Two seasons ago Filip Forsberg was impressing NHL scouts with regularity in his native Sweden.
At the time, he was regarded as the top European skater eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft because he had a nose for the net, better-than-average speed and played an effective two-way game. Goran Stubb, the NHL Director of European Scouting, compared him to Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry because in addition to sacrificing himself to make the big play, he had a knack for scoring the big goal.
"He started playing with men at an early age and when you do that it forces you to mature earlier and forces you to start playing the professional game right away," Colorado Avalanche captain and fellow Swede Gabriel Landeskog said. "I think it's probably helped him in the transition coming over here and having played so many years of professional hockey back home. I played with him on a few teams back home and he's a skilled player, very talented."
Forsberg was taken in the first round (No. 11) of the 2012 draft by the Washington Capitals, who would ultimately trade him to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in March 2013.
First-year Predators coach Peter Laviolette is now reaping the rewards.
The native of Ostervala, Sweden, opened the season alongside Derek Roy and Craig Smith, but began to excel once moved with Mike Ribeiro and James Neal. Truth is, Forsberg has put the exclamation point on what is arguably one of the top lines in the NHL.
With nine goals and 22 points in 21 games, Forsberg also seems to be a solid choice for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year at this stage. He leads all rookies in assists, points, power-play points, plus-minus rating and shots on goal, and leads all forwards in average ice time (17:06).
Forsberg, who was No. 12 on the NHL.com Top 60 prospects ranking, is NHL.com's pick to capture the Calder Trophy at the quarter pole.
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers -- The top pick in the 2014 draft, No. 6 on NHL.com's Top 60 prospects ranking, has been everything as advertised and maybe more. Ekblad, usually paired with veteran Willie Mitchell, averages 22:13 of ice time, leads all first-year defensemen in points and is second in shots on goal. He packs a big shot and has been effective breaking out in transition. He has also exhibited plenty of grit, placing among the top three rookie defensemen in hits and blocked shots.
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames -- Some suggested Gaudreau's 5-foot-9, 150-pound frame would limit him from excelling as he did at Boston College when he earned the 2014 Hobey Baker Award after leading the nation in goals, assists and points. He has been playing left wing on the second line with center Markus Granlund and right wing Jiri Hudler this season and has prospered, earning top-six minutes and gaining valuable time on the power play. He ranks in the top three among first-year NHL players in assists, points and steals as the prototypical playmaker. Gaudreau's game is with the puck; being creative in providing teammates with great opportunities. He is No. 26 on NHL.com's Top 60 prospects ranking.
Also in the mix: Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings; Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils; Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals