Caufield of Canadiens heads NHL rookies to watch in 2021-22 season

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Cole Caufield, coming off a productive Stanley Cup Playoff run with the Montreal Canadiens, leads a group of talented rookies hoping to make an impact when the 2021-22 season begins Oct. 12.

Here are 12 rookies to keep an eye on (listed alphabetically):

Bowen Byram, D, Colorado Avalanche

No. 4 in 2019 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old is expected to play a significant role after defensemen Ryan Graves (New Jersey Devils) and Conor Timmins (Arizona Coyotes) were traded and Patrik Nemeth (New York Rangers) left via free agency. Byram (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) had two assists in 19 games with the Avalanche last season and scored five points (one goal, four assists) in seven games as captain to help Canada finish second at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Cole Caufield, F, Montreal Canadiens

No. 15 in 2019 NHL Draft

Caufield scored five points (four goals, one assist), including two overtime goals, in 10 regular-season games for the Canadiens last season, then led NHL rookies with 12 points, eight assists, two power-play goals and 48 shots in 20 playoff games to help them reach the Stanley Cup Final. He became first rookie in NHL history to score three overtime points (one goal, two assists) in a single postseason. The 20-year-old (5-7, 162), who hopes to be voted Montreal’s first Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year since Ken Dryden in 1972, is expected to play on a line with valuable forwards Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki.

Video: Cole Caufield’s best plays of playoffs

Jamie Drysdale, D, Anaheim Ducks

No. 6 in 2020 NHL Draft

Drysdale (5-11, 175) scored eight points (three goals, five assists) in 24 NHL games for the Ducks last season and 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 14 regular-season games for San Diego of the American Hockey League. The 19-year-old, who ranked fourth among Anaheim players at the position with 0.76 takeaways per 60 minutes, is expected to be a top-four defenseman for the Ducks and earn power-play time.

Arthur Kaliyev, F, Los Angeles Kings

No. 33 in 2019 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old led the Kings with six points (four goals, two assists) in three preseason games entering Saturday, exhibiting good puck management, utilizing his size and strength, and showcasing his effective wrist shot. Kaliyev (6-2, 190), who scored 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 40 games with Ontario of the AHL last season, scored a goal in his only NHL game. He also scored eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games to help the United States win the 2021 WJC.

Spencer Knight, G, Florida Panthers

No. 13 in 2019 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old was 4-0-0 last season with a 2.32 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in four regular-season games (three starts). He was 1-1 with a 2.06 GAA and .933 save percentage when Florida lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games during the Stanley Cup First Round. He made 36 saves in his NHL postseason debut, a 4-1 win against the Lightning in Game 5. Knight (6-3, 192) is expected to back up Sergei Bobrovsky to begin the season. On April 20, 2021, he became the first goalie born in the 2000s to play an NHL game and the youngest in Florida history to win one, passing Roberto Luongo (Nov. 25, 2000; 21 years, 235 days).

Vitali Kravtsov, F, New York RangersĀ 

No. 9 in 2018 NHL Draft

Kravtsov (6-3, 193) played 49 games on loan with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League last season and finished tied for the team lead in goals (16) and seventh in points (24). The 21-year-old also led Chelyabinsk with four points (two goals, two assists) in five KHL playoff games. He scored four points (two goals, two assists) in 20 games with the Rangers and could earn a top-six role this season.

Video: NYR@BOS: Kravtsov buries Strome’s set-up top shelf

Anton Lundell, C, Florida Panthers

No. 12 in 2020 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old has a good opportunity to earn the No. 3 center spot behind Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett. Lundell (6-1, 185) scored 25 points (16 goals, nine assists) in 26 games last season for HIFK of Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. He also scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in 10 games to help Finland finish second to Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.

Dawson Mercer, F, New Jersey Devils

No. 18 in 2020 NHL Draft

The 19-year-old (6-0, 180) was the biggest surprise of Devils training camp, scoring three points (two goals, one assist) in three preseason games. He’s responsible enough to play wing or center. Last season with Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he scored 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 23 regular-season games and 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in nine playoff games.

Vasily Podkolzin, F, Vancouver Canucks

No. 10 in 2019 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old (6-1, 190) scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 35 regular-season games in the KHL and led SKA St. Petersburg with 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 playoff games, helping his team advance to the third round. At the WJC, he helped Russia finish third in 2019, second in 2020 and fourth in 2021, when he was the captain.

Moritz Seider, D, Detroit Red Wings

No. 6 in 2019 NHL Draft

The 20-year-old scored 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) and was plus-14 last season on loan with Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League, the top professional men’s league in Sweden. With Grand Rapids of the AHL in 2019-20, Seider (6-4, 197) finished second among its defensemen with 22 points (two goals, 22 assists).

Jeremy Swayman, G, Boston Bruins

No. 111 in 2017 NHL Draft

The 22-year-old will split goaltending duties with Linus Ullmark to begin this season while unrestricted free agent Tuukka Rask is sidelined until at least January while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. Swayman (6-3, 195) was 7-3-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games last season.

Trevor Zegras, F, Anaheim Ducks

No. 9 in 2019 NHL Draft

Zegras (6-0, 182) scored six points (two goals, four assists) in his final six regular-season games to finish with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 24 games with the Ducks last season. The 20-year-old averaged 0.54 points per game, tying him with forward Rickard Rakell for second on Anaheim, behind forward Max Comtois (0.60). Zegras helped the United States win the 2021 WJC, leading all players with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in seven games and being voted the tournament’s most valuable player.

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