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Top 12 rookies to watch this season

Hischier, Patrick, McAvoy among those who could vie for Calder Trophy

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Having good, young talent capable of stepping into an NHL lineup and making immediate contributions is no longer an anomaly.

"[Young players] are so much more ready than they were 10 or 15 years ago in terms of training, skill development and nutrition," New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero said. "These kids are so far ahead of where they were, and that's why they're able to play at 18 or 19 years old. People say it's because of the NHL salary cap that forces teams to use younger players today, but really, if you're good, you're good."

Though there may not be a player the caliber of Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) and Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets), or 2017 Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs), there's plenty of talent across the board.

Here are 12 rookies to keep an eye on this season (listed alphabetically):


Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks

Boeser (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) signed a three-year, entry-level contract after his sophomore season at the University of North Dakota and scored in his NHL debut, a 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on March 26. Boeser, 20, has deceptive speed and is a good finisher who could open the season on either of Vancouver's two top lines.

Video: VGK@VAN: Boeser cashes in off turnover with wrister


Kyle Connor, LW, Winnipeg Jets

Connor, 20, possesses great speed and scoring ability. The left wing (6-1, 182) began last season with the Jets but was sent to Manitoba of the American Hockey League, where he had 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games.


Alex DeBrincat, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

DeBrincat (5-7, 165) appears ready for the next phase of his career after exceeding 100 points each of his three seasons with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, where he had 332 points (167 goals, 165 assists) in 191 games. The 19-year-old led the Traverse City Prospects Tournament with five goals and 17 shots on goal, and scored twice in a 3-2 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the championship game.


Joel Eriksson Ek, C/LW, Minnesota Wild

Eriksson Ek (6-2, 197) should enter the season as Minnesota's third-line center after Erik Haula was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. Eriksson Ek has good vision and an excellent shot; he had seven points (three goals, four assists) in 15 games for the Wild last season. The 20-year-old led them with four points (two goals, two assists) in four games in Traverse City.

Video: OTT@MIN: Eriksson Ek scores off Coyle's smooth feed


Nico Hischier, C, New Jersey Devils

Hischier (6-1, 176) impressed at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo with his speed, intelligence and 200-foot game. The 18-year-old is very cognizant of his defensive-zone responsibilities and likely will begin the season as the Devils' first- or second-line center. Hischier, chosen No. 1 in the 2017 NHL Draft, should generate plenty of scoring opportunities if given the chance to skate on the top line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri.

Video: WSH@NJD: Hischier nets beautiful backhand goal


Julius Honka, D, Dallas Stars

After three seasons in the American Hockey League, Honka (5-11, 186) is ready for full-time NHL duty. He's an offensive-minded defenseman, extremely effective at moving the puck on the transition, and will create scoring chances. Honka, 21, will be given extensive time on the power play and is a top option for overtime.


Joshua Ho-Sang, RW, New York Islanders

Ho-Sang (6-0, 173) had 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 50 games for Bridgeport (AHL) before contributing 10 points (four goals, six assists) and averaging 16:27 of ice time in 21 games for the Islanders last season. A solid skater and playmaker, Ho-Sang, 21, can play all three forward positions but most likely will begin this season at right wing on a line with Brock Nelson and Andrew Ladd. He might see time on the power play with John Tavares and Jordan Eberle.


Tyson Jost, C, Colorado Avalanche

Jost (5-11, 191) spent two months in Colorado after last season to work with Avalanche strength coach Casey Bond. He's a fast, relentless, highly skilled forward who sees the ice well. Jost, 19, should settle in as the third-line center to begin the season. He had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 33 games at the University of North Dakota last season.

Video: MIN@COL: Jost scores first NHL goal, grandpa tears up

Clayton Keller, C/LW, Arizona Coyotes

Keller (5-10, 168) might be the fastest skater of the 2017-18 rookie class. The 19-year-old will push for a top-six role at left wing. He won the Tim Taylor Award as the most outstanding freshman in NCAA Division I men's hockey after scoring 45 points (21 goals, 24 assists) in 31 games at Boston University last season.


Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston Bruins

Called into NHL duty for the Bruins' six-game loss to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference First Round last season, the 19-year-old defenseman impressed with three assists, 12 hits and nine blocked shots, and averaged 26:11 of ice time on the top pair with captain Zdeno Chara. McAvoy (6-0, 208), who has smarts, vision and a good shot, played two seasons at Boston University before signing his entry-level contract April 10.


Nolan Patrick, C, Philadelphia Flyers

Patrick, 19, said he's feeling 100 percent after surgery June 13 to repair a sports hernia on his left side that affected him while playing with Brandon of the Western Hockey League last season. It was missed when he had a similar procedure on his right side following the 2016 WHL playoffs. Patrick (6-2, 198), the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, is a strong two-way center with smarts and a deft scoring touch.


Mikhail Sergachev, D, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 19-year-old left-handed shot, acquired in the trade that sent forward Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens on June 15, was returned to Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League after four games with Montreal last season and helped Windsor win the Memorial Cup. Sergachev (6-3, 215) is a smooth, powerful skater with a strong, accurate shot.

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