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Rookie Watch: Necas among those who played in World Juniors

Hurricanes forward on list of first-year players that includes Hughes brothers

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 six NHL rookies who represented their country in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship:

1 - Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: The 20-year-old was a key cog along the blue line for the United States in the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2018 and 2019. Hughes had two assists in seven games as alternate captain at the 2019 WJC, helping the U.S. to a second-place finish. He had three assists in seven games at the 2018 WJC when the U.S. finished third. Hughes ranks third among NHL rookies this season with 26 points (two goals, 24 assists) and is first in average ice time (21:18) in 36 games.

Video: STL@VAN: Hughes snipes goal from the blue line

2 - Martin Necas, F, Carolina Hurricanes: Necas played in three straight World Junior Championship tournaments, scoring four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games while captain of seventh-place Czech Republic in 2019. He had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in seven games in the 2018 WJC when the Czech Republic finished fourth and three points (one goal, two assists) in five games at the 2017 WJC during a sixth-place finish. Necas is tied with Nick Suzuki (Montreal Canadiens) and Adam Fox (New York Rangers) for fifth among NHL rookies with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) and ranks top-10 in shooting percentage (13.6) in 32 games.

3 - Nick Suzuki, F, Montreal Canadiens: The 20-year-old had three assists in five games for sixth-place Canada at the 2019 WJC. Suzuki is tied for fifth among NHL rookies with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) and is averaging 14:42 of ice time in 36 games. The Canadiens control 52.3 percent of all shots attempted with Suzuki on the ice at 5-on-5. 

Video: MTL@CGY: Suzuki roofs redirection to knot the score

4 - Jack Hughes, F, New Jersey Devils: Hughes had four assists in four games for the United States in the 2019 WJC. The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft missed three games of the tournament with an undisclosed injury. He is tied for 13th among NHL rookies with 13 points (four goals, nine assists), is tied for fifth in shots on goal (65) and is first in takeaways per 60 minutes (2.81). 

5 - Kaapo Kakko, F, New York Rangers: The 18-year-old had five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games for first-place Finland at the 2019 WJC; he scored with 1:26 remaining in the third period to give Finland a 3-2 win against the United States in the final. Kakko helped his country to a first-place finish at the 2018 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, the 2019 WJC and the 2019 IIHF World Championship over a 13-month span (April 2018 to May 2019), becoming the first player in history to place first at the IIHF World Championship in his U-18 season. He is tied for 10th among NHL rookies with 14 points (six goals, eight assists), is tied for second with Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) with 19 power-play shots on goal and ranks sixth in takeaways per 60 minutes (2.52).

Video: PIT@NYR: Kakko tips home the overtime winner

6 - Cody Glass, F, Vegas Golden Knights: Glass had six points (two goals, four assists) in five games for Canada at the 2019 WJC. He has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) and 42 shots on goal in 32 games for the Golden Knights and ranked among the top 15 rookies in takeaways per 60 minutes entering Sunday (2.19).


Head to Head comparison

(Games through Dec. 22)

Kakko, who did not play Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks because of a lower-body injury, has gone 16 games without a goal. He has six assists and 28 shots on goal in that span, when he averaged 15:53 of ice time. Hughes has gone 18 games without a goal. He has four assists and 37 shots on goal in that span, when he averaged 16:08 of ice time.


Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

Games: 32

G-A-Pts: 4-9-13

Shots on goal: 65

Avg. ice time: 16:00

Telling stat: He ranks second in average ice time among rookie forwards.

Quotable: "[Hughes] can skate and anyone that can skate gives himself a chance and if he can keep his pace, he'll find ways to create offense. The hard part for young players in this league is just figuring out the 200-foot game but he'll figure that out in time. You don't become No. 1 in the world ever without being able to figure that out." -- Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith


Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Games: 32

G-A-Pts: 6-8-14

Shots on goal: 58

Avg. ice time: 15:36

Telling stat: He ranks eighth among NHL rookies in power-play points per 60 minutes (5.56).

Quotable: "I think he's doing really well. Having two teenagers, I can relate to how hard it must be to walk into the best league in the world and make an impact. I think the coaches have done a really good job with him, I think his teammates have done a really good job with bringing him along, helping him. Really encouraged by where it's going, and his future." -- Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton


Morreale's Calder Trophy front-runners

1 - Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar has missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury but ranks first among NHL rookie defenseman with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 29 games. He wore a non-contact jersey during the morning skate on Saturday and could return to the lineup this week.

2 - Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalos Sabres: Olofsson is first among rookies with 16 goals and 34 points, nine power-play goals and 92 shots on goal in 37 games. He has eight points (four goals, four assists) and has averaged 20:50 of ice time in a six-game point streak.

3 - Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Ranks third among rookies with 26 points (two goals, 24 assists), is first in average ice time (21:18) and is tied with Olofsson in power-play points (14) in 36 games.

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