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Rookie watch: Olofsson top performer in Atlantic Division

Sabres forward thriving with Eichel on power play, has edge on Mikheyev, Suzuki

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The play of several high-profile rookies, including forwards Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the 2019 NHL Draft, respectively, is one of the major storylines of the 2019-20 season. Each Monday, will examine topics related to this season's class in the Rookie Watch.

This week, the top six rookies in the Atlantic Division:

1. Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalo Sabres: The 24-year-old leads all rookies in the Atlantic Division in goals (seven), power-play goals (six) and points (14) in 20 games playing left wing on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Olofsson, selected in the seventh round (No. 181) of the 2014 NHL Draft, ranks first in average ice time (17:40) among division forwards and first in average ice time on the power play (3:23).

"The more he gets in the corners and battles and learns the grind, he's going to be an unstoppable force," Eichel said. "He's been great to play with, awesome kid, super skilled. He's had so many chances over the last little bit; he could easily have 15 goals right now. Vic's been great and he's just going to keep getting better."

Video: BUF@TBL: Olofsson spins and scores in home country

2. Ilya Mikheyev, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: The 25-year-old is second among rookies in the division with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) and first among all NHL rookies with 52 shots on goal while averaging 15:45 in ice time in 22 games.

"[Mikheyev] plays a lot like [former NHL player Pavel] Datsyuk in that he has that reach, using that similar paddle with a long stick and he's really lanky, but he's also shifty, strong with the puck and strong on his edges," Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews said in September.

3. Nick Suzuki, F, Montreal Canadiens: The 20-year-old center, picked No. 13 in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights and traded to the Canadiens as part of the Max Pacioretty deal on Sept. 10, 2018, has nine points (five goals, four assists) in 20 games. The Canadiens control 51.16 of all shots attempted (SAT%) with Suzuki on the ice and he averages 13:58 minutes as third-line center.

"He's really talented, really skilled and it's fun just to watch him," Canadiens forward Tomas Tatar said. "Obviously, he has a great set of hands and real good hockey sense. I'm really liking to play with him on the line and hopefully we will build on it and we will be better every game."

Video: NJD@MTL: Suzuki jams home rebound for PPG

4. Trevor Moore, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: Moore, who left his last game with a shoulder injury, has five points (three goals, two assists), ranks first among NHL rookies with 46 hits and third among all division rookies with 36 shots on goal.

5-Filip Chlapik, F, Ottawa Senators: The 22-year-old is steadily gaining confidence and has five points (two goals, three assists) and 10 shots on goal in 10 games this season. He has four points (two goals, two assists) and taken nine shots in his past six games.

6-Sam Montembeault, G, Florida Panthers: The 23-year-old is 3-1-1 with a 2.96 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in six games for the Panthers. Montembeault has faced the fourth-highest shot attempts (154) among NHL rookie goalies and has allowed the fifth-fewest goals (15).

Head to Head comparison

(Games through Nov. 17)

Kakko is day-to-day after missing his past two games because of the flu. He has three goals and is averaging 16:26 of ice time in a two-game goal streak. 

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

Games: 19

G-A-Pts: 4-6-10

Shots on goal: 35

Avg. ice time: 15:58

Telling stat: He has one assist and seven shots on goal in his past five games.  

Quotable: "I think there are games where he's really come on strong and done well, and others where sometimes you see things that need to be better or more consistent. Overall, for an 18-year-old player, coming in and having to play in the role on our team that he's playing, it's been a pretty good adjustment for him." -- Devils coach John Hynes

Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Games: 16

G-A-Pts: 6-2-8

Shots on goal: 30

Avg. ice time: 15:18

Telling stat: Had two goals, including the game-winner, in a 3-2 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 12 to become the youngest player in franchise history to score in overtime and record the first multigoal game by an 18-year-old in Rangers history.

Quotable: "The way he walks around now, just a whole new level of swagger to him that we hadn't seen since he got here. I think he's a guy who's played pro hockey before, played in World Championships, so I don't think he's going to be intimidated by any challenge presented to him. He's continuing to build on his confidence level, and he's certainly proven that he can have success in the League this year, that's for sure." -- Rangers coach David Quinn

Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1-Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar had four assists in a 5-4 overtime win at the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and has 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 20 games, requiring the sixth-fewest games to reach 20 career points among players to debut with the Avalanche / Quebec Nordiques franchise.

2-Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: The 20-year-old ranks second among rookie defensemen with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) and is averaging 20:11 in ice time in 20 games. 

3-Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalo Sabres: The 24-year-old forward leads all rookies with seven goals and six power-play goals playing a top-line role in 20 games.

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