Rookies are one of the most cherished parts of any sport, especially hockey. The unique thing about hockey is that many first-year players are as young as 18 or 19, as opposed to baseball, for example, with the MLB’s rookies’ average age being 24 ½. So, who will step up to the NHL this year? Many names are being thrown around, from 2017 draft picks to players coming out of the OHL and AHL to college students ready to break out. Here are five players that many people think will have consistent roster spots for their first time this year.
1) Dylan Strome, C (ARI)
Notable Facts: Brother of NHL player, Ryan, and 2017 late-round draft pick Matthew; 354 points in 219 games for the OHL’s Erie Otters; 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft
Dylan played in 7 games for the Arizona Coyotes in the 2016-2017 season, putting up 1 point and 1 assist for a total of 2 points with a -5 rating. On November 20th, 2016, Strome was sent back down to his team in juniors, the Erie Otters of the OHL. He went on an absolute tear in the OHL this year, ending the regular season with 75 points in 35 games (22 goals and 53 assists), and as a Robertson Cup Champion. Although he was off to a rocky start last year, the extra OHL experience may have been just what he needed to make the leap this year.
2) Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS
Notable Facts: 14th overall pick in 2016 draft; made NHL debut in 2017 playoffs; played with U.S. National Team Development Program from 2013-2015 after committing to Boston University in 2013
McAvoy is an odd case, since he technically made his NHL debut, but has not played in a regular season game. He played 6 games in the first round of the 2017 NHL playoffs before the Bruins were eventually defeated by the Ottawa Senators. Charlie recorded 3 assists but has yet to score a goal, for a total of 3 points and a -2 rating. Many are already calling him a favorite to win the Calder Trophy at the end of this season, since he showed that he can handle being on the top pair, as well as “normal” minutes.
3) Sonny Milano, LW, CBJ
Notable Facts: Entering 3rd full professional season; 16th overall pick in 2014 draft; has already made NHL debut (2016) but consistently plays in AHL Cleveland
This may come off as an odd pick to some, but, just hear me out. Milano has had a rocky path in his career thus far, that will hopefully ultimately lead him to the NHL. He is often the subject of various trade rumors and is a regular culprit of “Has _____ Hit A Wall?” talks. But the timing seems to finally be right. Columbus, after going on a 16-game winning streak last December and making the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 season, they seem to be ready to make a run. With other youth most likely coming up in the system, such as Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sam Vigneault, will the forecast finally show Sonny skies in Columbus?
4) Alexander Nylander, RW, BUF
Notable Facts: Brother William was a TOR rookie in 2016-2017; 8th overall pick in the 2016 draft; one of the youngest players in the AHL
Judging by William Nylander’s performance as part of Toronto’s insane group of rookies in the 2016-2017 season, the “other Nylander” may have a stellar rookie season ahead of him. Alex already has 4 NHL games under his belt, racking up 1 assist and a -2 rating. Nylander is known for his great hands and is high skill level, and at 6’1, he provides a little extra size and physicality. Having played 65 games for Rochester in the AHL and putting up 10 goals and 18 assists for a total of 28 points, Alex is expected to continue to progress and help put Buffalo on the map like they have been trying to do for years.
5) Nico Hischier, C, NJD / Nolan Patrick, C, PHI
Notable Facts: Selected 1st and 2nd overall in the 2017 NHL draft, respectively; both 18 years old; both expected to make their NHL debuts this year
Okay, sure, yell at me for grouping these two together, but it’s with good reason. These are both 18-year-olds, fresh out of the WHL and QMJHL, with clean slates in front of them. You could say that Hischier has the edge due to Patrick’s long list of injuries that he’s already experienced in minors, but that’s even a stretch. The point is, these two will most likely be in the NHL next year, and they will constantly be pitted against each other for many reasons. They are both sure to make impacts on their respective teams, but who will come out on top? That still remains to be seen.
Who would you consider the up and coming “new kids” for the 2017-2018 NHL season? Do you agree with our picks? Let us know on Twitter @PuckItUpBlog!