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Rookie Watch: Hughes, Fox among best in Metropolitan Division

Devils center, Rangers defenseman head list of first-year players that includes Kakko, Necas

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.

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

1- Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils: The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft leads Metropolitan Division rookies in power-play goals (three) and takeaways (22), and is first among division forwards in shots on goal (45) and average ice time (16:02).

"I think the reason he has the puck more on his stick is because he's checking better and playing without the puck better, he's winning more puck battles, and that's allowed him to be able to play with the puck more than just getting it in transitional situations," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's getting the pucks, stripping pucks, tracking pucks. He has the puck more because his game is getting better and better with and without the puck."

Video: NJD@CGY: Hughes makes pretty move for terrific goal


2- Adam Fox, D, New York Rangers: The right-hand shot ranks first among rookie defensemen in the division with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 25 games. Fox scored the deciding goal in a 4-0 win at the Devils on Saturday to become the third rookie defenseman in Rangers history to score multiple winning goals over a span of three team games, joining Stan Brown (Jan. 1-6, 1927) and Ron Greschner (Jan. 1-5, 1975).

Video: NYR@NJD: Fox finishes feed from Kakko on power play

"I knew his strengths were going to be able to be influential at this level," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "I didn't know to what degree, but I knew he was going to be a good player at this level, he was going to be a smart player who was going to generate some offense and get us out of our end. When you watched him in college (Harvard University) you just knew this kid had that special ability that was going to translate."


3- Kaapo Kakko, F, New York Rangers: The No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft leads division rookies with seven power-play points (two goals, five assists) and 13 power-play shots, and ranks second with a shooting percentage of 14.6 percent.

"I think he can play with anybody," Quinn said. "He's got that type of skill set. When he's at the right mindset, playing at a pace and having a little bit of physicality to his game, he's productive because he is a big kid. He can create some space for himself physically, and that's something that he's going to have to do more often."


4- Martin Necas, F, Carolina Hurricanes: The right-hand shot leads division rookies with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) and 14 even-strength points (four goals, 10 assists) in 26 games. The Hurricanes control 53.35 of all shots attempted at even strength with Necas on the ice, tops among division rookies with at least nine games played.


5- John Marino, D, Pittsburgh Penguins: Marino was acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on July 26 and signed a two-year, entry-level contract Aug. 8 after playing three seasons at Harvard. He has 11 points (two goals, nine assists), leads division rookies in average ice time (19:20) and is second in blocked shots (29) in 25 games. He had seven points (one goal, six assists) in a six-game point streak (Nov. 16-27), the longest among NHL rookies this season.

Video: NJD@PIT: Marino hammers home Penguins fourth


6- Ilya Samsonov, G, Washington Capitals: The No. 22 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft is 6-2-0 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in nine games (eight starts) this season. He could be the Capitals' No. 1 goalie next season with Braden Holtby due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.


Head-to-head comparison

(Games through Dec. 1)

Hughes and Kakko are tied for the most points by 18-year-old players in the League. Hughes sustained a lower-body injury at the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and missed an NHL game for the first time, a 4-0 loss against the Rangers on Saturday.


Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

Games: 24

G-A-Pts: 4-7-11

Shots on goal: 45

Avg. ice time: 16:02

Telling stat: He ranks sixth with 1.88 shots per game among rookies with at least five games played.

Quotable: "The more often you are able to play with the puck, then when you get it, comes to your puck decisions and ability to hold onto it and read the ice, manage pressure. Those are things [Hughes] does really well and things that have gotten better for him over the course of the season and adjusting to the League." -- Devils coach John Hynes


Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Games: 23

G-A-Pts: 6-5-11

Shots on goal: 41

Avg. ice time: 15:09

Telling stat: Has six points (three goals, three assists) in his past nine games and nine points (five goals, four assists) in his past 14.

Quotable: "He works so hard, it's not easy coming over here as an 18-year-old and not speaking the language. When I was 18, I was struggling to play college hockey. I was a little homesick and I was 45 minutes away from home." -- Rangers forward Chris Kreider


Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1- Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar leads NHL rookies in scoring with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists), 1.00 points per game, six even-strength goals and three game-winning goals in 26 games. He is tied for third in takeaways (19) with Fox and tied for fifth in blocked shots (29) with Marino.

2- Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Hughes ranks second among NHL rookies with 22 points (two goals, 20 assists) and first with 13 power-play points (one goal, 12 assists) in 26 games.

3- Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalo Sabres: Olofsson leads NHL rookies with 10 goals and six power-play goals and is first in shots per game (2.52) among rookies with at least eight games.

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