The salary cap and league-wide parity are part of the NHL’s identity today. In fact, less clutching and grabbing has led to smaller skill players who have a greater influence on the game.
While NHL rookies typically take much longer to have an impact at the pro level in comparison to NBA or NFL prospects, the tides have changed somewhat as younger players are relied upon earlier in their careers.
To be considered a rookie, a player must have played in less than 25 games in any single preceding season or in less than six games in any other major professional league in any two preceding seasons. A player must also must be younger than 26. With an impressive draft class and several other rookies looking to step up, this week here at Beckett we’re take a look at 10 of the top NHL rookies to watch in 2007-08.
Igor Grigorenko Autographed puck Detroit Red Wings w/COA
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Comment: Grigorenko was the Detroit Red Wings’ top pick in the 2001 draft, but got into a near-fatal car crash in 2003. Now he’s a seasoned 24-year-old who, like a lot of Russian players, just knows where to be to score goals. Once left for dead -- quite literally -- Grigorenko could prove to be a gem on the ice and for collectors. The Red Wings are usually more hit than miss with their prospects, and Grigorenko looks to be the next in line.
2005 Derick Brassard Extreme Top Prospects Signature Edition #S11 (ungraded)
Comment: Brassard is one of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ top forward prospects, and his skill set is tailored to the new NHL. He's on the smaller side, but he’s an excellent skater, an accurate passer and he has good wrist and slap shots. He is a playmaking center who doesn’t lack much in his offensive game. After Brassard’s stellar performance in June’s development camp, he should have a reasonable shot to compete for a top-line role.
2006-07 Bobby Ryan ITG Heroes and Prospects Update Autographs #ABR BGS 9
Comment: Ryan, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft, had 102 points in 63 games for Owen Sound in the OHL’s 2006-07 season, which indicates that he's ready to make his move to the NHL. With Dustin Penner defecting to Edmonton in the off-season and Teemu Selanne contemplating retirement, the Ducks will look to Ryan to replace some of their lost scoring punch.
2006-07 Rob Schremp ITG Heroes and Prospects Emblem Gold #GUJ72 (ungraded)
Comment: A season removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Edmonton Oilers are a rebuilding unit. Now that Ryan Smyth is long gone, the scoring burden will fall on a number of young prospects, including Schremp. The 25th overall pick in the 2004 Entry Draft has a chance to make a big impact if his knee is fine (he had surgery to repair his MCL on May 11, 2007). He notched 384 points in his 247-game OHL career.
2006-07 Patrick Kane ITG Update Autograph (ungraded)
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Comment: Kane, the top pick in the 2007 draft, has been tabbed as one of the most NHL-ready prospects and should get a chance to prove it. Additionally, the Blackhawks need help on the wings -- and in the stands -- so Kane might be immediately thrown into the fire to attract a buzz. His offensive talents cover all of the bases, but what ties them all together is his nose for the net. It is also what makes him attractive to collectors although this card seems overpriced.
2006-07 Peter Mueller ITG Ultimate Memorabilia Future Star Patches Autos #2 (graded)
Comment: Big and strong, the 19-year-old product from the Western Hockey League has a lot of expectations pinned on his back as the Coyotes continue rebuilding. He has the skills to handle the pressure, as he is the type of player who makes others around him better and he has a high hockey IQ. Mueller is considered a creator on the offensive end, opening up opportunities for his teammates.
2007-08 Jack Johnson Ultra #219 (ungraded)
Comment: Johnson is highly-touted and is expected to compete for the Norris Trophy one day. He can skate, he’s strong, loves to hit and has a good shot from the blue line.
He’s also Sidney Crosby’s best friend, and collector hope that some of Crosby’s greatness has rubbed off on him. He has a nasty streak that all premier, rugged defenders have -- he likes to hit, which means he’s far from being a pleasure for opponents to face.
2006-07 Jonathan Toews ITG Ultimate Memorabilia Future Star Autos #25 (ungraded)
Comment: Toews was the first Canadian to win a World Junior Championship and IIHF World Hockey Championship in the same year, and is one reason to get excited about the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time in a long while. He is dangerous with or without the puck and is a very bright player. Toews is equally comfortable at center or wing, which should help his chances of playing on the Blackhawks’ top two lines.
Erik Johnson Autographed Team USA 8x10 Poster
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Comment: At 6’4” and 222 pounds, Johnson definitely has the size to get physical in his own zone, but he also skates very well and is a definite two-way threat. He has “franchise player” written all over him. While Johnson, the top pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, is lauded for his offensive skill set, he is extremely sound on defense. Given his size and solid game, it’s a rare occasion for him to get beaten one-on-one.
2006-07 Nicklas Backstrom SPx RC GU Jersey /1999 2C GOLD (not graded)
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Comment: Not to be confused with the Minnesota Wild’s Finnish goaltender (Niklas Backstrom), the Swedish Backstrom should be among the candidates for rookie of the year. His team, the Washington Capitals, is thin up the middle and Backstrom, the fourth-highest drafted Swede (fourth overall), will likely center either the top line next to Alexander Ovechkin, or the second line next to Alexander Semin.
The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of Beckett Media.