November 11, 2011

Experience or Youth in the NHL ? – Part 2

In part 1 we looked at 3 veteran players in Nick Lidstrom, Nikolai Khabibulin and Jaromir Jagr who had been tearing up the league so far this season. Now it’s time to look at the future of the NHL and the young stars that are playing like stars today and hopefully will for a long time into the future.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Everyone has been raving about the play of last year’s number 1 draft pick and so they should be. In an Edmonton line up that might have shocked everyone so far with their lofty position he sits 2nd in points after 15 games. (7+6=13). Not bad to say Edmonton hasn’t banged in the goals despite winning a lot of games. He has formed a formidable understanding with line mates Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall as they are quickly becoming one of the most feared lines in the NHL.

This guy is only 18 years old but he hasn’t been fazed since entering the big league and although he may lack in the physical attributes hockey players gain through experience he has skill and pace in abundance. At some point I’m sure teams will start to look for tactical match ups to try to nullify this skill and Nugent-Hopkins will face periods where his scoring proficiency fades, but don’t expect these periods to be too lengthy. Let’s hope he keeps up his rate of almost a point a game for years to come.

Gabriel Landeskog
The Avalanche are another team buzzing with young players this year and their 1st round pick (2nd overall) from last season has also started the season well.

Landeskog has been steady on the Avalanche line up and whilst not setting the scoring charts alight to the extent Nugent-Hopkins has he still scored 5+3=8 in his opening 16 games. He has spent almost all of that time on a line with O’Reilly and Winnik  - not with the top echelon of Statsny, Duchene or Hejduk so 8 points so far is an excellent return.  The Avalanche however have been getting scoring from all over the ice so aren’t as reliant as the Oilers are for their star rookie to score. Both players have however been getting roughly the same ice time per game at around 17-18 minutes. Good all round play from the rookie has meant he has earned his playing time and expect the points to build up as he gains more experience in the NHL.

Erik Gustafsson
Looking around the league for rookie defencemen that were doing the business for their team was tough but what I have seen from this guy in the 5 games he has played has been good solid D play. Replacing Chris Pronger as he has is always going to be a tough job for anyone let alone a 22 year old rookie. Apart from his 1st game against Winnipeg where he was on the ice for 2 of the goals against he has played solidly, putting up almost 20 minutes a game and in his last outing had a +6 rating. He Because of that effort he currently leads rookie defencemen with a total +6 rating.

I may have overlooked the likes of Mark Smith at Nashville, John Tavares at New York Islanders, Sean Couturier at Philadelphia and Jonas Enroth at Buffalo for this report. These are 4 more of the young breed in the NHL that have had fantastic starts for their clubs and are putting up the stats so far.

However, I picked Gustafsson to finish off my Experience / Youth All Star Line through the opening games. The line up now complete, here is how it looks!

Khabibulin - Netminder
Lidstrom - Defence
Gustafsson - Defence
Landeskog -Wing
Nugent-Hopkins -Centre
Jagr - Wing

Not a bad starting line up going into a game at the minute, I’d say. Looking at this too – 5 out of the 6 are European born players.

Have a go yourself – 3 veterans and 3 rookies for a starting line up and see what you come up with!

- Adam Yates

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