LAS VEGAS -- The National Hockey League today announced the 2009-10 NHL All-Rookie Team, including four players who began the season as teenagers entering their first professional season: 19-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers, 19-year-old center Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche, 20-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres and 19-year-old center John Tavares of the New York Islanders.
Also named to the All-Rookie Team are Atlanta Thrashers right wing Niclas Bergfors, 23, and Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, 26. Voting was conducted by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
Following is a summary of each NHL All-Rookie Team member's outstanding season:
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Howard seized the Detroit starting job in 2009-10 following a four-year apprenticeship at AHL Grand Rapids. The Syracuse, N.Y., native started 25 consecutive games from Jan. 29 to Apr. 4, the longest streak by a Red Wings goaltender since Tim Cheveldae (29) in 1991-92 and tops by a Detroit rookie since Connie Dion (26) in 1943-44. He posted a 37-15-10 record, 2.26 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, including a 15-0-2 run during his final 17 starts that clinched the Red Wings a playoff berth for the 19th consecutive season.
DEFENSEMEN (in alphabetical order)
Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers
Del Zotto became the youngest defenseman to suit up for the Rangers since 18-year-old Dave Maloney in December, 1974, and immediately gave the club an additional scoring threat on the blueline, capturing NHL Rookie of the Month honors for October with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 14 games. He finished the season as the scoring leader among Rangers defensemen with 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists), led all rookies in power-play assists (18) and ranked second in power-play points (22).
Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
Myers not only won an NHL roster spot as a 19-year-old, he posted statistics befitting an established veteran. The 6'8", 222-lb. defenseman led the Sabres in ice time per game (23:44), three minutes more than blueline partner Henrik Tallinder who ranked second. He shared second place on the club in plus-minus (+13) and was fifth in scoring (11-37--48). Myers ranked at or near the top in several rookie categories, including average ice time (first), shorthanded time (first, 3:04), assists (first), blocked shots (first, 137), plus-minus (T-second) and points (third). He also was one of four rookies to play all 82 games.
FORWARDS (in alphabetical order)
Niclas Bergfors, Atlanta Thrashers
Bergfors began 2009-10 as one of the New Jersey Devils' top prospects; the 23-year-old Sodertalje, Sweden native was the club's first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft and had spent four years with the Devils' AHL affiliate. He began his first full NHL season with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 54 games before moving to Atlanta in a trade that sent Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey. Bergfors continued to produce for his new club, tallying 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 27 games down the stretch. He finished fourth among all rookies in goals and points with 21-23--44 in 81 games.
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
Selected third overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, Duchene earned a place on the Avalanche roster out of training camp as an 18-year-old. He went on to lead all NHL rookies in scoring with 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) in 81 games, shared the rookie goal-scoring lead with the New York Islanders' John Tavares and ranked second among rookies in assists. The Haliburton, Ontario, native placed second on the Avalanche in goals and led the club in power-play goals (10) and multi-goal games (six). Duchene's 55 points were the second-highest total by a rookie in Avalanche history behind Paul Stastny's 78 in 2006-07.
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Tavares, selected first overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, was one of just three Islanders to play in all 82 games and led his club in scoring with 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists). The Mississauga, Ontario, native led all NHL rookies in power-play goals (11) and power-play points (25), tied Colorado center Matt Duchene for the rookie goals lead, ranked second among first-year players in points and was third in assists. His five-point effort (two goals, three assists) in a 5-2 win at Vancouver on March 16 tied a franchise rookie record and was the highest single-game total by a rookie this season.