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Rookie watch: Bear, Fabbro among top first-year defensemen

Young players performing early in important roles with Oilers, Predators

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 five rookies making an impact while averaging the most ice time (10 games minimum):

1. Ethan Bear, D, Edmonton Oilers: The 22-year-old had a fantastic training camp after impressing as an offensive defenseman for Seattle of the Western Hockey League in four seasons, scoring 192 points (66 goals, 126 assists) in 264 games. Bear, a fifth-round pick (No. 124) in the 2015 NHL Draft, leads all NHL rookies in average ice time (21:13) and has four points (two goals, two assists) and 18 shots on goal in 15 games. Bear, who plays alongside defenseman Darnell Nurse, ranks fourth on the Oilers with 18 blocked shots.

2. Dante Fabbro, D, Nashville Predators: The No. 17 pick in the 2016 Draft has three points (two goals, one assist) and a plus-6 rating in 14 games this season. He ranks second among rookies in average ice time (19:23) in a top-4 role despite barely receiving time on the power play (averaging 14 seconds per game). He is second among NHL rookies with 24 blocked shots.

3. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: The more responsibility he's given, the more he seems to produce. The 20-year-old, who was the No. 7 pick in the 2018 Draft, ranks third among rookies in average ice time (19:20) and is fourth with 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 13 games. He's playing on the first power-play unit and leads all rookies in average ice time (3:51) with the man-advantage. The Canucks control 53.62 percent of all shots attempted with Hughes on the ice at 5-on-5.

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

4. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar leads all NHL rookies in assists (10) and is tied with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ilya Mikheyev for the most points (11) in 14 games. He ranks fourth among rookies in average ice time (18:57) and average ice time on the power play (3:28) while working the point as the only defenseman on the Avalanche's top unit.

5. Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalo Sabres: Named the NHL Rookie of the Month for October after leading all first-year players in goals (six), Olofsson is tied with Quinn Hughes for third in scoring (10 points). He is fifth in average ice time (17:08) among rookies in 15 games. The 24-year-old, selected in the seventh round (No. 181) of the 2014 Draft, averages 3:31 in ice time on the power play and leads NHL rookies with six goals on the man-advantage.

Head-to-Head comparison
(Games through Nov. 3)

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes has scored all three of his goals on the power play. Three teenagers in NHL history have scored each of his first four or more career regular-season goals with the man-advantage: Hartford Whalers forward Sylvain Turgeon (six, 1983-84), Minnesota North Stars forward Brian Bellows (five, 1982-83) and Canucks defenseman Michel Petit (five, 1983-84).

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

Games: 12

G-A-Pts: 3-4-7

Shots on goal: 25

Avg. ice time: 16:12

Telling stat: The Devils have controlled 49.45 percent (SAT%) of all shots attempted 5-on-5 with Hughes on the ice in his past six games.

Quotable: "[Hughes] is fitting right in to what the NHL has been looking for the past 10 years. He's a young, talented player who can pull fans out of their seats and as an 18-year-old. There's a reason these guys are taken first, second and third overall ... not only because of their talent, but their hockey sense. He seems like he's going to be another good one for the Devils." -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper

Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Games: 11

G-A-Pts: 2-1-3

Shots on goal: 19

Avg. ice time: 14:40

Telling stat: Tied for fifth on the Rangers with defenseman Tony DeAngelo and forwards Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich with two power-play points (one goal, one assist).

Quotable: "I get a good chance playing in top six. Last season [in Finland], I played good hockey, scoring goals, get some points. But winning the game ... that's the big thing. That's what we want, what I want." -- Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko

Video: TBL@NYR: Kakko banks in PPG off defender

Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Leads all NHL rookies in assists and is first among rookie defensemen with 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 14 games for the Avalanche (8-4-2).

2. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Leads all rookie defensemen with eight takeaways in 13 games. Hughes has seven assists and has averaged 17:38 of ice time in his past six games for the Canucks (9-3-2).

3. Ilya Mikheyev, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: The undrafted 25-year-old is playing alongside center Alexander Kerfoot and right wing Mitchell Marner in his first season in North America for the Maple Leafs (7-5-3). Mikheyev (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) is tied with Makar for the rookie scoring lead with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) and leads all rookies in shots on goal (38) in 15 games despite barely receiving any power-play time. Toronto controls 51.80 percent of all shots attempted when Mikheyev is on the ice.

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