Friday, October 10, 2008

TSN Top 20 Rookies

TSN's Top Twenty Rookies

This year's crop of NHL rookies is strong, ranging from teenage defensemen to twenty-something forwards. For the NHL on TSN preview show this rookies list was trimmed to ten players and, for that reason, didn't have any of the excellent defencemen chosen in the 2008 entry draft.

However, for we've expanded our rookie list to twenty - including five blueliners who are seeking to become the first teen since Jay Bouwmeester in 2002-03 to play a full season.

1) Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay. Lighting coach Barry Melrose is easing Stamkos in by managing his minutes. However, his talent will be showcased and is key to this teams rise from the ashes. In both the preseason and the first two games of the regular season we have seen flashes of why Stamkos was selected first overall in june.

2) Kyle Turris, Phoenix. At second line centre, Turris will also have a spot on the Coyotes power play. At 180 lbs, skeptics question his physical ability to compete, however the Coyotes will try and create as much room for Turris as possible, playing him a line with Coyotes captain Shane Doan and tough winger Dan Carcillo.

3) T.J. Oshie, St. Louis. Forward T.J Oshie comes in at number 3. The 21 year old jumped from the college ranks and the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and combines skill with intensity. Oshie is Berglund's roommate and is expected to vie for the Calder.

4) Patrik Berglund, St. Louis. Star linemate Paul Kariya loves this kid and says Berglund is going to be an impact player. He has size and strength and the Blues believe he is a Calder trophy candidate.

5) Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix. The Coyotes are loaded with good young talent and believe the winger has the ability to score 20 goals and 50 points in his rookie year. Look for Boedker to play the point on the power play, providing further evidence he's ready.

6) Kyle Okposo, Islanders. The 20 year old joined the Islanders late last season and made a strong impression with 5 points in 9 games. Okposo is likely to start the season with Josh Bailey and may benefit from Bailey's ability to create scoring chances.

7) Jakub Voracek, Columbus. Described as a dynamic winger, Voracek spent his offseason in Columbus working out, committed to making the leap from Halifax of the QMJHL.

8) Blake Wheeler, Boston. Bruins' management describe Wheeler as a tireless learner. He's 6-foot-5 and he can skate and will spend most of his time on Boston's 3rd line.

9) Patric Hornqvist, Nashville. The Nashville Predators rookie made the team last season, but opted to return to Sweden. Hornqvist will play on one of the Preds' top two lines. Head coach Barry Trotz says Hornqvist reminds him of Joe Mullen, adding you don't always notice him, but he's always in the right spot.

10) Viktor Tikhonov, Phoenix. The grandson of the legendary Soviet coach is fiercely competitive and known for his second effort. Look for Wayne Gretzky to test Tikhnov in all situations.

11) Derick Brassard, Columbus. Brassard has the ability to be a top six forward, but like most first year players, he will have to work on his consistency. Following a successful season in the AHL, Brassard is deemed NHL ready by head coach Ken Hitchcock.

12) Drew Doughty, Los Angeles. Doughty has earned a spot on the Los Angeles Kings blue line and he's expected to stick in the NHL all season. Doughty is noted for his decision making and patience, both characteristics the Kings acknowledge seeing in training camp and in the preseason.

13) Zach Bogosian, Atlanta. The Thrashers saw more than enough to give the former Peterborough Petes star an extended look. Bogosian has played solid defensively and the Thrashers say they like the way he moves the puck.

14) Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis. Selected 4th, Pietrangelo has embraced the opportunity created by Erik Johnson's long term knee injury. Pietrangelo has shown great poise both with the puck and away from the puck and appears mature beyond his years.

15) Luke Schenn, Toronto. Through training camp and the pre-season Schenn was physical and has steadily improved in adjusting to the speed and pace of the NHL game.

