Five Rookies To Watch In 2013

The 2013 season is loaded with more talented rookies than any other season in recent history; minus the 2005-2006 season that saw highly touted rookies such as Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Marek Svatos, who is now desperately trying to salvage his career, take the ice. With a handful of top draft picks and a kid who was one of, if not the most sought after free agent on the market before even playing even a second of professional hockey, this year’s rookie class is so impressive that it’s extremely difficult to even pick out a clear cut Calder Trophy favorite even with the season well underway. Below is a list of five rookies, in no particular order, who are guaranteed to make a major impact this season.

Nail Yakupov:

Extremely talented and flamboyant as all hell, it isn't difficult to imagine Yakupov growing into one of the best forwards in the game. The former no. 1 overall pick is the newest addition to a cast of highly talented young guns that appear to be leading the Edmonton Oilers back to their glory days. Yakupov also has an advantage over other top rookies; he can be a complementary scorer for his team. With young stars such as Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, the young Russian can afford to not live up to expectations right away. But, with his insane goal and celebration against Los Angeles, it’s already become evident that the kid has a very bright future ahead of him.

Dougie Hamilton:

Many were shocked to see the 6’5 defenseman from Toronto fall down to the ninth overall slot, but the Bruins weren’t complaining when they saw him available. The final piece of the famous, and infamous, Phil Kessel trade, Hamilton has already begun to play a major role for his NHL club. Averaging over 18:00 TOI over the past five games, head coach Claude Julien has shown great faith in his rookie by giving him a significant role in the defensive corps just eight games into his NHL career. “He’s jumping right in”, says teammate Andrew Ference of his young teammate. “…He’s got great raw talent, and a good head for the game as far as seeing guys and moving the puck well.” Four points in eight games doesn't hurt to have, either. The Bruins hope that Hamilton is the answer to their powerplay, and having him and Zdeno Chara manning the point on the man advantage over the next few years, Hamilton can help make it a lethal weapon for Boston to have.

Sven Baertschi:

The twenty year old Swiss winger showed the Calgary Flames a flash of brilliance last season that has many believing Baertschi could be the next big thing in Calgary. Forget the fact that he was a monster in the WHL for the Portland Winterhawks (67 G, 112 A, 179 P in 113 games), Baertschi arrived in Calgary as an emergency recall and scored three goals in five games for the Flames before being returned to the WHL, showing the Flames that he is more than capable of scoring in the NHL. The former 13th overall pick scored 18 points in 21 games in the AHL during the lockout, and now looks to show Calgary that he is the real deal, not just a flash in the pan.

Justin Schultz:

While Nail Yakupov is certainly an extremely talented player, he may not be the best rookie on his own team. Defenseman Justin Schultz makes a strong case for that position. Quite possibly the summer’s most sought after free agent, Schultz had yet to play an NHL game before hitting the open market after failing to come to terms with the Anaheim Ducks. After agreeing to a two year entry level contract with Edmonton, Schultz was assigned to the AHL to begin his professional career with the Oklahoma City Barons during the lockout. Schultz didn't fail to impress; actually, he shocked. The highly touted 22 year old racked up 48 points in 34 games in the AHL, leading all defenseman in scoring, but coming second on the team behind Jordan Eberle. Schultz shows many shades of Paul Coffey in his glory days, as he has a strong tendency to join the rush out of nowhere and, with the type of players the Oilers have up front, it’s extremely dangerous.

Mikael Granlund:

While everybody focuses on what Zach Parise and Ryan Suter do in Minnesota, someone to keep an eye on is their teammate, rookie Mikael Granlund. Scouts rave about his offensive ability and his puck handling skills, and he adds a nice playmaking touch to his game on top of that. Granlund has the potential to be the best offensive player out of Finland since Teemu Selanne. His role as second line center helps provide the Wild with depth up the middle, as well as some serious scoring touch. No, seriously. The kid has his own Finnish stamp. That’s when you know you’re good.

Honorable Mention:

Jonathan Huberdeau:

A former third overall pick, Huberdeau joins the Panthers looking to make his stamp on the franchise. However, he may not have been able to stick around with Florida if it weren’t for injuries and poor play that has them trailing in the bottom of the Eastern Conference. But now he has five points in eight games, and is showing potential to be near the top of the league’s rookie scorers by season’s end. The 19 year old’s versatility makes him an even bigger threat (he can play wing and center). Although he needs to work on his overall game without the puck, it's pretty clear that Huberdeau bleeds offense. With Saint John of the QMJHL in 2011, Huberdeau scored 30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points in just 37 games, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Huberdeau right there competing for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season.


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