Wild West – Western Graduating Rookies
We will look at each graduated rookie (26 or more games in the NHL) for each of the Western Teams and see how they fared this season.
Sam Steel – It is easy to look at only six goals in 65 games as a disappointing season, but Steel was able to hold his own in the NHL and average over 15 minutes per game with a ton of different line combinations. He was solid in his own end (48.4 CF %) and was above 50 percent in the faceoff circle. He grew this year and should benefit next season.
Max Comtois – He struggled this season with five goals and six assists in only 29 games and more importantly he struggled without the puck. He spent some much needed time in the AHL and had 24 points in 31 games and played well. It is fairly evident he will be a winger in the NHL and the physical Comtois should be a regular next season.
Isac Lundestrom – With his second 15 game stint in the NHL, Lundestrom is no longer a rookie. He has still to manage a goal after 30 NHL games and at only 20 years of age, perhaps he was better served in the AHL for the full season.
Josh Mahura – After his 11 games this season, Mahura has now posted two goals and seven assists in 28 games. For him to become a regular in the NHL, he will need to produce offensively as he is a heavily sheltered non-physical defenceman whose specialty is not in his own end. There is opportunity in Anaheim to be sure.
Adin Hill played well when Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta went down with injury posting a 91.8 save percentage in the 13 games he dressed. Aside from injury or trade there isn’t really a place for Hill above the other two.
Barrett Hayton – Played 20 games and will still be eligible next season and could be a favorite.
Dillon Dube was only a rookie by one game as he had dressed in 25 games in 2019-2020. He managed to dress in 45 games this season and has now played 70 games with seven goals and 14 assists. He has done all he can in the AHL offensively but will need to perform in the bottom six with Calgary for the next few years. He will need to be better without the puck.
Chicago appears to have found another older rookie from Europe that hit the ground running in Dominik Kubalik who exploded for 30 goals and 16 assists in the 68 games he played. At 24 years of age, he might struggle to hit 30 goals again but they might have a 20 goal scorer for at least a few years in him.
Kirby Dach was the 3rd overall pick in 2019 and managed eight goals and 15 assists in 64 games with Chicago this season. He managed to get better as the season went on and was playing over 16 minutes per game when the season was suspended. He gives the Blackhawks three pretty good centers for the next few seasons (if they don’t deal Dylan Strome).
Alex Nylander was labelled a bust by some heading into this season as the 8th overall pick in 2016 had only played 19 games in the NHL and had struggled in the AHL as well. Even though he didn’t set the world on fire, he did show enough in 65 games with 10 goals and 16 assists to perhaps dismiss those labels temporarily.
Adam Boqvist is still only 19 years old and was the 8th overall pick in 2018. I didn’t think we’d see him for more than a cup of coffee in the NHL this season but he ended up getting 41 games with Chicago with four goals and nine assists. He got plenty of power play time and must have impressed the Blackhawks management enough that they traded Eric Gustafsson to Calgary. He will still need to be sheltered but he should provide some offense next season.
Undrafted Matthew Highmore played 36 games this season bringing his career totals to 48 games with four goals and four assists. He is not relevant for most fantasy pools as he doesn’t produce, hit or block shots.
Aside from injuries, Cale Makar had an almost perfect rookie season 50 points in 57 games on 12 goals and 38 assists. It’s a close battle between him and Quinn Hughes but I’d have to give the Calder to Makar at this point.
After playing in 21 games last season Denis Gurianov, I don’t think many people would have thought he would reach 20 goals this season, but he did in 64 games as well as adding 9 assists. The big winger made the most of his opportunity with Dallas this season and improved as the year progressed.
Ethan Bear actually played 18 games in Edmonton in 2018-2019 and never got the call last season. This season he made the team out of training camp and played all 71 games posting five goals and 16 assists, but more importantly he played almost 22 minutes per game and was solid defensively. In a year of rookie defensemen his season was overshadowed. He will have to contend with Evan Bouchard next season.
Caleb Jones entered this season with 17 NHL games under his belt and dressed for 43 games producing four goals and five assists. He was heavily sheltered with just over 14 minutes per game. He does have some offensive potential but will struggle to gain full-time employment in the NHL.
Signed from St. Cloud State at the end of last season, Blake Lizotte dressed for 65 games with Los Angeles and had six goals and 17 assists. He did struggle in the second half with injury and he will have to fight for his spot on the roster next season.
After 25 games last season, Matt Roy was still eligible as a rookie this season and finished with four goals and 14 assists in 70 games. He did struggle a little in the second half, but was one of the best defensemen on the roster this season. His CF% was 56.0 and he did elevate his TOI to around 19:30.
