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Top Rookies to Watch in the NHL 2018-19

Before knowing who’s made what team out of camp, I’m listing my favorite Calder trophy candidates based purely on hype or projection.

Realistically, I’d love to add more defensemen to the list, but there are so many top six forward talents as opposed to top four rookie blue liners.

Without any further introduction, it’s time for wild speculation.

Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF

(1st overall, 2018)

Obviously.

He’s labeled the best defensive prospect in 10 years and given the expectation to be literally Erik Karlsson. Anything less than rookie-of-the-year is below expectations.

However, it isn’t undeserved. A generational talent with outstanding skating and an uncanny sense of who’s going to be where, Dahlin should lead a young Sabres team out of the basement. The power of the Atlantic’s top teams will keep them waiting another year for a playoff round.

Elias Pettersson, LW, VAN

(5th overall, 2017)

Pettersson wasted zero time in his post draft season, lighting up the SHL. He shattered the record for most points by a junior aged player in SHL history (56 points), passing Kent Nilsson (53) with a four point game. Other victims on the list: Peter Forsberg, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom, Markus Naslund— you get the idea.

Pettersson is a five-tool player, to put it simply. A little lanky, he only has 165 pounds to go with his 6’2” frame, but the modern NHL looks past size. He should have a top-6 role on a Canucks team with holes to fill.

Casey Mittelstadt, C, BUF

(8th overall, 2017)

He turned in a great six game tryout at the end of the season with 5 points (1G-4A). He’ll be a middle-six forward on a Buffalo team that added offensive talents Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin. He’s an elite transitional talent— the type of player to carry a line in the future.

Patience pays off, Buffalo fans.

Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL

(3rd overall, 2017)

The scouting report loves how calm and composed he is. They say the game comes easy, and it looks that way. Heiskanen is part of the new wave of defensemen: not necessarily large, but excels at moving the puck up ice quickly and accurately.

He’s the youngest player in the history of Liiga (FIN) to win best defenseman award. He put up 23 points in 30 games and has never had more than 8 penalty minutes in a season. Heiskanen will compliment Klingberg nicely, even if he spends time in the AHL first.

Filip Zadina, LW, DET

(6th overall, 2018)

I was a big fan of Zadina pre-draft. The fact that he fell to number six is a gift to Detroit, and in my eyes could easily have gone second.

The Czech winger scored 44 goals in the QMJHL last year. I was really impressed by this video of him from June. He’s regarded as a sniper, but don’t sleep on the other parts of his game. Either he makes a bad Detroit team, or he absolutely shreds juniors again. I predict he puts a few in the oven at Little Caesar’s.

Andrei Svechnikov, RW, CAR

(2nd overall, 2018)

Svechnikov was nearly a goal-per-game player in the OHL (40G, 44GP) and point-per-game in his U20 junior tournaments.

He plays with an edge and seems to take control of the game when he’s on the ice. He’s got a deadly shot, and should have an offensive role on Carolina as a top-six winger with a spot on the first powerplay unit.

Filip Chytil, LW, NYR

(21st overall, 2017)

Chytil was the youngest player to play AHL hockey since 1974. He was up to the task, and including a four point night put up 31 points in 46 games.

He plays with tenacity— forces mistakes, and capitalizes. Heavy shot and a great skater at over 200 pounds, so he’s hard to force off the puck. Chytil doesn’t get near as much attention as he should. The guys above overshadow him, so keep an eye on him to be a bright spot for NYR.

Martin Necas, C, CAR

(12th overall, 2017)

Necas is a lightweight, similarly sized as Elias Pettersson, but again is a player with game-changing IQ. A fine rookie crop with Svechnikov and Zykov, Necas possesses elite vision and a skill set to put him directly in the conversation for Calder.

He’ll likely not be in a top-6 role, at least not right away, but that’s good depth for the Hurricanes. Powerplay opportunities should come playing on a theoretically talented group.

Honorable Mentions:

These are notable rookie players who I think will do well, but stay just outside of Calder consideration. I’m always open to being proven wrong. Hungry dogs run faster.

Anthony Cirelli, C, TBL

Andreas Johnsson, LW, TOR

Ryan Donato, C, BOS

Lias Andersson, C, NYR

Eeli Tolvanen, LW, NSH

Jordan Greenway, LW, MIN

Robert Thomas, C, STL

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