Tuesday, December 04, 2007

An Interesting Rookie

Every year, several rookies enter the NHL. Most never mature into top player, but some do. There are some rookies, who may not be the best rookie out there, but are interesting because they have an unusual skill set. Last year, Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins had the most unique skill set of the NHL's rookies. As an 18 year old, he had enough poise to not only play regularly in short handed situations for the Penguins, he led the league in short handed goals. This earned him a nomination for the Calder Trophy (which teammate Evgeni Malkin won). So far this season, Staal has run into some problems as a sophomore and has only six points in 26 games (with no short handed goals at all).

This , Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has been the best rookie in the NHL, but the most interesting skill set comes from Daniel Carcillo of the Phoenix Coyotes. Carcillo has 11 points in 25 games (which ties him for sixth in points among rookies). What is interesting is that he also leads the NHL in penalty minutes with 130 (a 31 point lead over Eric Godard of the Calgary Flames who holds down second place). It is rare for a forward with as much skill as Carcillo to be such as successful agitator on the ice. In fact, the first forward who has more points than Carcillo in the penalty minute race is Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks. Perry has 48 penalty minutes (which is slightly over a third of Carcillo's total) and currently is tied for 18th in penalty minutes leaguewide.

A player like Carcillo is valuable because he can play a regular shift and play it well. He is capable of attracting the attention of his opponents and keep it on himself, instead of where it should be on winning the game. These players can be catalysts towards their team's success. In a best case, Carcillo projects to be a modern day Ted Lindsay and more likely a Bob Probert, Ken Linseman, Chris Nilan style agitator who was always the center of his team's attack (at least in their primes) despite not being the top scorer on his team.

Carcillo is a bit of a surprise to be doing as well as he is in the NHL. He was a third round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003 and traded (along with a 3rd round draft pick) to Phoenix for Georges Laraque. He was a good junior, but he was hardly a junior superstar. So far, his game has translated very well to the NHL. He looks like he should be a very interesting player to watch because it is rare for a player to have his skill set and especially rare for a player to display it while still an NHL rookie.

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