CHICAGO, IL -- As the 2011-12 season continues to steam along, it
cannot be ignored that a number of youngsters that were waiting for
their name to be called in Minneapolis in June are waiting to hear it
from an NHL coach.
It's becoming clear every day that the 2011 NHL Draft is living up to
the hype. Teams all over the NHL are being impressed with their picks,
and some are making an impact on the playoff races in the League
The two big forwards that heard their names called first have been
impact players all season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was hearing his name mentioned in All-Star game
banter when he sprinted to 35 points in 38 games, including 13 goals
and a hat trick at the expense of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, Nugent-Hopkins is just one of a handful
of key players that have been touched by the injury bug lately.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Landeskog is skating equally important minutes for
the Avs and has shown flashes of being an elite, top-line center. Two
of his nine goals have won games, and his plus-eleven rating is a
strong indication that he's making good decisions on the ice.
Then consider what rookie defenseman Adam Larsson's doing in New
Jersey. The fourth overall pick skating the top average ice time among
all Devils defensemen and has been producing offensively as well. As
the Devils chase the postseason, the play of Larsson will be
scrutinized even more with each game.
Sean Couturier, selected eighth by the Flyers, has also been a
pleasant surprise in a stressful situation. He's posted 16 points in
39 games so far, but is in a completely different situation than
Nugent-Hopkins or Landeskog. The Flyers were expected to be battling
for home ice in the Eastern Conference, and his impact in a third and
fourth line role has been solid so far.
Six players selected in the first round of the 2011 Draft have seen
NHL action this year. With Mika Zibanejad back in Sweden and Mark
Scheifele and Brandon Saad both back in juniors, there have really
been four skaters that had made an impact this year.
That's when an unexpected name hit the ice in the NHL. Andrew Shaw, a
20-year-old fifth round pick (139th overall), signed his entry-level
deal and made the jump to the Blackhawks' roster in the wake of Daniel
Carcillo's season-ending suspension/injury. In his first seven games,
he's been all anyone in Chicago can talk about, scoring four goals and
flying up and down the ice.
San Jose's Todd McLellan noticed Shaw after the Sharks' loss in
Chicago, and he's been seeing ice time with Marian Hossa on the Hawks'
second line in the absence of Patrick Sharp.
There are a handful of rookies having impressive seasons this year,
and the Calder race is as wide open as the playoff picture in both
conferences. Will the Class of 2011 continue to represent down the
stretch? Their teams certainly hope so.