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Rookie Watch: Top U.S.-born performers

Hughes of Canucks, Fox of Rangers 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, in tribute to those top 2020 NHL Draft-eligible players participating in the USA Hockey BioSteel All-American Top Prospects Game in Plymouth, Michigan, on Monday, here are the top six United States-born NHL rookies:


1. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Hughes leads all U.S.-born NHL rookies with 34 points (five goals, 29 assists), 18 power-play points (three goals, 15 assists), 89 shots on goal, and in average ice time (21:36) in 48 games. He is a gifted puck mover and is becoming quite the force as quarterback on the top power-play unit. The Canucks control 53.6 percent of all shots attempted when Hughes is on the ice at 5-on-5. They control 56.4 percent when trailing in a game and in need of an offensive push.

Born in Orlando, Florida, Hughes already ranks third on the Canucks all-time scoring list for rookie defensemen (34 points). Dale Tallon is the Canucks leader with 56 points (14 goals, 42 assists) in 78 games in 1970-71, and Jocelyn Guevremont is second with 51 points (13 goals, 38 assists) in 75 games in 1971-72.


2. Adam Fox, D, New York Rangers: The right-hand shot ranks second among U.S.-born NHL rookies with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists), 11 power-play points (one goal, 10 assists) and 84 shots on goal in 47 games. He leads U.S.-born rookies with 39 takeaways and is third with 56 blocked shots. The Jericho, New York, native has a point in three of his past six games (one goal, three assists) and in five of the past nine (one goal, eight assists).

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


3. John Marino, D, Pittsburgh Penguins: A sixth-round pick (No. 154) in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers and traded to the Penguins for a conditional pick in the 2021 NHL Draft on July 26, 2019, the 22-year-old ranks third among U.S.-born NHL rookies with 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) in 47 games. The North Easton, Massachusetts, native ranks second with 65 blocked shots and fifth with 63 hits.


4. Jack Hughes, F, New Jersey Devils: The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, born in Orlando, is fourth among U.S.-born NHL rookies with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) and tied with older brother Quinn Hughes for the lead with three power-play goals. Jack Hughes leads all U.S.-born rookie forwards in average ice time (15:44) and is third in takeaways (28) in 40 games.

Video: NJD@OTT: Hughes pots breakaway for OT winner


5. Blake Lizotte, F, Los Angeles Kings: The 21-year-old center from Lindstrom, Minnesota, signed a three-year, entry-level contract on April 2 after two seasons at St. Cloud State University of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He ranks fifth among U.S.-born NHL rookies with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists), is first with 15 penalties drawn and seventh in takeaways (16) in 45 games. The native of Lindstrom, Minnesota, averages 13:43 in ice time.


6. Connor Clifton, D, Boston Bruins: The Matawan, New Jersey, native was a fifth-round selection (No. 133) by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2013 NHL Draft but opted for free agency after four seasons with Quinnipiac University and signed an American Hockey League contract with the Bruins on Aug. 16, 2017. The 24-year-old has two goals and plus-4 rating this season. He is tied for first among all U.S.-born rookies with Kings defenseman Matt Roy in hits (85), is sixth with 32 blocked shots and ninth with 12 takeaways in 30 games. Clifton, who has missed the past 10 games with an upper-body injury, signed a three-year contract extension that will begin after this season on July 1, 2019.

Video: BOS@NJD: Clifton nets slap shot from the point


Head to Head comparison
(Games through Jan. 19)

It appears the race for the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year could be between defensemen Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche down the stretch. The focus of our head-to-head comparison for at least the remainder of this month will highlight their efforts on their respective clubs.

Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks

Games: 48

G-A-Pts: 5-29-34

Shots on goal: 89

Avg. ice time: 21:36

Telling stat: He leads all NHL rookies with 18 power-play points (three goals, 15 assists).

Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche

Games: 40

G-A-Pts: 11-24-35

Shots on goal: 84

Avg. ice time: 20:36

Telling stat: He leads all NHL rookies with four game-winning goals.  

Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar's 11 goals set the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques record for most in a single season by a rookie defenseman, passing John-Michael Liles (10 goals, 24 assists, in 79 games) in 2003-04. He needs three points to set the Avalanche/Nordiques record by a rookie defenseman, established by Quebec's Bruce Bell (37 points in 75 games) in 1984-85.

2. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: One of four players to win the final roster spots for the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend as a result of voting in the 2020 NHL All-Star Last Men In presented by adidas, Hughes ranks third among NHL rookies with 34 points and first in average ice time (21:36) in 48 games. 

3. Victor Olofsson, F, Buffalos Sabres: Olofsson has missed his past seven games with a lower-body injury but remains tied with Makar for the rookie scoring lead with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) and leads all rookies with nine power-play goals in 42 games.

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