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Rookie watch: Hughes top performer in Pacific Division

Canucks defenseman excelling on power play, has edge on Bear, Glass

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 rookies in the Pacific Division:

1. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: The 20-year-old leads all rookies in the Pacific Division in assists (16), points (18) and power-play points (13) in 23 games. Hughes ranks second among all NHL rookies in average ice time (20:17) and the Canucks control 55.78 percent of all shots attempted when he's on the ice.

"His willingness to shoot the puck more has made him more effective, especially on the power play," said younger brother and New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes. "His shot has come a long way and that has made him more of a threat up top and his work ethic is something that's been engrained in him for a while."

Video: LAK@VAN: Hughes blasts PPG home for first career goal

2. Ethan Bear, D, Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers' fifth-round pick (No. 124) in the 2015 NHL Draft leads all NHL rookies in average ice time (21:05) and has eight points (four goals, four assists) and 36 shots on goal in 26 games. He ranks fourth on the Oilers with 36 blocked shots.

"Ethan Bear has so much poise out there even though he hasn't played that many games in the big Leagues," Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom said. "I've been very impressed in how he manages the game and how he plays; it's not easy."

3. Cody Glass, F, Vegas Golden Knights: Glass scored the first multipoint game (one goal, one assist) of his NHL career in a 4-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19 and has nine points (four goals, five assists) and five power-play points in 25 games. He averages 14:04 in ice time and ranks second in the division with 38 shots on goal.

"Cody is just developing every game, getting better every game, getting stronger," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "But the biggest thing is for those young kids is the confidence level. His confidence is good, and he looks like a dangerous player every time he's on the ice."

Video: TOR@VGK: Glass scores PPG in 2nd period

4. Sam Steel, F, Anaheim Ducks: The 21-year-old is tied with Glass for second among division scorers with nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 20 games, is first among division forwards in ice time (15:34) and second in blocked shots (eight).

"He's doing a lot of little things well right now and I think he fully understands this League is a different beast than anything that he's had to go through before," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. "The one thing I'll say is when you give him something, he tries to implement it right away. I think he's his best teacher. He's really invested in his career and I know he takes great pride in the details."

5. Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks: The 23-year-old, selected in the second round (No. 36) of the 2014 NHL Draft, ranks second among all rookie goalies in saves (219) and shots against (239). He's 5-2-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in three matches for the Canucks. 

6. Blake Lizotte, F, Los Angeles Kings: The 21-year-old center 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 has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 23 games while averaging 13:27 in ice time.

Video: VGK@LAK: Lizotte taps home a shorthanded goal


Head to Head comparison

Hughes has one assist in his past eight games, but New Jersey controls 52.30 of all shots attempted when he's been on the ice over that span. 

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils

Games: 22

G-A-Pts: 4-6-10

Shots on goal: 44

Avg. ice time: 16:03

Telling stat: He leads all rookies in takeaways (19) and face-offs taken (250). 

Quotable: "I felt the first 20 games of the season were good. The points aren't coming the way I'd like, but that comes with bounces and more team success, too. When we start winning, we'll start to get going offensively, and right now we're battling as a group, trying to find wins. I have to keep playing, keep going." -- Jack Hughes

Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Games: 19

G-A-Pts: 6-4-10

Shots on goal: 35

Avg. ice time: 15:16

Telling stat: Has six points (two goals, four assists) and 11 shots on goal on the power play.

Quotable: "[Kakko] is smarter than 99 percent of young, skilled hockey players that I have ever played with. He has figured out already, which takes a lot of guys five or six years, that simplicity can lead to offense. It's pretty incredible to see and he is fun to play with." -- Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux

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


Morreale's Calder Trophy frontrunners

1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Makar, who leads all rookies in scoring with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 23 games, factored in on five consecutive Colorado goals in a 5-4 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 16 to become the sixth rookie defenseman in NHL history to assist on five consecutive team goals, joining Willie Huber (Detroit Red Wings; Feb. 18-25, 1979), Gary Suter (Calgary Flames; April 4, 1986), Ryan Whitney (Pittsburgh Penguins; Nov. 3-7, 2005), Matt Carle (San Jose Sharks; Oct. 13-21, 2006) and Alexandre Picard (Philadelphia Flyers; Feb. 1-8, 2007).

2. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: Ranks second among all rookies with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) and first with 13 power-play points (one goal, 12 assists). 

3. Martin Necas, F, Carolina Hurricanes: Necas has six points (three goals, three assists) in his past six games and is fourth in rookie scoring with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists). 

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