It’s September 1st.

Some teams are still trying to destroy their futures. The NHL, like any ecosystem is a delicate entity. There are many moving parts, and the ratio of one part to another will impact things two or three steps removed from either. You need players on the rise, players at their peak, and ones who are on the decline. They all contribute just as moths, and blue jays, and red tailed hawks all play their parts.

Marcus Foligno is a great example of a middle six forward who gives much, and is well regarded. The Chuck Fletcher thought it was more important to sign aging Penguins discard Matt Cullen, than to secure the return for trading Scandella. CapFriendly and others currently project Landon Ferraro and Joel Eriksson Ek as making the roster, with either of them back in the AHL the Wild would have right around three million in cap space. If they decide to carry just twelve forwards it would give them an additional cushion for injuries. The issue here is do you pay him better or the same as other left wings who had similar point totals like Justin Abdelkader and Carl Hagelin who both made more than four million last year? Or do you simply try and cram him into a roster that is unlikely to go far in the playoffs?

In the last two season Bo Hovart has increased his point total year over year, jumping from third two seasons ago to first last year, and has a better faceoff win percentage in that time than team captain Henrik Sedin. Somehow with training camp close enough to feel, he is without a contract. He’s scored shorthanded, powerplay, and even strength goals. He’s played over 18 minutes a night. He’s done just about everything a setup man can do on a roster that is 80% ECHL and alumni quality to help the team win. Joe Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Jason Spezza all produced less points last year with far, far more help and hugely better compensation.  Ondrej Palat was on a non-playoff team and produced the same number of points, Logan Coture had the same points total, as did Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov. With all or most of the $14,000,000.00 set on fire at the feet of the Sedin twins coming off the books next year, and no other player in the system in need of a big raise cash should not be the issue. Not when they have close to nine million in cap space to work with.

David Pastrnak has been covered in depth over the summer and all that’s worth adding is that the team president said there haven’t been any talks in months.

With all the glory of last season, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s seem to have gotten a pass on Alexander Wennberg not having been hog tied to their roster yet. Year over year ye’s increased his points total twenty points twice in a row. He played in 80 of the teams games last year. Last season he stepped into the gap created by trading Johansen and ended up the team’s second leading scorer, putting up just two less points than the Nashville Predator’s second most famous Ryan. While the Blue Jackets do have a pretty dynamic cap situation with the number of impact players due contracts in the next two years, they do have to be careful. But in the ultra competitive Metropolitan division who can afford to be without their number one center?

The Detroit Red Wings roster is as run down as the Joe, and while Andreas Athanasiou isn’t the level of impact player the other forwards on the list are. That said, you don’t improve by continuing to leak talent. All players are ultimately replaceable, but alienating players for little good reason when you have a new arena to fill, and pay off is senseless. The optics are also poor when it’s time to get free agents into town, or when the next RFA is due a contract.

Damon Severson is one of three men to crack the top fifty among defensemen in scoring while playing less than twenty minutes of ice time. The other two Brady Skej, and Dmitry Orlov were both on playoff teams. The New Jersey Devils were needless to day, not quite that good. His point total eclipsed Noah Hanafin, Jake Muzzin, and Jonas Brodin. So why is a team with unlimited growth potential wasting time dithering with a solid young defensemen? It’s not like they have 299 other defenders ready to hold the line against the Persians and other NHL teams.

Back on the 30th of November was the first look at where the NHL rookies stood. We also looked at how they compared to the one hundred million dollar man.

Leading the pack for forwards were Logan Coture of the San Jose Sharks, Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers. Tops in the crease were a pair of young Europeans, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Philadelphia Flyers, and backstopping the Washington Capitals Michael Neuvirth. Rounding out the conversation were blueliners John Carlson, another young gun for Washington, the mouth of Montreal PK Subban, and flying high enough to earn lots of minutes for the Avalanche, Kevin Shattenkirk.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s current stats are 8-10-18 -21.

Just moving up to the pack are Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle of Edmonton, and Brian Bickell, of the injury plagued BlackHawks. Eberle and Hall sit in third and fourth behind Coture and Skinner. Right now,  of the four only Coture has a positive +/- rating.  While Hall was the clear cut favorite before the season started, learning the game at the NHL level is not quite as easy as it sounds, even if you’re lucky enough to have an elite vetern player or two on your squad as Coture and Skinner do, and Hall and Eberle do not.

