Article written by: Jonathan Camponovo


Oftentimes, when it comes to ice hockey, we hear about the word “rookies” and about the important role they play for their teams.

The rookies are the young players (under 26) who play their first NHL season. If a player played less than 25 games the previous NHL season, moreover, he’s still considered a “rookie”.

Many of them are very anticipated and you know already that they will succeed, others instead, are able to impress.

In this regard, it’s important to have good scouts and a good coach who can discover these precious gems.

Let’s think about Nico Hischier’s first NHL season back in 2017 for instance. The young Swiss had an exceptional season, he tallied 52 points in 82 games and helped the Devils to make the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. Nico’s season, however, was only one of the reasons for the Devils’ success. In fact, also Jesper Bratt – a rookie less known than our Swiss guy back at the time – played a key role… the back then 19 years old player came from the Swedish Allsvenskan (second tier of Swedish hockey) and yet scored 35 points and was pivotal for New Jersey!

Another example, more recent, is the one of Jordan Binnington. The young goalie who made his debut with the St. Louis Blues last january and then helped them to win the Stanley Cup!

In this article, we try to “build” a 1st line with the best rookies who will play the 2019-20 NHL season. On the understanding that we can’t wait to know young new precious gems who can help their teams.

Goalie

Elvis Merzlikins

The Latvian goalie who plays with Swiss licence needs no introduction. He’s 25 years old and is already very experienced. We mean, he looks ready for his NHL debut. He’s improved a lot over the years and during the 6 seasons spent in Lugano he was so many times at the top of his game. Moreover, he is very strong mentally and that’s important to have success overseas.

He was named goalie of the year in Switzerland back in 2016 and 2018… and he was among the three best Latvian players three times at the Worlds.

Let us not forget, finally, that in 2014 he was named the best young player in the Swiss National League.

Right in 2014, the Columbus Blue Jackets picked Elvis at the draft… but then Merzlikins proved very mature and waited for the right moment to move overseas. Now, he can become a crucial player for the Jackets who lost Bobrovsky. Elvis is likely to be the nr. one goalie while the back up shuld be Korpisalo, who already collected about 90 NHL appearances.

Defensemen

Cale Makar

Cale Makar is a 20 years old Canadian defenseman drafted in 4th position overall back in 2017 and is ready to play his first NHL season. He spent the last two seasons in the NCAA playing for the University of Massachusetts. Last year he was the best player of the league and his performances were excellent, to the point that the Colorado Avalanche played him during the last playoffs…. and Cale Makar had what you definitively call a dream debut. He scored his first goal during the first period of his first NHL appearance! What’s impressive about him, is that oftentimes he makes the right decision also while being under huge pressure.

There are a lot of expectations about him, and he’s already ranked among the best 20 defensemen of the league. If he can live up to the expectations of the experts, Colorado will have yet another top player in their roster. It’s safe to say that the Avalanche look very good… let us not forget in fact, that they picked Byram during the last NHL draft, and Byram is another defenseman with a huge potential.

Eric Brannstrom

Eric Brannstrom is a 19 years old Swedish and the Vegas Golden Knights picked him in 15th overall position during the NHL 2017 draft. Brannstrom is an offensive defenseman who compensates his lack of size (179cm – 82kg) with his speed that allows him to fool the opponents. He’s not bad when it comes to defensive play, but he’s very offensive minded and therefore is one of that kind of a players who needs a rock solid defensive defenseman paired up with him. So far, Brannstrom has showed all his potentian in the AHL… where he collected 50 appearances tallying 32 points with the Chicago Wolves and the Belleville Senators. At the international level, he already made it to the All Star Team of the U20 Worlds when he represented Sweden aged only 18.

His original team – the Vegas Golden Knights – traded him last February 25th though… and so Brannstrom joined the Ottawa Senators.

The Canadian’s based team looks perfect for a young defenseman like Brannstrom, that’s because the Senators are currently rebuilding themselves and it’s likely that the coach will give a lot of time on ice to young players.

Forwards

Kaapo Kakko

The 18 years old Finnish is destined for greatness already next season. He was the second pick at the last NHL draft, after all… The New York Rangers can count on a player who, even though is still very young, was already the leading scorer (6 goals in 10 games) for Finland at the last World Ice Hockey Championships!

Previously, moreover, he broke the record of points scored for an under 18 years old in the Finnish Liiga. Playing with TPS in fact, he tallied 38 points in 45 games and therefore broke Alexander Barkov’s record who scored 37 points back in 2013.

Kaapo Kakko is likely to play in the first line with Artemi Panarin and can immediately make a name for himself. The experts expect him to score 60-70 points already this season!

Jack Hughes

We’ve been talking already about this great 18 years old player. He was the number one pick at the last NHl draft and joined the New Jersey Devils. Jack Huges figures are impressive… he scored 32 points in 14 games at the last U18 Worlds and therefore broke Alexander Ovechkin record. Moreover, even though he’s only 18, he looks destined to become an impressive scorer. Perhaps he still lacks in size… but his class should allow him to become a regular for the Devils next season! The NHL experts even say that he can score approximately 60 points during the first NHL season… provided that he can cope with the physical play of the most prestigious league of the world.

Alexandre Texier

Alexander Texier is the new French hockey’s hope and is our player who completes this first line of rookies in view of the 2019-20 NHL season. Alexander was drafted in 45th position overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2017, and next season he will play a key role for the Jackets who lost several great player during this off-season. The 20 years old forward is coming off a great season played with KalPa Juopio (Liiga, Finland) under Lugano’s new coach Sami Kapanen. He tallied 41 points in 55 games for a team who didn’t do particularly well… we mean, that’s great. Moreover, he even played the last Spengler Cup and during the last part of last season he already had the chance to make his debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets… he even scored 2 goals in 8 playoffs games. Starting from october, it’s likely that he will play in the top six… and we’ll follow him with curiosity. Even if only because, from now, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be followed more because of the presence of Elvis Merzlikins.

Well, that’s it for now. As every year, the list of NHL rookies is very long.

Just imagine that last season saw 207 players making their NHL debut! The NHL Regular Season is made of 82 games and the rosters are much deeper than in Switzerland… that is why it’s very common that young player have the chance to make their name in the most prestigious league of the world. We picked only 6 of them in view of next season… but the list of talented players ready to blossom, is very – but very – long!

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