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Training camp preview: Rookies under the radar entering Qualifiers

Marino of Penguins, Necas of Hurricanes could play key roles in helping team advance

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

With training camps set to begin on July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, is taking a closer look at key storylines for each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. 

The qualifiers will start on Aug. 1 with the top four teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a three-game round-robin and Nos. 5-12 seeds competing in eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the four teams from the round-robin.

Today, we look at 10 under-the-radar rookies (listed alphabetically) who could make an impact in the qualifiers. 


Ethan Bear, D, Edmonton Oilers -- Bear led all NHL rookies in blocked shots (106) and average ice time (21:58), was second in takeaways (44), and fifth among rookie defensemen with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 71 games. He also played a key role on the penalty kill, ranking fourth among defensemen in average ice time while shorthanded (1:52) for Edmonton, which was second in the NHL on the penalty kill (84.4 percent) after ranking 30th in 2018-19 (74.8).


Kirby Dach, F, Chicago Blackhawks -- The 18-year-old, who was selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) while averaging 14:16 of ice time in 64 games. Although Dach was perhaps overshadowed in Chicago by fellow forward Dominik Kubalik, who led NHL rookies with 30 goals, he still ranked seventh among rookie forwards with 20 even-strength points (eight goals, 12 assists), meaning he could provide depth scoring for the Blackhawks behind Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat.

Video: CHI@CGY: Dach cleans up rebound


Denis Gurianov, F, Dallas Stars -- Gurianov led Dallas with 20 goals this season and was tied for second with Alexander Radulov in power-play goals with seven. Although the Stars were second in the League in goals against per game (2.52), they ranked 26th in goals per game (2.58), so they'll be looking for Gurianov to quickly regain his chemistry alongside linemates Roope Hintz and veteran Joe Pavelski. 


Kaapo Kakko, F, New York Rangers -- The 19-year-old entered the season with a lot of hype after he was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, but he struggled at times and finished with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) and a minus-26 rating (tied for eighth worst in NHL) in 66 games. However, one area he found some success in was the power play, where he had 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) to help the Rangers finish seventh in the League at 22.9 percent. Perhaps the qualifiers will provide him the opportunity to showcase his full potential. 


John Marino, D, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Marino made the jump straight to the NHL after playing three seasons at Harvard University, and he provided the Penguins with a steady presence as he ranked fourth among rookie defensemen with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists), was sixth in blocked shots (77) and third in takeaways (37) in 56 games. He was also third among Pittsburgh defensemen in average ice time per game (20:15), and he was one of six players to average at least two minutes on the penalty kill for the Penguins, who were tied for eighth in the League at 82.1 percent.

Video: OTT@PIT: Marino flings puck from point for quick goal


Ilya Mikheyev, F, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Mikheyev will be healthy for training camp after having surgery to repair an artery and tendons in his right wrist that were severed on Dec. 27. At the time of his injury, Mikheyev was tied for third with John Tavares and Mitchell Marner on the Maple Leafs with 22 even-strength points. He also tied for third among forwards in average ice time on the penalty kill (1:55) and was one of four Toronto players to score a shorthanded goal this season. 


Martin Necas, F, Carolina Hurricanes -- Necas was third among NHL rookies with 11 even-strength goals in 64 games, but he also played a key role on the second power-play unit in Carolina -- which was eighth in the NHL with the man-advantage at 22.3 percent -- getting nine points (five goals, four assists). Last season, Necas had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 18 games to help Charlotte win the Calder Cup championship, and the Hurricanes will be looking for that experience to transfer over to the qualifiers.


Ilya Samsonov, G, Washington Capitals -- Samsonov was 16-6-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and one shutout in 26 games (22 starts) this season as the backup to Braden Holtby. However, if Holtby struggles like he did in the regular season -- among goalies to make at least 25 starts, he ranked 45th in GAA (3.11) and 48th in save percentage (.897) -- then coach Todd Reirden might give Samsonov a chance to be the No. 1. 

Video: NJD@WSH: Samsonov moves across to deny Severson


Carson Soucy, D, Minnesota Wild -- Soucy had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 55 games, and he was tied for fourth among NHL rookies with a plus-16 rating. He also had 69 hits, 50 blocked shots, and led Minnesota in on-ice goals-for percentage at 5-on-5 (62.0 percent, minimum 20 games) despite starting 56.4 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone.


Nick Suzuki, F, Montreal Canadiens -- Suzuki was sixth among NHL rookies with 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists) and ninth in takeaways (31) while averaging 15:59 of ice time in 71 games. Despite playing on the third line at even strength, he saw time on the first power-play unit and tied Tomas Tatar for the Canadiens lead with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) with the man-advantage. Suzuki also held his own on face-offs, ranking fourth on the Canadiens and third among NHL rookies with 305 wins on 659 attempts. 

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