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Join Date: Oct 2004
10 rookies to keep an eyeball on this year...
1) Andrew Cogliano, Edmonton, C. —The 25th pick overall in the 2005 draft, Cogliano played college hockey last season at Michigan, and picked up 28 points in 39 games. He is a bit small (5-10/185), but his speed and skill level, combined with the Oil's dire need for offense, won him a roster spot. He led all rookies in scoring (1-2--3) through the first weekend.
2) Erik Johnson, St. Louis, D. — The Bloomington (MN)-born backliner, picked No. 1 overall in '06, came to camp a shoo-in after two seasons with the US Development Team program. He is big (6-feet-4/220) and considered a potential franchise-defenseman (in the way folks talked about Ray Bourque and Chris Pronger at the same age). He can hit. He can shoot. Perhaps just the cornerstone the Blues need to rebuild the franchise.
3) Andrew Greene, New Jersey, D — Never a top college prospect in college (Miami, O), Green signed as a free agent in April 2006 and made his NHL debut last season, but still qualifies as a rookie. Though weekend No. 1, he led all rookies in average ice time (21:55) and in shots (8). A mobile puckhanlder, just what the Devs need in the wake of Brian Rafalski leaving as a free agent to Detroit.
4) Sam Gagner, Edmonton, C — Another Oiler on the rise, like Cogliano. Picked No. 6 overall in this June's draft, the son of former NHLer Dave Gagner. Excellent stick skills, he collected 83 points in 53 games last season with the London Knights (OHL), and at only age 18, figured to be headed back there this season. He picked up two assists in his first three games, and averaged 10:30 ice time. Looks like he's going nowhere but the Oil's dressing room.
5) Nicklas Backstrom, Washington, C — Much hype proceeded the Swedish born pivot, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the '06 draft. He has added about 20 pounds (now 6-0/203) since his draft day, and looks as though he will live up to the advanced billing. A slick puckhandler and distributor, he had only one shot in is first three games (0-2--2). If he ends up skating fulltime with Alexander Ovechkin, he'll know where to pass that puck.
6) Patrick Kane, Chicago, RW — He collected 145 points in only 58 games last season in London, where he was one of Gagner's teammates, and that led him to being picked No. 1 overall in the June draft. He went only 0-1--1 in his first two games wearing the Indian Head, but he popped home an OT shootout winner against the Wings, who had his boyhood idol, Dominik Hasek, in net. Buffalo born and raised, he was only 5-10/163 when selected, and will need to add some size and muscle — but he has a skill set similar to that of Sidney Crosby.
7) Jonathan Toews, Chicago, C — As noted above, injury delayed his debut, but the Winnipeg-born pivot should be a factor when he gets his game going. He picked up 39 points in 42 college games (No. Dakota) last season, and has the size (6-2/205), reach and legs to be a franchise centerman. Hawks fans imagine the magic that could come if he pairs up long term with Kane.
8) Carey Price, Montreal, G — GM Bob Gainey prevailed over coach Guy Carbonneau when it came time to decide whether Price remained with Habs or tutored in the minors for a while. Expectations are sky high for the 20-year-old, which was Carbonneau's concern. However, Price, selected No. 5 overall in the '05 draft, has been fulfilling similar expectations for years. He was last season's Canadian Major Junior goalie of the year, and is now 6-3/225. Yes, Dryden-like, if you are comparing.
9) Milan Lucic, Boston, LW — The MVP of the Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants, Lucic is a bruising winger who loves to bang and fight (always valued in the Boston market). His skating is challenged, which is why he dropped to 50th in the 2006 draft, but he impressed through camp and didn't disappoint in his first two NHL games. No guarantee that he will stick in Boston all season, but if he stays, he could keep surprising people — a lot of people.
10) Dan Carcillo, Phoenix, LW — If you are a little rusty in language skills, I think ''Carcillo'' is Italian for ''total pest''. Not sure, but it must be true after watching the 22-year-old agitator, who came to the Coyotes via last season's deal that sent pugilist Georges Laracque to Pittsburgh. Carcillo is in the Sean Avery-Darcy Tucker mold — one of those guys you only like if he's on your team.