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Rookie Watch: Top 2016 Draft performers

Fox of Rangers, Fabbro of Predators among best first-year players

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 top five NHL rookies selected in the 2016 NHL Draft:


1. Adam Fox, D, New York Rangers: The right-hand shot has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in his past 12 games and ranks third among NHL rookie defensemen with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) this season. Fox is also first among NHL rookies chosen in the 2016 NHL Draft with 12 power-play points (one goal, 11 assists), three game-winning goals, 39 takeaways and 89 shots on goal, and second with 58 blocked shots in 50 games. Selected by the Calgary Flames in the third round (No. 66), Fox is one of only two Rangers rookie defensemen to score at least 28 points in his first 50 games of a season since 1979-80 (Brian Leetch, 1988-89).

"Pressure and expectations; it all kind of takes care of itself if you play well," Fox said. "So, for me, it's just focusing on that."

Video: NYI@NYR: Fox sneaks goal through from tough angle


2. Dante Fabbro, D, Nashville Predators: The No. 17 pick has nine points (four goals, five assists) and 66 shots on goal in 46 games. The 21-year-old ranks first among rookies drafted in 2016 in blocked shots (64) and first in minor penalties drawn (14). Fabbro is second in average ice time (19:26) and fourth in even-strength goals (three) among rookies drafted in 2016.

"Dante moves well, he's a good skater, has good stick skills and hockey smarts," Predators coach John Hynes said. "For a rookie, he's played very well for us. He's highly competitive but uses his smarts and skills to an advantage. I've been impressed."

Video: NSH@DAL: Fabbro blasts one-time PPG from the circle


3. Ryan Lindgren, D, New York Rangers: Lindgren, who turns 22 on Feb. 11, leads all NHL rookies in the 2016 draft class with 58 hits, ranks fourth with 43 blocked shots, and is tied for fourth with Sam Steel of the Anaheim Ducks with 18 takeaways. A second-round pick (No. 49) by the Boston Bruins and traded to the Rangers on March 22, 2018, Lindgren has nine points (one goal, eight assists) and a plus-6 rating while averaging 15:38 in ice time in 40 games. He has played alongside Fox for most of the season but recently was given a shutdown role beside Jacob Trouba. 

"The thing I've really liked about Lindgren, which I think has surprised all of us, is his ability with the puck and how he's been able to get us out of our end," said Rangers coach David Quinn.


4. Sam Steel, F, Anaheim Ducks: Steel, who turns 22 today, is tied for second with Alex Nylander of the Chicago Blackhawks among NHL rookies chosen in the 2016 draft with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 47 games. He is first among forwards in face-off wins (287), face-off winning percentage (52.1 percent), and second in power-play points (seven) and fourth in takeaways (18). Steel, selected No. 30, averages 15:58 in ice time, which is first among rookie forwards chosen in the 2016 draft.


5. Alex Nylander, F, Chicago Blackhawks: Nylander, acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Henri Jokiharju on July 9, ranks first among rookies chosen in the 2016 draft with six even-strength goals and is second in even-strength points (15). Selected by the Sabres with the No. 8 pick, he ranks second with 67 shots on goal and 20 takeaways in 48 games.


Head to Head comparison
(Games through Feb. 2)

The last time a defenseman led NHL rookies in scoring was 1988-89 when Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers had 71 points (23 goals, 48 assists) in 68 games. This season, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar could very well finish Nos. 1-2 in the rookie scoring race.


Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks

Games: 52

G-A-Pts: 8-31-39

Shots on goal: 95

Avg. ice time: 21:32

Telling stat: He has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) and eight primary assists on the power play.

Video: VAN@NYI: Hughes wins it in overtime for Canucks


Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche

Games: 42

G-A-Pts: 11-26-37

Shots on goal: 87

Avg. ice time: 20:40

Telling stat: He has 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) and seven primary assists on the power play.

Video: STL@COL: Makar scores to set franchise rookie mark


Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar leads all NHL rookies in points-per game (0.88) and game-winning goals (four) and is second with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 42 games.

2. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Hughes is first among NHL rookies with 39 points (eight goals, 31 assists) and 18 power-play points (three goals, 15 assists) in 52 games. Hughes scored two goals in a victory at the New York Islanders on Saturday, including his first in overtime, for the first multigoal game of his NHL career.

3. Dominik Kubalik, F, Chicago Blackhawks: The 24-year-old is fifth among NHL rookies with 32 points (21 goals, 11 assists) and first with 19 even-strength goals in 50 games. Kubalik had at least one point in eight of 10 matches in January and was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month. He led all NHL rookies with 10 goals and 14 points in 10 January games.

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