Cap issues, injuries, and prospects looking to take the next step are just a few things that confronted many NHL teams going into the 2020-21 season. Fortunately, the combination of those three things allowed for a number of rookies to find their way into NHL lineups this season. Many NHL fans probably expected 2020 first overall pick, Alexis Lafrenière to make the most noise to begin the season. This however, was not the case as Lafrenière failed to get on the scoresheet in the Rangers first two games.
Arguably the most notable rookie of the NHL’s first week was highly touted Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov. Although many expected the young Russian to debut this year, no one knew what kind of impact he would have right away. Kaprizov would step in right away helping the Wild win two games in OT against the Kings. Kaprizov has 1 goal and 3 assist in two games, including the OT winner in game 1. Kaprizov and the Wild hope the rookie will keep up his over a point-per-game play the rest of the way.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, perhaps the most anticipated player to make an NHL roster this season outside of Lafrenière was Tim Stützle. In only his second NHL game, the third overall pick and World Junior standout found the scoresheet with a spectacular goal showing off his hand-eye coordination. Stützle finds himself on what looks to be a much improved Senators team from years past.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 17, 2021
Although many first round selections made noise in training camps and into the season, late round fliers have struct new found opportunities this season in the NHL. Notably in forwards John Leonard of the San Jose Sharks and Yegor Sharangovich of the New Jersey Devils who both found the scoresheet in their respective teams first victories of the year. Sharangovich was a name that was making a lot of noise during the devils camp and inter squad games. Like Kaprizov, the fifth round pick scored the OT winner to give his team its first win of the season. Number 17 Sharganovich scored with 1.7 seconds left to lift the Devils past the Bruins in their second head to head. Leonard on the other hand, has two points in two NHL games with the Sharks with both points coming as assist in the Sharks SO win against the Coyotes.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 16, 2021
New Jersey has also seen rookie contributions from blue liner Ty Smith, who scored his first NHL goal in his first game while also posting an assist in the Devils first win of the year. Smith has looked good early on and as such he is averaging over 17 minutes of ice time a game. Smith was taken by the Devils in the first round in 2018..
The rookie scoring streak continued on Sunday night with Eetu Luostarinen who netted his first NHL goal and assist in the Panthers 5-2 win over Chicago. Luostarinen, the second round pick by Carolina came to Florida in the Trocheck trade and posted 15 points in 17 games in the Liiga last year.
Other notable performances include Nils Hoglander in Vancouver, as well as Dylan Cozens, and Barrett Hayton. Of course fans should also keep an eye on Lafrenière, Shesterkin, Sorokin, and others.
Lastly, it appears first and second overall picks from the 2019 draft have begun to find their strides in the the NHL. Jack Hughes has registered 3 points in 2 games, while Kaapo Kakko has scored his first goal of the year.