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Rookie Watch: Avalanche's Makar best in Central Division

Defenseman ranks second in points among first-year players

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, 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.

With the NHL pausing the 2019-20 regular season on March 12 due to concerns about the coronavirus, we'll take a look at the top NHL rookies in each division during the next four weeks. This week, the top six in the Central Division (player ranking on Nov. 11 in parentheses after team):


1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche (1): The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft is second among NHL rookies with 50 points (12 goals, 38 assists) in 57 games. Makar returned to the lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury and had three assists in a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers on March 11. He leads NHL rookie defensemen with 12 goals, 31 even-strength points and eight even-strength goals.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he's the fastest guy in the League already ... his speed is unbelievable," Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said. "He's just so fast and his edge work is fantastic. You just don't see players come around like this. I don't have enough words to say how good he's going to be and how good he already is."

Video: STL@COL: Makar scores to set franchise rookie mark


2. Dominik Kubalik, F, Chicago Blackhawks (4): The 24-year-old leads NHL rookies with 30 goals and 38 even-strength points (26 goals, 12 assists), and he's second in the division among rookies with 46 points in 68 games. If he can reach 35 goals, it would be the third most in a season by a Chicago rookie behind Steve Larmer in 1982-83 (43 in 80 games) and Darryl Sutter in 1980-81 (40 in 76 games).

"I probably wouldn't have penciled him in for 30 (goals), but hopefully that will continue," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He's been getting better and better all year. A lot of it is confidence and when he's got the puck wanting to be the guy, wanting to make a play, wanting to drive play himself."

Video: SJS@CHI: Kubalik goes top shelf off Dach's slick feed


3. Denis Gurianov, F, Dallas Stars (5): The 22-year-old forward is second in the division among rookies with 20 goals and third with 29 points while averaging 12:59 of ice time in 64 games. Gurianov, who brings speed and good hockey sense, had 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in 15 games in February. He's tied for second on the Stars with Alexander Radulov in power-play goals (seven), and his 5-on-5 goals-for percentage (58.4) is third among Stars forwards who have played at least 15 games.

"His shot, it's pretty sick," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "He can pick his spot. His speed, it's tough to defend. You put those two together, that's a heck of a hockey player."

Video: DAL@STL: Gurianov forces turnover and beats Allen


4. Kirby Dach, F, Chicago Blackhawks (6): The No. 3 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft is fifth among Central Division rookies with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) and is averaging 14:16 in ice time in 64 games. Dach is the leader among players chosen in the 2019 NHL Draft with 20 even-strength points (eight goals, 12 assists) and is tied with Kaapo Kakko (New York Rangers) for the lead in points.

"Kirby's been getting better as the year has gone on," Colliton said. "It's a challenge with the schedule. It's a high level but it's great for him, great for his development to go through that. Obviously, we need him and we're excited to see how he responds."

Video: FLA@CHI: Dach beats Bobrovsky with backhander


5. Carson Soucy, D, Minnesota Wild (NR): Soucy, a fifth-round pick (No. 137) in the 2013 NHL Draft, is first among NHL rookie defensemen with an 11.5 shooting percentage, ranks fourth with seven goals, and is 10th with 13 even-strength points (six goals, seven assists) and with 69 hits in 55 games. The 25-year-old, who has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists), also ranks second in the division among rookies with 50 blocked shots while averaging 15:38 in ice time.


6. Dante Fabbro, D, Nashville Predators (3): Fabbro, the No. 17 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, has 11 points (five goals, six assists) and 92 shots on goal in 64 games. The 21-year-old ranks first in the division among rookies in blocked shots (85) and minor penalties drawn (16), and he is second in average ice time (19:02).


Head-to-head comparison

Makar had three assists in a 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers on March 1 to join Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes as the second rookie to reach 50 points this season. It is the first season in NHL history when defensemen have been the first two rookies to reach the 50-point mark.


Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks

Games: 68

G-A-Pts: 8-45-53

Shots on goal: 126

Avg. ice time: 21:53

Telling stat: He has five even-strength goals and 25 power-play points (three goals, 22 assists).


Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche

Games: 57

G-A-Pts: 12-38-50

Shots on goal: 121

Avg. ice time: 21:01

Telling stat: He has eight even-strength goals and 19 power-play points (four goals, 15 assists).


Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1-Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar leads NHL rookies (minimum five games played) in points per game (0.88) and tops all rookie defensemen in goals (12), power-play goals (four) and even-strength goals (eight).

2-Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Hughes needs three points to tie the Canucks record for most in a season by a rookie defenseman, held by Dale Tallon (56 points in 1970-71).

3-Dominik Kubalik, F, Chicago Blackhawks: Kubalik joined Rangers forward Artemi Panarin as the second active player to score at least 30 goals as a rookie with the Blackhawks. He leads NHL rookies with 30 goals and 38 even-strength points, and he is first with 157 shots on goal.

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