Sunday, January 22, 2006

This Year's Bumper Rookie Crop

This season has a particularly good group of rookies that have hit the NHL. So far. I think Alexander Ovechkin has been the best of a very good bunch than includes Henrik Lundqvist, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Marek Svatos, Petr Prucha, Antero Niittymaki, Andrej Meszaros, Tomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Duncan Keith, Jeff Carter, Jussi Jokinen etc. Its the best bunch of rookies the NHL has seen in many years. This is largely because it is two groups of rookies put together. It is the 2004/05 rookie crop that didn't get to play because of the lockout and the 2005/06 rookie crop. The 2004/05 crop is one more year more mature than they would otherwise have been and thus are better players when they first hit the NHL.

I have long believed that the NHL "rookie of the year" is most often a player who could have played and contributed well the season before he was a rookie, but for whatever reason was not in the NHL. This year is a good example of that. Is there much doubt that had Alexander Ovechkin come to the NHL last season (if there was a last season) that he would have been a very good player?

In a typical season, three players who are rookies go on to have Hall of Fame careers. Since this year has a double rookie crop, it is more likely there will be closer to six Hall of Famers in the bunch. It is fun to look at the rookies and try to project who they might be, but the future always brings suprises. I bet that some of the more likely candidates right now fall short and some people who are not really on our radar yet wind up putting up a Hall of Fame career.

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