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Rookie watch: Makar among top performers age 20 or younger

Defenseman thriving playing big minutes for undefeated Avalanche

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 this season. Each Monday, will examine topics related to class of 2019-20 in the Rookie Watch.

This week, a look at the top rookie scorers among players age 20 or younger:

1. Cale Makar (20 years, 349 days), D, Colorado Avalanche: The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has five points, all assists, and is averaging 19:50 of ice time in four games in a top-4 role with partner Nikita Zadorov. Makar is also tied with Samuel Girard for third among Avalanche defensemen with six blocked shots. 

Video: Several young defensemen could crack the list soon

2. Cody Glass (20 years, 196 days), F, Vegas Golden Knights: Glass became the first Vegas amateur draft pick to play for the Golden Knights when he made his NHL debut in the season opener at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 2 and scored on his first shot in a 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks. He has four points (two goals, two assists) and nine shots on goal while averaging 14:53 of ice time in seven games. 

3. Martin Necas (20 years, 272 days), F, Carolina Hurricanes: The 6-foot-2, 189-pound forward is playing right wing with center Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel and has four points (one goal, three assists) with nine shots on goal in six games. Carolina controls 58.76 percent (SAT%) of all shots attempted with Necas on the ice, 57 shots for and 40 shots against.

4. Quinn Hughes (20 years), D, Vancouver Canucks: The No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, who turned 20 on Monday, is playing a key top-4 role to begin the season. Hughes scored his first NHL goal while on the power play in an 8-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings in the Canucks' home opener Oct. 10. He has three points (one goal, two assists) and the Canucks control 53.93 (SAT%) of all shots attempted with Hughes on the ice. He leads NHL rookies in ice time (20:08).

Video: LAK@VAN: Hughes blasts PPG home for first career goal

5. Ville Heinola (18 years, 253 days), D, Winnipeg Jets: Heinola was one of the most improved players last season in Liiga, Finland's top professional men's league, and earned an opening-night spot in the Jets lineup following a solid training camp. The youngest defenseman in the NHL is averaging 19:17 of ice time and Winnipeg controls 50.47 (SAT%) of all shots attempted when he's on the ice. He has three points (one goal, two assists) and is third among Jets defensemen with eight shots on goal in five games.

Head-to-head comparison
(Games through Oct. 13)

Hughes and Kakko, the top-two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, are expected to face each other for the first time in an NHL game at Prudential Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV). They last went head-to-head in the final of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, when Kakko scored the game-winning goal for Finland with 1:26 remaining in the third period of a 3-2 win against the United States. He had three shots on goal in 16:23 in ice time. Hughes had one assist and four shots on goal in 17:07.

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

Games: 5

G-A-Pts: 0-0-0

Shots on goal: 10

Avg. ice time: 15:31

Telling stat: Has drawn two minor penalties

Quotable: "Jack hasn't backed down from the competitive part of things and understanding what he needs to do outside of producing offense. His game has gotten better, and when you have a guy that's that naturally talented, he'll understand from the mistakes, if you try one too many moves or get too tight on defenders, things get poke checked away. I think he'll learn and grow from it." -- Devils coach John Hynes

Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Games: 3

G-A-Pts: 1-0-1

Shots on goal: 4

Avg. ice time: 15:25

Telling stat: 1.30 Goals/Per 60 Minutes

Quotable: "[Kakko's] more ready than most of the 18-year-olds that come over here, just the way he plays, the physicality that he has, not just hitting but just protecting the puck and playing. I'm really, really looking forward to what he can do." -- Rangers center Mika Zibanejad

Morreale's Calder Trophy front-runners

1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche: He's excelling at the most difficult position while playing big minutes in key situations for the Avalanche (4-0-0). Makar is one of 11 defensemen in NHL history with a point in each of his first four regular-season games.

2. Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres: The 24-year-old forward has five points and leads all NHL rookies in goals (four) and shots on goal (14) while averaging 18:11 of ice time for the surging Sabres (4-0-1).

3. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks: An offensive-defenseman capable of pushing the pace for a team loaded with offensive talent has found chemistry alongside veteran partner Christopher Tanev.

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