Or else he won't last long in the NHL. Consider this a lesson learned.
Or else he won't last long in the NHL. Consider this a lesson learned.
The kids were all right during the first weekend of the NHL season. Rookie forwards made their mark as teams got back to work.
Here are some young gunners who could do some real damage this season:
Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Florida Panthers: He scored twice in the season opener, setting aside doubts about his ability to function as a 19-year-old in a big boy league. Huberneau toyed with opponents in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, scoring 16 goals and dishing 29 assists in 30 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs. He also starred on the international stage for Team Canada on the World Junior Championships for the third year in a row. He will fill out his 6-foot-1 frame some day, but he can put up points right now.
“That was a pretty good snapshot of his high-end skill set,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “A fairly impressive debut to say the least.”
Vladimir Tarasenko, W, St. Louis Blues: He scored twice in his NHL debut, clicking on the power play and working well with Andy McDonald and Alex Steen at even strength. Tarasenko, 21, came into the league flying after consecutive productive seasons in the NHL. This season he scored 14 goals and added 17 assists in 31 games for St. Petersburg SKA during the lockout. Last season he scored 23 times in 54 games for Novosibirsk Siber and SKA. Two years ago he was captain of Russia’s gold-medal winning team in the World Junior Championships.
Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota Wild: He scored a goal in his team’s opener, offering reassuring scoring depth behind Mikko Koivu’s line. “I just got lucky, tipped the puck,” Granlund told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press Saturday night. “I just tried to play how I can play. Just a great feeling the whole game. I was so excited. I can't wait for tomorrow.”
He played 18 shifts and 14:43 during the second game, winning three of four faceoffs and a plus-1 rating. Last season Granlund culminated his time in Finland’s elite league by scoring 51 points in 45 games last season. He stayed in North America during the lockout, scoring eight goals dishing 13 assists in 21 games for the Houston Aeros of the AHL.
Nail Yakupov, W, Edmonton Oilers: He spent his lockout time productively, scoring 10 goals and adding eight assists in 18 KHL games for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik. Prior to that, he abused Ontario Hockey League goaltenders for the Sarnia Sting, scoring 90 times in 107 games. For Edmonton he settled onto the second line with center Sam Gagner and playmaking winger Ales Hemsky. He played 22 shifts and 16:20 Sunday night in Edmonton’s 3-2 shootout victory.
Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres: The 12th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft played a third-line role in his debut, playing 15 shifts and 11:13 during Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the visiting Flyers. He put two shots on goal and earned a minus-1 rating. The big man dominated the QMJHL during the lockout, scoring 29 goals in 32 games for the Quebec Ramparts. He also played for Russia’s disappointing entry in the World Junior Championships.
Jakob Silfverberg, W, Ottawa Senators: He played 21 shifts and 14:02 during Game 1, putting three shots on goal and earning a plus-1 rating. He used the lockout to adapt to the North American game, scoring 13 goals and earning 16 assists in 34 games for the Binghamton of the AHL. Before that he progressed nicely during four seasons with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Elite League. Last season his 24 goals and 30 assists in 49 games earned him league MVP honors.
Sven Baertschi, W, Calgary Flames: He played 21 shifts and 12:47 during his first game this season, putting two shots on goal and delivering two hits. This Swiss import blew up the Western Hockey League for the Portland Winterhawks, teaming up with Blues prospect Ty Rattie to wreak havoc the past few years. He scored 94 points in just 47 games last season and then dazzled in his brief NHL trial, scoring three times in five games. During the lockout Baertschi played 21 games in Abbotsford, producing six goals and 12 assists.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to open up that door and show that it’s possible to play in this league as a 20-year-old,” Baertschi told the Calgary Sun. “I want to be that guy. We’re such a small country. It’s not like every year there are five more guys coming into the NHL.”
Jaden Schwartz, W, St. Louis Blues: Last season he scored twice in seven games after arriving late in the season from Colorado College. This season he had nine goals and 10 assists in 33 American Hockey League games for the Peoria Rivermen. He didn’t score in his first game this season, but he looked good setting up big center Patrik Berglund and power forward Chris Stewart.
Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal Canadiens: The super-sized pivot played 18 shifts and 13:06 during his pro debut. He missed all but two games last season due to a knee injury, but he was an 83-point scorer the year before playing with Yakupov for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. During the lockout he scored 27 goals and added 34 assists in 33 games for the Sting.
Brandon Saad, W, Chicago Blackhawks: He played 22 shifts and 13:31 Sunday night as the Blackhawks won 6-4 at Phoenix. He put two shots in goal and earned a plus-1 rating after stepping into the lineup for Dan Carcillo, who will miss the next month with a knee injury. Saad got a quick NHL look last season, then returned to lend a hand in the playoffs. He has skill (61 goals in 103 OHL games for Saginaw) to got with his size.
