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Hughes brothers, Kakko head group of rookies to watch this season

Glass, Hirose, Makar, Steel among those to keep eye on

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the top two selections in the 2019 NHL Draft, lead a group of talented rookies hoping to make an impact when the 2019-20 season begins Wednesday.

Here are 12 rookies, listed alphabetically, to keep an eye on:

 

Drake Batherson, F, Ottawa Senators

No. 121 in 2017 NHL Draft

The 21-year-old made his NHL debut last season and had nine points (three goals, six assists) in 20 games. Batherson (6-foot-3, 187 pounds), who ranked fourth among rookies in the American Hockey League with 62 points (22 goals, 40 assists) and second with a 1.05 points-per-game average in 59 games for Belleville last season, has the speed and creativity to produce in the top six out of training camp.

Video: NYR@OTT: Batherson deflects puck past Lundqvist

 

Cody Glass, C, Vegas Golden Knights

No. 6 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The first draft pick in Golden Knights history has a good shot at earning a roster spot after an impressive training camp, getting time at center with Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch. Glass (6-2, 178), a right-handed shot, has exhibited the playmaking ability and intelligence that made him such a coveted prospect. The 20-year-old led the Western Hockey League in points-per-game (1.81) with Portland and was tied for second among AHL rookies with 15 playoff points (seven goals, eight assists) in 22 games with Chicago last season.

 

Taro Hirose, F, Detroit Red Wings

Signed as free agent March 12

Everyone loves a sleeper and the 23-year-old playmaker could surprise in a prominent role. Hirose (5-10, 160) spent the past three seasons at Michigan State, leading NCAA Division I players in points (50), points-per-game (1.39) and assists (35) in 36 games and was named Big Ten player of the year last season. He had seven points (one goal, six assists) in 10 NHL games and is making a case for playing wing on the second or third line.

 

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

No. 1 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

The left-handed center will give the Devils a great option behind No. 1 center Nico Hischier. Hughes (5-10, 170) had 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team last season and set the record for career assists (154) and career points (228) in 110 games in two seasons. The 18-year-old should earn valuable minutes on the power play and even strength after being considered by many the best skater and most dynamic playmaker available in the draft.

Video: NYR@NJD: Hughes pots early breakaway goal

 

Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks

No. 7 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

The older brother of Jack Hughes, Quinn made his NHL debut last season, getting three assists and averaging 18:05 of ice time in five games after leading Michigan with 33 points (five goals, 28 assists) in 32 games. The 19-year-old (5-10, 170) is an exceptional skater with creativity; he should earn time among the Canucks' top four and receive regular power-play minutes and possibly quarterback a strong first unit.

 

Kaapo Kakko, F, New York Rangers

No. 2 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

Kakko will likely begin the season in the top six and see significant time on the first power-play unit alongside Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. The 18-year-old had five points (two goals, three assists) for Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in January to help his country win the tournament in January, and six goals at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in May to help Finland finish first. Kakko (6-3, 199), a left-handed shot, scored 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists) in 45 games for TPS in Liiga and set the league record for most goals by an under-18 player.

Video: Kaapo Kakko ranks No. 2 on the Top Prospects List

 

Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche

No. 4 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The right-shot defenseman had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games after scoring 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 41 games with Massachusetts in Hockey East and winning the Hobey Baker Award. The 20-year-old, who made his NHL debut in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round, skated on the third pair with Samuel Girard in the playoffs and during the preseason and will likely be running the first-team power-play unit after Tyson Barrie was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Video: CGY@COL, Gm3: Makar scores in NHL debut

 

Martin Necas, F, Carolina Hurricanes

No. 12 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old struggled in his adjustment to the NHL last season, when he played seven games and averaged 10:01 of ice time before showing a lot more confidence in Charlotte (AHL), where he had 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) and five power-play goals in 64 games. He could earn a top nine role and offer secondary scoring as a right wing on a line with center Erik Haula. Necas (6-2, 189) had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 18 AHL playoff games, helping Charlotte to its first Calder Cup championship.

 

Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalo Sabres

No. 181 pick in 2014 NHL Draft

Olofsson (5-11, 181) gained top-line minutes with center Jack Eichel and forward Sam Reinhart in the preseason. The 24-year-old had four points (two goals, two assists) in six games with in his first NHL call-up late last season. He scored 117 points (60 goals, 57 assists) in 200 career games with MODO and Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League.

 

Sam Steel, C, Anaheim Ducks

No. 30 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Steel scored five goals in the final five games of the regular season and finished with 11 points (six goals, five assists) and an 18.2 shooting percentage in 22 games. A candidate for a spot in the top six, Steel (5-11, 189) has impressed alongside linemates Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg in the preseason. He had 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) in 53 AHL games and ranked tied for fourth among AHL rookies with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 16 playoff games for San Diego last season.

 

Alexandre Texier, F, Columbus Blue Jackets

No. 45 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old may earn significant time in the lineup, including on the first power-play unit after the Blue Jackets lost Panarin and center Matt Duchene in free agency. Texier, who may open the season with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson, made an immediate impact in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, scoring three points (two goals, one assist) in eight games. Texier (6-0, 187) had 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) in 55 games for KalPa in Liiga, and seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games for Cleveland of the AHL last season.

Video: TBL@CBJ, Gm4: Texier snipes early power-play goal

 

Filip Zadina, F, Detroit Red Wings

No. 6 in 2018 NHL Draft

The 19-year-old gained valuable lessons at Grand Rapids (AHL) last season, scoring 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 59 games. Zadina (6-0, 195), limited in development camp in June with a sore hamstring sustained during offseason training, could see time in the top nine with center Frans Nielsen. He had three points (one goal, two assists) in nine games last season.

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