Yesterday I looked at some of the top rookies to watch this year. Today, you get to meet another new batch of young guns.
Nino Niederreiter (New York Islanders): The Swiss winger stormed up the draft charts in 2010 due to his strong performance in the WJC’s that year. He was sent down after 9 games last year, but this time it seems like hes here to stay. He got 2 points in his 9 game stint with the Islanders in 2010, so GM Garth Snow felt it would be best to send him down to the minors. Niederreiter has good size and skill. He is well developed physically and excels in big games, like the world juniors. He isn’t ready just yet, but in the next few years he will make an impact with John Tavares and Michael Grabner on the Islanders first line.
Nikita Filatov (Ottawa Senators): He may only be 21 years old, but time could be running out. He wasn’t able to stick with the Columbus Blue Jackets 3 years in a row, despite having elite level talent. Last year, he had a grand total of 0 goals in 23 games with the Blue Jackets, and wasn’t that much better in the AHL. He had zero impact in the NHL, and every year there is the speculation that he may go back to the KHL. But now he’s with Ottawa, an overall weak team, desperate for offense. He has a very dangerous wrist shot and very soft hands and is capable of making very precise passes. If he forgets how he played with Columbus and plays up to his potential, he can be an effective top 6 forward.
Ben Bishop (St. Louis Blues): Bishop looked like the clear backup to Jaroslav Halak until the Blues decided to sign Brian Elliot to a one year, $600K deal, but even with Elliot, it’s not for sure that Bishop will not be the backup. Bishop is the tallest goalie ever to play in the NHL at a whopping 6 foot 7! Challenged by Jake Allen in Peoria (AHL), Ben raised his level of play, catching the eye of the St. Louis organization. Thanks to his incredible height, Bishop gives shooters very little net to aim for. But despite his size, he is deceptively quick, and often relies on his athleticism to make saves. He is a good technical goaltender who covers his angles well. He has impressed in his limited amount of NHL experience.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers): He may have only played one game, but RNH is on pace for 82 goals and 0 assists this season after scoring his first goal on Sunday. Ryan has incredible hockey sense, vision and patience with the puck. He can set up linemates with aplomb, as well as score goals himself, as seen from his first NHL goal. A creative playmaker and an above-average skater, he possesses tremendous anticipation, an ability to find open ice near the opposition’s goal. Some thought this kid would spend another season in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels, but impressed the Oilers brass enough to be chosen first overall in the 2011 entry draft, and made the team out of training camp. With Shawn Horcoff and and Sam Ganger at center on the top 2 lines, he will most likely play with Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark on the third line, unless he outplays Ganger. He will be apart of the Oilers youth movement, so Oilers fans, be ready for success.
Luke Adam (Buffalo Sabres): Luke Adam was the third straight Buffalo prospect to win rookie of the year honors in the AHL, and after 62 points in 57 games last year, he deserved it. Already 2 games into the season, Adam is leading all rookies in points with 2 goals and 2 assists. Adam has good size and the ability to play both wing and center, giving him more options as a forward. He goes to the net well and can play well as a complement to scoring forwards. He did not look out of place last season in his limited NHL action and his skating has improved a lot since the beginning of last year. Originally, he was considered a bottom 6 role players at best, but after last season in the AHL, second line goal scorer sounds about right.
Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets): The Winnipeg Jets surprised many by picking the 16th rated prospect 7th overall in the 2011 draft. But what a good surprise he was: He was the best all around Jet. But after a team wide mediocre performance in game one of the Jets season opener against Montreal, some wonder if he will be sent back to junior to develop a little bit more before returning. The 6’3 Scheifele brings size and skill to the center position for the Jets, something they sorely lack in the prospect pool. Playing against the best centers in the Ontario Hockey League every game, Scheifele stood out thanks to his hard work and ability to make the best of a poor situation, playing on the worst team in the league, the Barrie Colts. He will be a future top 6 forward with the Jets, and since the Jets are weak offensvly, they could really use him.
Tomorrow I Will have part 3 of my NHL rookie report. Stay tuned!
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