Here is a list of recent OHL graduates that I believe will make impact on their respective NHL teams this season. Some are rookies, some are sophomores, none are players who have already proven themselves. (I.e. Drew Doughty, Steve Stamkos, who are both fairly recent OHL graduates, but have already had a breakout season.)
TJ Brodie – What a great story. Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 4th round (114th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the 20-year-old Chatham, Ontario native cracked the Flames line-up after a strong training camp. Brodie looked good but quiet in his first NHL game, and whether he plays nine then gets sent back down, or manages to hold a spot, this is a kid who has worked hard to earn a spot. I don’t see why the Flames wouldn’t keep a young energetic d-man like this in their line-up this season; their blue line is in need of some umph.
Logan Couture – This guy is not exactly a new face in the NHL, but as he played just 25 games last season with the San Jose Sharks, Couture still qualifies as a rookie. This is a player that could have a break-out season, playing on the deep San Jose roster, Couture has the skills and surroundings to really make an impact in what should be his first full NHL season.
Kyle Clifford – Another feel-good story. Clifford looked pretty comfortable and competitive in his first game with the Los Angeles Kings, and would fit right in with their young nucleus of players. After a successful 57 point season with the OHL’s Barrie Colts last year, the 6 foot 2, 207 pounder has all the resources he needs to prove himself and make a legit case he deserves to be on an NHL roster.
Matt Duchene – No surprises here. Nominated for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year last season, the Colorado Avalanche star has it all. Speed, accurate shot, dangles, superb two-way play… Not much you can say about Duchene’s play that he doesn’t say IN his play. This guy could pull a Stevie Stamkos this season.
Cam Fowler – Looks great in a Ducks uniform, looks great on the ice to start the season… Picked up one assist in first two games, Fowler is just what the Ducks need to fill Scott Niedermayer’s position. Although he could still get sent down, it will take a few more games to find out where Fowler can fit in this year, but if they should decide to keep him in Anaheim, it’s no surprise he could be a rookie to watch.
Taylor Hall – Enough said.
Jacob Muzzin – Another young-gun on the LA Kings backend. Muzzin just graduated from the OHL’s Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, and his size and hockey smarts could see him making a perfect fit to an already successful young Kings defensive squad.
Alex Pietrangelo - It has been known since his draft year that he will be an impact defenseman for the St. Louis Blues. After playing the first 9 for the past two years, Pietrangelo should finally earn his permanent roster spot and show the world what he has got. Has the potential to be a solid contributor in both ends of the rink.
Tyler Seguin – With Marc Savard on the Injured Reserve, the Bruins need a legitimate centre. Lucky for them, their 1st round draft pick will do just fine. Seguin scored his first NHL goal against the Phoenix Coyotes with a beautiful breakaway move in his second game, and his size and skill shows he is ready for the NHL. He and Hall both look to be having fairly smooth transitions from the OHL to the NHL.
Jeff Skinner – Carolina has needed a player like this for the past couple seasons. Skinner has looked great from training camp through the first couple regular season games, and is definitely an early pick for rookie of the year.
Eric Tangradi – A player who hasn’t been talked about an awful over the past year, but is known in Pittsburgh to be one of the prospects with the utmost potential. Tangradi had a successful AHL campaign with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins last year, and with the loss of Bill Guerin and Alex Ponikarovsky, the Pens will need another big body up front, and Tangradi fits the role. He plays a gritty, physical game and has the potential to be an active contributor to a teams secondary scoring. Tangradi should stick throughout the season’s entirety, and should have a successful NHL career.
John Taveres – Another no-brainer. Great rookie season with NYI, could be another potential Steve Stamkos this year.
Top 5 Honourable AHL Mentions:
Stefan Della Rovere
- Jordan Eberle – Unreal highlight-reel first NHL goal.
- Brayden Schenn – Looked like one of the Kings best offensive players vs Vancouver.
- Magnus Paajarvi – Major potential, fits right in with Oilers young squad.
- Derek Stephan – Hat-trick in first NHL game with NYR.
- Jamie Benn – Took a rough hit in game vs NYI, but after a 41 point season last year, Benn should be even more effective for Dallas in 2011.