Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NHL Rookies To Watch In 2010:Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Eberle

In recent years, the NHL has experienced a youth movement, as the top draft picks enter the league and make an immediate impact with their organizations. Heading into last June’s draft, the talk was Taylor or Tyler - Hall or Seguin... Who’s number one? Both players are off to a great start in their NHL careers, but amongst this year’s rookie class, three other players are making their case for consideration as Calder Trophy candidates.

Logan Couture - San Jose Sharks

A first round selection (9th overall) in the 2007 draft, Logan Couture split last season between the NHL's San Jose Sharks and the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. Couture was ready to make an impact in the NHL last season but limited roster spots and salary cap implications left the young forward bouncing between the two leagues. He played in 25 games in the NHL last season, which left him eligible for the Calder Trophy this season.

With so much traveling between leagues last year, Couture may have woken up each day wondering what city he was in, but the Guelph, Ontario native always knew how to put pucks into the back of the net. In 42 games with Worcester, he scored 20 goals and added 33 assists; he scored 5 goals and 4 assists in the NHL. He also accumulated some valuable experience in the playoffs, suiting up for 15 games with San Jose and scoring 4 goals.

In his last three games, Couture has 4 goals (a two-goal game vs. Ottawa and two against Detroit, including the game winner), and one assist. He is second in rookie scoring with 18 points (12 goals, 6 assists) and his experience from last season will help him develop this year. The fact he has plenty of talent around him in San Jose may limit his ice-time, but already knowing the ins and outs of life in the NHL has to make him a heavy favourite for the Calder.

Jeff Skinner - Carolina Hurricanes

When the Carolina Hurricanes stepped on to the stage at the 2010 NHL Draft and announced Jeff Skinner was their first round pick (7th overall), many hockey fans collectively said, “Who?”

The young man from Markham, Ontario was projected to go in the second round (34th overall), but Carolina liked what they saw in the former Kitchener Ranger and made him their top pick. He wrapped up his junior career with 50 goals and 40 assists during the regular season and finished second in OHL playoff scoring with 33 points (Taylor Hall was number one).

Stepping right into a prominent role with the Hurricanes this season, the 18-year-old has proven that Carolina GM Jim Rutherford was on the right track when he grabbed Skinner so early in the draft. In 26 games, he has 8 goals and 12 assists to lead the rookie-scoring race with 20 points. He is taking a regular shift in Carolina, averaging over 17 minutes in ice-time, and as a major part of their offence, Skinner is certainly one to watch in 2010.

Jordan Eberle - Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are always interested in players that proudly wear the national colours for Hockey Canada, and Jordan Eberle is his generation’s Captain Canada. He has been a force on the world stage with Canada’s junior team and that experience has translated into a fast start in the NHL. In 26 games, Eberle has 5 goals and 13 assists with the up and coming Oilers.

A star with the Regina Pats in the WHL, the young right-winger was a first round selection (22nd overall) in the 2008 Draft. During his final year in junior, he scored 50 goals and added 56 assists, which brought him the title of CHL Player of the Year in 2010. With a gold and silver medal at the World Junior Championship in 2009 and 2010 on his lengthy list of accomplishments, he was also named the Tournament MVP at the 2010 WJC. He is Canada’s all-time leading scorer at the tournament with 18 goals and 18 assists.

Like Skinner in Carolina, Eberle is seeing plenty of ice-time in Edmonton; averaging almost 19 minutes per game. While there will be some highs and lows in Edmonton this year as they rebuild their team for the future, as a focal point of the offence, Eberle should continue to find the net and be in the hunt for the Calder Trophy all season.

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