Also, his girlfriend was in town to see this goal and another one in his NHL debut. The already deep Blues are that much better now.
Young winger Vladimir Tarasenko, back in the KHL during the lockout, taking the puck to the middle to score a goal. Some day NHL fans will see this.
Top 2012 NHL Draft pick Nail Yakupov has extreme skill and boundless confidence. He is fully equipped to make a big impact as a rookie.
The Edmonton Oilers will surround him with elite offensive talent while playing a go-go style. So how can this not turn out well?
Nail scored 170 points in 107 games in the Ontario Hockey League while generating comparisons to former Russian star Pavel Bure. He should follow the lead of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to quickly blossom into a 50- to 70-point scorer.
With his family moving to Edmonton to support him, his transition to the NHL should go more smoothly. This should be quite a show.
Other potential breakout forwards include:
James van Riemsdyk, C, Maple Leafs: The second overall pick in the 2007 draft has never scored more than 21 goals in a season. That could change this season as Toronto converts him into a scoring line center. JVR scored 16 points in his first 19 games last season in Philadelphia before a series of injuries ruined his campaign. During the 2011 playoffs he scored seven goals while putting 70 shots on goal in 11 games. If he can play the pivot, he will create serious match-up problems coming down the middle.
Brayden Schenn, C, Flyers: He appears ready to graduate into a major offensive role after scoring 12 goals in 54 games last season. His reunion with big brother Luke – acquired from Toronto in an off-season trade – should bolster his spirits. “For me and Luke, we’re pretty close,” Brayden told the National Post. “To get a chance to play with each other on the same team, it’s pretty surreal. It’s almost like we can’t even believe it.”
Vladimir Tarasenko, W, Blues: At the age of21 he already has four years of KHL experience. He scored 23 goals in 54 games last season for Novosibirsk Siber and St. Petersburg SKA. He was captain of Russia’s gold-medal winning team in the World Junior Championships two years ago. The Blues see him playing on one of their three scoring lines and bidding for power play time as well.
Cody Hodgson, C, Sabres: In Vancouver he was stuck behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. In Buffalo he could emerge as the No. 1 center in the wake of Derek Roy’s departure to Dallas. Hodgson didn’t get a point in his first 10 games as a Sabre last season, but a later eight-game surge saw him score three goals and add five assists. He could benefit went Buffalo stages a major bounce-back season.
Mikael Granlund, C, Wild: While Minnesota is fixated on free agent additions Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and rightfully so. Those additions cost the franchise almost $200 million. But Granlund could be a huge difference maker. He tied for the Finnish Elite League’s scoring title (51 points in 45 games) last season. He could move into the No, 2 center role behind Mikko Koivu.
Chris Kreider, W, Rangers: This bulldozing winger from Boston College scored five playoff goals while demonstrating his vast upside. He scored 23 goals in 44 games during his third collegiate season. He could at least match the 14 goals and 24 assists that teammate Carl Hagelin scored in games last season as a rookie.
Kyle Turris, C, Senators: The third overall pick of the 2007 draft could finally arrive as a scoring line pivot. Ottawa gave him a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension, so expect that team to give him every chance to post numbers. He scored 12 goals and added 17 assists with a plus-12 rating in 49 games for the Senators last season.
Cam Atkinson, W, Blue Jackets: After scoring 29 goals in 51 AHL games, he scored seven goals and added seven assists in 27 games for the Columbus. With Rick Nash gone, the Blue Jackets will try to score by committee. Atkinson will definitely be part of that committee.
Peter Mueller, W, Panthers: Remember him? Back in 2009-10 he scored nine goals and added 11 assists in just 15 games after arriving in Colorado in a trade. Injuries eradicated him in 2010-11 and limited him to 16 points in 32 games last season. Florida will give him a second chance to become a big-time scorer.
Vladimir Tarasenko eased onto the St. Louis sports scene with a low-key introductory news conference Thursday at the team’s practice facility.
The player carrying the nickname “Tank” proceeded with great caution after his ceremonial donning of the No. 91 Blues sweater.
Although he can speak enough English to get by, Tarasenko, 21, preferred using an interpreter in front of the cameras and microphones.
He declined to name a favorite Russian or NHL player that he emulated while growing up. When asked which Blues player he most looks forward to playing with, he said he was eager to meet and work with them all.
Which will be more difficult, adapting to the NHL or adjusting to North America? He expected each to be equally challenging.
In event of a lockout, would he play in Peoria or return to Russian’s KHL? Tarasenko said he would make that decision when and if that time comes, in consultation with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.
Aside from expressing his preference to play right wing rather than the left side, he was short on specifics during his brief media session.
That was probably for the best, since the Blues will proceed carefully with their hot young scoring prospect.
For more on Tarasenko, check out my story on STLToday.com.