The last several weeks have seen quite an improvement in the hundred million dollar man, and his team. They are the hottest team in hockey right now and he’s having a respectable season all of a sudden. Kovalchuck enters the day with a line of 21-21-41 -20. The last the biggest area of improvement.
On the blueline we find Kevin Shattenkirk with a new zip code and tied for points with Cam Fowler. Just behind the two in points andahead of them in +/- is das wundermouth PK Subban. Not to be overlooked is the Washington Capitals John Carlson. The breakdown:
- Shattenkirk, is playing as much as 2:30 minutes less a night than the three guys immediately behind him in scoring, has also played five less games than Fowler who has the same number of points, and seven less than Subban.
- Fowler, while his -22 is startling, it should be noted over 55% of his points have come on the powerplay. May or may not be living up to his reputation for softeness with just 16 penalty minutes. A lot of people would call that disciplined.
- Subban, with more than 50 more shots on goal than the second active shooter among rookie defensemen it appears Subban swings his stick almost as often as his jaw. Unlike Fowler and Shattenkirk, Subban also sees significant penalty kill time with over 2 minutes a night on average.
- Carlson is clearly the most complete player of all the rookie defensemen. He plays in all situations, has a team leading +/- and is second to only the Bruins defensive stalwart Adam McQuaid in +/- for rookie blueliners. Useless fact: While he’s got less points on the road, his +/- is better away from home.
Forwards are an increasingly more interesting story. Some guys have bounced in and out of the statistical leaders, some have fought their way in, and one or two have been at or near the top all season. Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks and Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes look to take the race for the top of the heap from coast to coast. Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand, and Taylor Hall have worked their way to the top of the pile, while Derek Stepen and Tyler Ennis have bounced in and out of the top tier.
- Ennis has earned his minutes on a weak Sabres squad with lots of speed and a willingness to shoot the puck.
- Stepan is very, very quietly third in scoring on his team. That might be a more impressive stat if his team, the New York Rangers wasn’t 22nd in goals for. Their 25th ranked powerplay isn’t helping his stats either.
- Hall hit the middle of the season and hit his stride, while third in scoring he is also playing more minutes than any other rookie forward.
- Grabner is the sleeper for post season recognition. His speed is absurd, and the All Star weekend was something of a coming out party for him. On a team with a collective -32 his +9 is eye opening. Of his 25 goals, 17 have come since 1/1. Is second to Marchand in rookie shorthanded goals.
- Couture, lots of goals from lots of shots on goals, with lots of time on ice would be less impressive if he weren’t maintaining a high +/- on a team in the bottom half of the NHL for goal differential.
- Marchand, leads all rookies in shorthanded goals and points, leads all rookies in +/-, leads all the scoring leaders in short handed time on ice, has more hits than any of the top scorers is the most complete player of all the rookie forwards.
- Skinner. Mr Consistent, has been the scoring leader for most of the season, is producing more points per minute than other top rookies. Has an impressive take away to turnover ratio.
Once clear as day, the rookie goalie landscape has been turned over several times. Injuries, trades, the retrn of other goalies and cold spells have made this an interesting position to watch, but assured us the Calder Trophy winner won’t be coming from the crease unless something extraordinary happens over the next twenty games.
- James Riemer hasn’t been in the NHL long, but he’s making it damned hard to ignore him. In just 17 games played he’s 1 win short of team leader J.S. Giguere’s win total, and has a 2.24 GAA and .931 Sv% on a team that’s not worth much.
- Sergei Bobrovsky, is still hanging around the top of the pack despite being shuffled into the background in Flyer country. With more wins than any other rookie a 2.46 GAA and a .918 Sv% you can’t complain about much of his game and not sound like a moron.
- Corey Crawford is the show stopper though, he’s just a couple wins behind Bobrovsky, with a slightly better Sv% at .923 and a much better GAA at 2.11, he leads rookies in both and does it behind a much weaker defense than Bobrovsky. He might just manage to drag his team into the playoffs too.
In no particular order the five best rookies are:
Crawford, Skinner, Marchand, Carlson, and Subban.