On the blueline, John Carlson continues to make a name for himself on the recently woeful Washington Capitals.  Racking up seventy blocked shots and thirty-two hits, would earn him a spot on just about any blueline, add in his TOI which hovers just under 22 minutes a game, and you’re making waves. He’s also tenth in rookie scoring. Cam Fowler was another of the last drafts crop of potential Calder winners, currently he leads all rookies in TOI, and is number eight for rookie scoring. With a -6 to Carlson’s +6, you might be tempted to simply focus in on a quick look at the quality of the two teams might say more. Kevin Shattenkirk has only played 22 games this season for the high flying Avalanche, and is still tied for fourth in points, everyone ahead of him has played at least 31.

Blissfully, the picture in goal has gotten murkier. Bobrovsky has gotten shuffled to the bench as Boucher has his yearly hot streak, but remains high in the rankings for goalies in major stats. New to the dance is Anders Lindback Nashvilles other goalie. Pekka Rinne is due back soon, but I can’t help but wonder if it might the coaches might want to let Rinne take his time coming back, like a month or two more. Today, Lindback leads all rookie goaltenders in GAA, Sv%, and shutouts. Lindback is also comfortably ahead of Rinne in those stats, with a similar number of games.

Once darkhorse worth mentioning is Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. While some will only remember him for getting smoked on a clean PK Subban hit, he has been a big part of a very effective penalty kill. Marchand is also first in rookie shorthanded goals and tied for the NHL lead among all players in the least games in the same category. He’s second among forwards in SHTOI, and sits 15th in among rookies in scoring, and seventh in hits for rookies.

We are quarter of the way through the season, and it’s time to set your Calder watch. Synchronize now.

Some surprises in the top five goal scorers:

  1. Logan Coture of the San Jose Sharks just barely squeaks into the rookie count and leads all rookies with 8 goals.
  2. Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes is not only second in the NHL in rookie goal scoring, he’s second on his team to only Eric Staal in both goals and points.
  3. Derek Stepan’s squeaking into number three is the guy who most likely will not be in the top five at the end of the season as three of his six goals for the New York Rangers came in one game.
  4. Behind Stepan are three players tied with five, Tyler Ennis of the Buffalo Sabres who has played 25 games, Edmonton Oiler and first overall pick Taylor Hall has his five in 22, and Michael Grabner of the Islanders has potted 5 in 8 games. Of the three Ennis has the best */-.

For defensemen to keep an eye on:

  • John Carlson of Natick Ma and the Washington Capitals has a solid line of 3-8-11 +8 to go with his 58 blocked shots and 25 hits through 25 games. Most impressively he’s second on the team in TOI/G, trailing only Mike Green.
  • P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens is turning heads for more than the attitude some term cocky. He’s behind only Carlson in rookie defensemen TOI, and fourth in scoring for rookie defensemen.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk of Greenwich, CT, and Boston University has earned his way into the Colorado Avalanche lineup and is second to only John-Michael Liles in points from the blueline for Denver’s home squad.

In goal you’d be almost right in saying the conversation begins and ends with the man between the Philadelphia pipes.

  • Sergie Bobrovsky is the man making people reevaluate the Flyers chances this season, he’s played so much better than veteran Brian Boucher it almost doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s played 1/3 more games than his second nearest competitor for rookies. His 2.19 GAA and .926 S% have him at ten and eight in the league respectively.
  • Possibly more impressive, if for no reason other than the comparative defenses in front of them is Czech Michael Neuvirth. His 2.63 GAA and .912 Sv% are a better pair than any Capitals netminder has finished a season with since Cristibol Huet in 2007-8.

So far this season Ilya Kovalchuk has a line of 4-6-10 -11 and is fourth on his team in scoring. Here’s the current list of rookies with better stats than the $100 Million Man.

  • Jeff Skinner 7-12-19 -4
  • Jordan Eberle 4-11-15 -4
  • Derek Stepan 6-8-14 +1
  • Logan Coture 8-5-13 -5
  • Taylor Hall 6-6-12 -5
  • Tyler Ennis 5-6-11 +2
  • John Carlson 3-8-11 +8
  • Cam Fowler 1-10-11 -8
  • Kevin Shattenkirk 4-6-10 +2
  • Bryan Bickell 4-6-10 +2
  • Jake Dowell 4-6-10 +8
  • Mark Letestu 4-6-10 Even

All stats as of 10pm 11/29 via NHL.com