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2012-13 NHL Preview - The Rookie Class

Posted by Landon Ewaniuk on January 16, 2013 at 2:20 AM

By: Jeff Lingard

Now that the lockout is over it’s time to talk hockey. This is a brief primer on the rookies who should make a significant impact this year. I think this class will be shorter on quantity but longer on quality than in prior years because teams will not want to burn a year on an entry level contract for a compressed season if the rookie is going to be a bit player.

Justin Schultz, D, Edmonton - Schultz is an older prospect who did not sign with Anaheim after being drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft. He signed with Edmonton over the summer as a free agent and has been lighting it up in the AHL, where he is second in the league in scoring and third in goals which is impressive for a defenceman. Schultz is the early favourite for the Calder and should anchor a great, young power play in Edmonton this year.

Chris Kreider, LW, NY Rangers - Kreider had an excellent last season at Boston College and jumped right into the Rangers playoff lineup and didn’t look out of place. He is big with speed and should fit on a scoring line with the Rangers and should challenge Schultz for the Calder.

Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis - Tarasenko has been a point a game player in the KHL the past couple of seasons and will fit in nicely to a defensively minded Blues team that needs a scoring forward. We can only hope Ken Hitchcock turns Tarasenko loose.

Nail Yakupov, RW, Edmonton - the word is Yakupov is coming back to North America after playing in the KHL this season. He might have the most skill of Edmonton's core of forwards but it will be interesting if the Oilers burn a year of his entry level deal in a shortened season. If he does play in the NHL he should step in as a top 6 forward right away and get power play time.

Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida - Huberdeau was a top scorer for the Panthers in the preseason last year and probably could have played last year in the NHL. He will be a scoring winger with the Panthers and will be counted on to provide much needed scoring depth. The only knock on Huberdeau is that he has to fill out physically.

Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota - Granlund, the 9th pick of the 2010 draft is scoring at a point per game pace in the AHL and should fit onto one of the Wild's top two lines with Parise, Heatley, Koivu et al. Scouts have compared Granlund's offensive skill to fellow Finn Saku Koivu. The only thing keeping from being an even higher rated draft pick is his lack of size. I expect Granlund to make a strong case for the Calder.

Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Buffalo - Grigorenko is an "enigmatic" Russian who would not have slipped in the draft this past summer if he was Canadian. The Sabres are thrilled to have him and between him and Cody Hodgson should replace Derek Roy's production. The Sabres should make a strong playoff push and Grigorenko could be a big reason why.

Dougie Hamilton, D, Boston - Hamilton was a top pair defenceman on Canada's world junior team. He projects to a top pair defenceman in the NHL with offensive upside. He should fit in as a top 4 D for the Bruins and will give Toronto fans one more reason to hate the Kessel trade.

Mika Zibanejad, C, Ottawa - Zibanejad is a prime time player who has a gold medal winning goal for Sweden at last year's world juniors. He is the first of a wave of talented players in Ottawa's system and will complement Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and others on the Sens' top two lines. I expect Zibanejad will be an impact player if he makes the team since the Sens won't play him on the third or fourth line.

Tim Erixon, D Columbus - Erixon was part of the return for Rick Nash. He isn't as highly rated as other prospects on this list but he will get playing time in Columbus and has been productive in the AHL. Erixon projects to be a top 4 D and will pair with Ryan Murray (out for the year with a shoulder injury) for years to come. If the Jackets find a goalie they will have a good core in the defensive side of the ice.

Other rookies that may make an impact: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal; Ryan Strome, C, NY Islanders; Brendan Smith, D, Detroit; Sven Baertschi, LW, Calgary; Brandon Gormley, D, Phoenix; Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit; Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg; 

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