16) Luca Sbisa, Philadelphia. Flyers' general manager Paul Holmgren says he has been impressed with Sbisa's hockey sense and the fact, for a young player he's very strong on the puck. Sbisa was chosen 19th overall in the 2008 entry draft.

17) Fabian Brunnstrom, Dallas. According to the Stars, the 23 year old Swedish forward - who was the subject of a bidding war last spring - has to learn how to battle in the North American game, but he's highly skilled and has decent size to handle the rough going.

18)Josh Bailey, New York Islanders. The Islanders traded down, moving from 5th to 7th to 9th in the 2008 Draft before selecting the Windsor Spitfires centre. Bailey has earned a spot on the Isles opening day roster based on offensive creativity.

19)Wayne Simmonds, Los Angeles. The Kings liked the combination of character and skill they saw in Simmonds when they drafted him 61st overall in 2007. Simmonds has the markings of a good two way player and, along with fellow rookie Oscar Moller, has impressed management enough to have his NHL audtion extended.

20) Nikolai Kulemin, Toronto. The Leafs intend to develop Kulemin as quickly as possible. He plays a sound positional game and is defensively responsible. Once he grows comfortable with the NHL game, Kulemin will play big line minutes.

No question about the top two in Steven Stamkos and Kyle Turris. On paper, both players have playmakers around them. Will they be able to make plays though? These two should be fun to watch for this year.

The St. Louis Blues dynamic dou comesin at three and four. T.J. Oshie is ranked third and Patrik Berglund is ranked fourth. I like Berglund as the better long term player. Hopefully he puts up points this year as he's on my fantasy team. Oshie might get adjusted faster to the NHL game. Alex Pietrangelo like any other rookie defenseman won't put too many points up. He will be learning on the job.

Mikkael Boedker and Victor Tikhonov are also going to start with the Coyotes along with Turris. Boedker already has a NHL shot already. He will be starting on a line with Oli Jokinen.

Kyle Okposo
and Josh Bailey are the future for the Islanders. Okposo should have more of an impact this season. Bailey is on a nine game tryout. The Ontario Hockey League is hoping that he stays with the Islanders because if he returns, he returns to a stack Windsor team.

Two former QMJHL players are on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster. Jakub Voracek and Derrick Brassard should be a key to the Blue Jackets success. Don't be surprised if Brassard centers Rick Nash. Voracek will be interesting where he ends up starting. Will he play in the top six or will he start out in a checking role.

Blake Wheeler joins the Boston Bruins after three seasons with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Last night, he showed his scoring ability with a beautiful goal.It will be hard to crack the top six for the Bruins butit doesn't hurt to have a goal scorer on the third line.

We all know who's Mr. Relavent in the 2005 Draft. That would be Sidney Crosby but the most Relevant Mr. Irrelevant is Patric Hornqvist of the Nashville. He was the 230th overall selection. He has been a force in the Swedish Elite League the last two seasons. He will start on the first line for the Predators. Another player on my fantasy team. Fabian Brunnstrom was the talk around the water cooler last season. He signs with the Stars. Last year was his breakout year in the SEL. Will this translate to quick NHL success?

The surprise so far is Luca Sbisa making the opening day roster for Flyers. The Swiss defenseman has only one season under his belt in North America. Last year he played with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. I think he will be sent back down after the nine game look.

The other three defenseman Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Luke Schenn have been talked abot. Doughty and Bogosian will be in the NHL for the year unless something drastic happens. Schenn looked good last night in the win over the Red Wings. He's still fighting for a job full time.

Wayne Simmonds has come out of nowhere the last two seasons. With the Owen Sound Attack and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, he had 31 goals and 44 assists. He came out of nowhere to make the Kings roster.

I am surprised that Nikolai Kulemin was ranked 20th. He's a goal scorer that notched the game winner for Maple Leafs. That was an extra bonus for my fantasy team. The experts are saying Toronto won't score goals but he will be one of the few that will. I think he will surprise people this year.

That's My Take

(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at

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