Rookie Watch: Sharks lead NHL in games by first-year players

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The impact several rookies are making on the NHL is one of the major storylines of the 2021-22 season. Each week, NHL.com will examine topics related to this season’s class in the Rookie Watch.

This week, a look at the top five NHL teams with most games played by rookies (ranked by total games played by rookies):

 

1. San Jose Sharks 

Total games played by rookies: 186 (14 players)

Players: Forwards Jonathan Dahlen, Jasper Weatherby, William Eklund, Lane Pederson, Jonah Gadjovich, Jeffrey Viel, Jayden Halbgewachs, Scott Reedy; defensemen Jacob Middleton, Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, Santeri Hatakka, Artemi Kniazev; goalie Zach Sawchenko.

Rookies to watch: The Sharks have plenty to get excited about when it comes to their rookie class and those having the biggest impact are Dahlen and Middleton. Dahlen (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) ranks 10th among NHL rookies with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 31 games while averaging 14:55 in ice time. Middleton (6-3, 219) is third on San Jose with 47 blocked shots and sixth with 50 hits while averaging 18:24 of ice time in 28 games. Eklund (5-11, 181), the No. 7 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, had four assists and averaged 14:20 in nine games before being returned to Djurgardens (five assists in nine games) of the Swedish Hockey League.

 

2. Washington Capitals

Total games played by rookies: 146 (11 players)

Players: Forwards Connor McMichael, Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas, Beck Malenstyn, Garrett Pilon, Hendrix Lapierre, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Joe Snively; defensemen Martin Fehervary, Lucas Johansen, Alexander Alexeyev.

Rookies to watch: McMichael (6-0, 180) leads Capitals rookies with 10 points (five goals, five assists). He has 62 shots on goal and averages 11:01 in ice time. Fehervary (6-2, 199) has been a big surprise and will continue to be a foundational piece at defenseman for Washington. The 22-year-old has averaged 18:59 of ice time while earning top-pair minutes with John Carlson. He’s second among NHL rookies with 85 hits, fourth with 48 blocked shots and tied for seventh among rookie defensemen with six points (three goals, three assists) in 33 games.

Video: WSH@MIN: McMichael redirects a shot into the cage

 

3. Nashville Predators 

Total games played by rookies: 131 (7 players)

Players: Forwards Tanner Jeannot, Philip Tomasino, Thomas Novak, Kole Sherwood, Cole Smith; defenseman Alexandre Carrier; goalie Connor Ingram.

Rookies to watch: Jeannot (6-2, 208), who was undrafted, leads NHL rookies with 114 hits and is eighth with 30 blocked shots in 36 games. The 24-year-old is fourth on the Predators with 11 goals, sixth with 22 points and third with 12 penalties drawn while averaging 15:37 of ice time in 36 games. Carrier (5-11, 174), a right-handed defenseman, has scored 12 points (two goals, 10 assists), is tied for second among NHL rookies with 50 blocked shots and fourth with 17 takeaways while averaging 20:25 of ice time in 33 games.

 

4. Anaheim Ducks

Total games played by rookies: 120 (7 players)

Players: Forwards Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Bryce Kindopp, Jacob Perreault; defensemen Jamie Drysdale, Simon Benoit.

Rookies to watch: Zegras and Drysdale have each lived up to expectations in their first full season with the Ducks. Zegras is second among rookies with 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) while averaging 17:05 of ice time in 31 games. Drysdale ranks second among rookie defensemen with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) while averaging 19:52 in 37 games. McTavish, selected No. 3 in the 2021 NHL Draft, scored three points (two goals, one assist) in nine games for the Ducks before he was returned to Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League. The 18-year-old center scored five points (three goals, two assists) while averaging 17:17 of ice time in two games for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship before the tournament was canceled Dec. 29.

Video: Get to know Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras

 

5. Detroit Red Wings

Total games played by rookies: 113 (4 players)

Players: Forwards Lucas Raymond, Joe Veleno; defenseman Moritz Seider; goalie Alex Nedeljkovic.

Rookies to watch: The Red Wings might be the only NHL team with a first-year player making big contributions at each position. Raymond (5-11, 182) leads NHL rookies with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 35 games. Seider (6-4, 197) is first among rookie defensemen in assists (19) and points (22) and leads all rookies in power-play points (eight), blocked shots (61), and average ice time (22:24) in 35 games. He’s tied for third among rookies in points. Nedeljkovic (6-0, 203), acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 22, 2021, leads rookie goalies in wins (10-9-3) and has a 2.86 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

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