Elias Pettersson’s exceptional rookie season is blocking our view of an all-around strong class of NHL rookies this season.
Swedish standout Pettersson, en route to a 30-plus goal season, is a runaway leader in the Calder Trophy race. As a result, we are ignoring others having a strong impact:
♦ Goalie Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: If he had enough games left to reach 45-50 appearances, he’d give Pettersson competition for rookie of the year. Binnington, 25, is the primary reason why the Blues are in a playoff spot. He’s 16-3 with a 1.80 goals-against average and.929 save percentage. No rookie has meant more to his team than Binnington.
♦ Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres: He soon will become the third 18-year-old defenseman to register 40 or more points in his rookie season. Phil Housley and Bobby Orr are the others. Hence, Dahlin is playing more like a veteran than a first-year player.
Flyers may have made the playoffs if Hart was promoted earlier
♦ Goalie Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers: Many Philadelphia fans believe the Flyers might be in the playoffs today if Hart had been promoted earlier. He’s a poised, polished competitor with an aggressive playing style and a .917 save percentage. He made have needed to start the season in the minors. But he is clearly ready now.
♦ Andreas Johnsson, Toronto Maple Leafs: He’s probably the biggest surprise in the rookie class because he’s a seventh-round pick with 19 goals. He’s 24 and played three seasons in Sweden and two in the AHL before getting his NHL chance. As a result, he’s more seasoned than most rookies.
♦ Defenseman Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars: Don’t look at his -10 plus-minus. Look at his average of 23:01 playing time per night. Stars coach Jim Montgomery uses him in all situations. He’s a top pairing blueliner and a future NHL star. He’s a smooth operator.
♦ Left wing Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators: He plays the game like his father Keith and his brother Matthew. He gets his hands dirty and he’s scored 15 goals. He’s going to be a 30-goal man when he matures.