More was expected of 26 year old Nikolai Prokhorkin coming into the NHL after 41 points in 41 games last year in the KHL. He struggled from the start of the season and was sent to the AHL for four games before coming back to the Kings and ending up playing 43 games with four goals and 10 assists. There are some indications that he will improve next season if he comes back as his PDO (96.7) and 5 on 5 shooting % of 3.7 were very low. His CF% of 52.3 tells us that he was attentive to his play away from the puck, so perhaps a second chance and more familiarity will produce a much better season for him.
Trevor Moore was acquired from Toronto at the deadline and split 42 games between the two teams and posted six goals and four assists. He is an energy player who can hit and kill penalties. His role will be in the bottom six.
Unheralded Carson Soucy was the lone Minnesota graduate rookie this season and had seven goals and seven assists in 55 games on defense. His goal total was his most since 2011-2012 when he had nine for Lloydminster of the AMHL. He struggled a little on defence and his unexpected offence is unlikely to repeat (PDO 104.6).
I was expecting more offense from Dante Fabbro with the departure of P.K. Subban, but he was not given much power play time and ended up working on the other aspects of his game that will keep him in the NHL. He ended up with five goals and six assists in 64 games while averaging just over 19 minutes per game.
Dylan Gambrell played 50 games on the fourth line for San Jose and managed five goals and six assists. He’s not a physical player by any means and does have an offensive component to his game that he will struggle to showcase in the NHL if he doesn’t improve his defensive play.
Mario Ferraro suited up 61 times for San Jose on defense and managed two goals and nine assists. It’s easy to think he doesn’t have much offense in his briefcase, but he skates very well and the 2nd round pick in 2017 is still only 21 years old. If San Jose is healthy he will be pushed to the AHL, but this might not be a bad thing for him.
Swede Joel Kellman played 31 games and had three goals and four assists. He is 25 years old and did have three seasons in a row of 30 points or more in the SHL, so it will be interesting to see if the Sharks saw enough to bring him back next year or not.
Noah Gregor played 28 games and had three goals and two assists in a fourth line role, averaging 10 minutes per game. He did get two goals and two assists in his last seven games.
When Jordan Kyrou made his debut last season in St. Louis and played 16 games he was pretty underwhelming but most thought he would take the summer and make the Blues out of training camp this year. Instead he was sent to the AHL where he played 16 games and 15 points, including nine goals. He was better when called back up to St. Louis and managed four goals and five assists in 28 games. He battled injury or would have played a few more games. When he did play he was much better defensively and he should be a regular next season.
Quinn Hughes had people excited in Vancouver after his five game preview at the end of last season. Not only did he not disappoint, he exceeded expectations. He led all rookies with 53 points and he had eight goals as well in 68 games. His transition game and zone exits are second to none and this more than makes up for his defensive miss-reads that happen from time to time. He doesn’t give the puck up as much as I was expecting and he has quickly become the best defenceman on the team.
Thatcher Demko had a very good start to the season, comfortable in the fact that he knew he was going to be the backup for the full season. In the first quarter his save percentage was 91.6 and he boasted an unsustainable 75 percent quality start rate. Unfortunately he was average or slightly less than average when Jacob Markstrom went down with injury and makes it obvious to most what the Canucks need to do going forward. Sign Markstrom.
I had pretty high hopes for Cody Glass this season (50 points plus) but even though the opportunity was given he just couldn’t produce and then was injured after 39 games. He managed five goals and seven assists, but he did enough to excite a lot of people in Vegas for his future.
I’ve had Nicolas Hague on my radar since he potted 35 goals from defence in 2017-18 with Mississauga of the OHL in his draft plus one year. At 6’6″ and 221 lb, he is a big man on defence and will need to prove he can keep up with the pace of the NHL. He played 38 games and had one goal and 10 assists, while averaging just over 16 minutes per game. He was very sheltered and he will be brought along slowly but could see a regular spot next season.
Vegas must have liked what they saw in Nicolas Roy as he managed to stick for 28 games and get five goals and five assists. He is big, physical and very responsible defensively. He could prove to be a pretty good return for Erik Haula.
Jansen Harkins was the only graduating rookie from Winnipeg and played 29 games with two goals and five assists. The second round pick from 2015 finally showed some offense in the AHL with 31 points in 30 games, getting him called up to the NHL. He doesn’t hit or block shots, so will need to produce points or be a very good defensive player to stick. He’s not alone with that dilemma.
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