Tomas Hertl – F – San Jose – Nobody expected Hertl to score 6 goals in his first 3 NHL games, but he did. Now nobody can ignore the young Czech’s talent. His 4 goal game against the New York Rangers featuring a between the legs trick shot past Martin Biron earned him the right to be considered the extremely early favorite for the Calder trophy.
Mark Scheifele – Winnipeg – Scheifele totally tore up the OHL in the playoffs last season finishing with 41 points in 21 playoff games played.
Scouts described him as a “man amongst boys” for the Barrie Colts.
The Kitchener, ONT native was the 7th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft. He even appeared in 7 games with the NHL Jets that season.
Sven Baertschi – Calgary – Flames fans got realty excited for Baertschi when he scored 3 goals in 5 games for the Flames at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Baertschi lit it up for Portland (WHL) that year. Last season he started off with the Flames and spent the rest of the year with Abbotsford in the AHL posting 26 points in 32 games played. The Flames need a lot of help this year and Baertschi is all but guaranteed a permanent roster spot this season.
Alex Chiasson – Dallas – Chiasson was a 2nd rounder in 2009 and spent 3 seasons at Boston University. He lit it up for the Stars last season scoring 6 goals in 7 games played and has 2 goals in 2 games played this season. I’m betting he can’t keep that pace up, but what a start to this career.
Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado – The #1 overall pick in this year’s draft out of Halifax (QMJHL) MacKinnon’s a star. He scored 153 points in 102 games over his 2 year junior career. MacKinnon will surely spend the entire year with the Avalanche and rookie coach Patrick Roy. With Matt Duchene and MacKinnon the Avalanche appear to have developed a strong foundation for the future.
Jacob Trouba – Winnipeg – Trouba is as much an accomplished rookie defenseman you’ll ever see in the NHL. 2 years with the United States Development Program followed by one season at Michigan University and 2 tours of duty with Team USA at the World Juniors where he was named the tournament’s best defenseman and won a gold medal in 2013.
Matt Donavan – New York (I) – Donovan isn’t as blue-chip status as the rest of these guys but he’s just as effective from the blue line. He spent 2 years honing his game at Denver then 2 more in the AHL with the Bridgeport Tigers. Don’t expect a ton of offense, but Donavan is a good bet to nail down a roster spot and be a solid defenseman in the NHL for years to come.
Sean Monahan – Calgary –Monahan is only 18 but he’s already played 3 seasons for the Ottawa 67’s (OHL) and as I mentioned earlier, the Flames have immediate openings. He’s already put up 3 goals in 4 games to start the season strong. Look for the 6’2-185 pounder to stick with Calgary for the year.
Matt Nieto – San Jose – The 20 year old California native is a star scorer everywhere he goes and spent the last 3 seasons refining his game at Boston University. The Sharks are deep at forward, so cracking the roster alone is an accomplishment for a player straight out of college but Nieto has a strong chance. Nieto is a little small for an NHL regular at 5’11-180, but he’s a skilled player who can be a solid producer too.
Aleksander Barkov – Florida – The expectations are sky-high for this 18 year old Finn. Barkov was taken #2 overall in this year’s draft which is especially notable because Seth Jones was available. He’s big at 6’3-209 and has shown that he can score against professionals (48 points in 53 games in Finland’s top league).