by PuckStopsHere on 10/25/09 at 11:54 AM ET
We are far enough into the season to determine that there is a good crop of rookies this year. A surprisingly large number of 18 and 19 year olds are on NHL rosters and playing pretty well. There are John Tavares of the New York lslanders, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche and Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers who are all 18 year olds playing with NHL clubs and making an impact so far. The list of 19 year olds include Steve Stamkos in Tampa Bay, Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Zach Bogosian of the Atlanta Thrashers, Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres and Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers. Some of the nineteen year olds were rookies last year, but it bodes well for the future of the NHL.
The surprising leader of the rookie class is Michael Del Zotto of the Rangers. He is the highest scorer among defencemen in the NHL, with 10 points so far. He is the second highest scorer among the NHL’s teenagers (Stamkos has 11 points).
Del Zotto was not considered likely to make the NHL this season. Most previews did not list him among the NHL’s rookies to watch. He was the 20th pick in the 2008 entry draft and scored 63 points in 62 games in his final OHL season (which was split between Oshawa and London). While his offence talent was unquestioned, it was expected that his defensive play would keep him out of the NHL. Here is a hockey’s future preview of Del Zotto that concludes that he is most likely not ready for the NHL in 2009/10.
Del Zotto is ahead of schedule and doing very well. He is the top scoring defenceman in the NHL. As long as his offence remains on that level, any defensive flaws become non-issues. His defence has not looked like an issue yet, although the Rangers have protected him. Del Zotto does not play in the toughest defensive situations. He has been limited to four seconds of short handed time this year. As the top scoring defenceman in hockey, Michael Del Zotto is the early leader for the Calder Trophy. A lot more hockey needs to be played this year, but Del Zotto is clearly the leader in October.
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