Russ Miller takes a look at the impact rookies of the Eastern Conference
Here we are at the halfway point of the season already. It has been a long time since I remember as many first year players having this type of impact for their respective teams as there have been this season. The Eastern Edge looks at some first year players from the Eastern Conference that are having an impact in their inaugural campaigns.
Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay
In the AHL last year, Conacher was the leading goal scorer and took home both the Rookie of the Year and MVP honours by recording 39 goals and 80 points in 75 games. He also sat for 114 penalty minutes, which means that even though he isn’t the biggest player on the ice, there is a lot of fight in this dog.
Currently the leading NHL rookie point-getter, Conacher has made an impact in a top six role for the Lightning with 18 points in 22 games. He’s even receiving second unit power play time. In his last three games, he has taken over 80 percent of his even-strength shifts with Steve Stamkos. When you watch him play, you realize that he’s a gamer and is here to stay.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida
The third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Huberdeau lit up the QMJHL in 2011-12 with 72 points in only 37 games, nearly a two points per game pace. He was named the Memorial Cup MVP in 2010-11 and in his three QMJHL playoffs, he came up large with 69 points in 55 combined games. In two World Junior Hockey Championships, he recorded 18 points in 12 games.
In his rookie season to date, Huberdeau is receiving 16:45 minutes per game, but over the last five contests, he has averaged 20 minutes a match. He plays top power play time and has four multi-point efforts on the season. His 15 points leave him in a three-way tie atop the Panthers in scoring and his ten goals lead the team and all NHL rookies.
Brendan Gallagher, Montreal
The 20-year-old has a lot in common with the Bruins talented agitator Brad Marchand. They are equally small, but fearless shift disturbers taken