Milk Challenge!
Regardless, the 2009 Entry Draft is less than a month away and hockey fans are eagerly waiting for the next season’s crop of rookies.
The 2009 Draft looks very strong and while it’s very difficult to forecast which players will stick in the NHL, we do know that John Tavares and Victor Hedmen will go 1st and 2nd overall and will be playing in the big leagues next year. I’m pretty sure that Matt Duchene will be taken 3rd overall by Colorado but I see him doing another year in the OHL. Jordan Schroeder is a great player and I can see him in the NHL next season.
The 2008 NHL Entry Draft was very strong and players like Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty and Luke Schenn are already playing significant roles in the NHL. Colin Wilson will be a great player for Nashville, after having played for the U.S. in the WJC’s and the World Championships and Nikita Filatov will be a top forward in Columbus next year. Cody Hodgson and Zach Boychuk both starred for Canada at the 2009 WJC’s and will provide some much needed offense for Vancouver and Carolina, respectively. Erik Karlsson will play on Ottawa’s blueline next season and Jacob Markstrom will have a chance in goal with Florida. Other potential standouts next season include Brett Sonne, the 2009 WHL Player of the Year (St. Louis) and Justin Azevedo, the 153rd overall pick who was the CHL Player of the Year in 2008 (Los Angeles).
Some of the top prospects from the 2007 Entry Draft will make their debuts next year, including American standout James van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia) and Thomas Hickey (Los Angeles). Mikael Backlund will provide Calgary with some more flash, while P.K. Subban will have Eugene Melnyk and Montreal Canadians fans cheering.
Finally, undrafted players are making some noise and like Fabian Brunnstrom last year, Tyler Bozak (Toronto) and Matt Gilroy (New York Rangers) will both take a regular shift in the NHL. Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson is currently unrestricted but will be in the NHL next year. I expect Gustavsson to begin the year as a backup, possibly with the Maple Leafs, but could see a similar promotion to the one Steve Mason got in Columbus if Toskala should stumble again next season.
Your Reporter in the Field,