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Rookie watch: Hughes, Makar top defensemen 22 or younger

First-year players for Canucks, Avalanche, among scoring leaders at position

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, a look at the leaders in scoring among NHL rookie defensemen ages 22 or younger:

1. Quinn Hughes (20 years, 147 days), Vancouver Canucks: The No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft leads NHL rookies with 52 points (eight goals, 44 assists), 25 power-play points, 12 primary assists on the power play and ranks second in shots on goal (124) and average ice time (21:46). Hughes was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for February after leading first-year players with 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 13 games. 

"I haven't surprised myself because I thought I would do really well," Hughes said. "I've been doing this my whole life so why would I be surprised? At the same time, you think you're going to do well, but you never know how things are going to go. So I'm humbled by that."

Video: CGY@VAN: Pearson nets Hughes' feed to open scoring


2. Cale Makar (21 years, 131 days), Colorado Avalanche: The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft is second among NHL rookies with 47 points (12 goals, 35 assists) in 56 games. Makar, who missed his past three games with an upper-body injury prior to Sunday, is averaging 21:00 of ice time on the top defenseman pairing with Ryan Graves

"The way I see it, individual accolades will come with team success, so the further we go, everybody's going to do better individually," Makar said. "That's the mindset everyone has and why we've been successful thus far." 

Video: COL@OTT: Makar cranks home heavy one-timer for PPG 


3. Adam Fox (22 years, 21 days), New York Rangers: If not for Hughes and Makar, Fox might be in top contention for the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. He's plus-19 to lead rookie defensemen, third with 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists), first with 56 takeaways and fourth with 90 blocked shots in 68 games. He's five takeaways from passing John Carlson of the Washington Capitals (60 in 2010-11) for most in a season by an NHL rookie defenseman and since the NHL began tracking the statistic in 2005-06. Fox averages 18:51 in ice time for the Rangers, who are the third-youngest team in the NHL (25 years, 329 days) entering Sunday.

"People talk about all these rookie of the year candidates and I don't hear (Fox's) name enough," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "Because I don't care what the stats are, you'd be hard-pressed to find a rookie as good as this guy is in the National Hockey League."

Video: NYR@MTL: Fox nets wrister through screen in front 


4. John Marino (22 years, 293 days), Pittsburgh Penguins: A sixth-round pick (No. 154) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft, Marino was traded to the Penguins by the Oilers by on July 26, 2019 for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He's been invaluable in a top-four role and is fourth among rookie defensemen with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) and third with 37 takeaways while averaging 20:19 of ice time in 55 games.

"Marino's big and strong, he can really skate, defends well, has a good stick, and he is brave," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's willing to take hits to make plays. He can hang onto the puck, take a hit and make a subtle pass, a four-foot pass that helps us get out of our end clean with possession."

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


5. Ethan Bear (22 years, 257 days), Edmonton Oilers: Chosen in the fifth round (No. 124) of the 2015 NHL Draft, Bear is fifth among NHL rookie defensemen with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists), first with 101 blocked shots and second with 43 takeaways. He leads first-year players at the position in average ice time (21:50) in a top-pair role with Darnell Nurse.

"I worked in the summer to get to where I am today," Bear said. "A couple of years before, I played 18 games, a cup of coffee you could say, and proved that I could play in this league and it was just a matter of me growing up and doing the things I needed to be here full time."


Head to Head comparison
(Games through March 7)

Quinn Hughes of the Canucks has 44 assists, three more from tying Phil Housley (1982-83) for the eighth-highest assist total (47) in a season by any rookie defenseman in NHL history. Ray Bourque (48 assists in 1979-80) and Brian Leetch (48 in 1988-89) are tied for sixth and Nicklas Lidstrom (49 in 1991-92) is fifth. Larry Murphy (60 in 1980-81) is first.


Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks

Games: 67

G-A-Pts: 8-44-52

Shots on goal: 124

Avg. ice time: 21:46

Telling stat: He has 27 even-strength points (five goals, 22 assists).


Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche

Games: 56

G-A-Pts: 12-35-47

Shots on goal: 119

Avg. ice time: 21:00

Telling stat: He has 30 even-strength points (eight goals, 22 assists).


Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: He leads NHL rookies in points per game (0.84) and rookie defensemen in goals (12), power-play goals (four) and even-strength goals (eight). 

2. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: He set a Canucks record for most assists (44) by a rookie, passing the previous mark of 42 set by defenseman Dale Tallon (42 assists in 1970-71). 

3. Dominik Kubalik, F, Chicago Blackhawks: He's the third rookie in Blackhawks history (George Hay on Feb. 19, 1927 and Ryan Hartman on Jan. 8, 2017) with a hat trick in one period during a 5-2 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 27. Kubalik leads NHL rookies with 29 goals and 37 even-strength points (25 goals, 12 assists) and is third with 45 points in 67 games.

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