The NHL's greatest teen sensations include Gretzky, Lemieux, Crosby

wayneasaking.jpgSince the NHL finally allowed speed and skill to usurp groping and grinding after the lockout, the league has seen wave after wave of instant sensations straight from the draft. From Sidney Crosby to Alex Ovechkin to Drew Doughty and beyond, it almost seems like hockey players are hitting their primes the second their skates hit the professional ice.

That doesn’t mean sensational teen seasons are totally unprecedented, though, even if the Dead Puck Era made those campaigns more or less impossible. John Kreiser spotlights some of the NHL’s “best teenage debuts” in this article and I’ll highlight some of the best bits.


Wayne Gretzky

The WHA’s Indianapolis Racers are little more than a footnote in hockey history. But their memory will live on for one thing: signing a skinny 17-year-old from Brantford, Ont., named Wayne Gretzky. The NHL wouldn’t touch players that young — but the WHA, then in its dying season, was more than willing to do so. Gretzky played just eight games with the Racers before being sold to Edmonton and helping the Oilers make it to the last WHA final (they lost). No NHL team owned Gretzky rights, so Edmonton was able to keep him when the League absorbed four WHA teams in the summer of 1979, and though skeptics were sure he’d be banged around in the bigger, tougher NHL, he kept right on scoring. By the time Gretzky turned 19, midway through the 1979-80 season, he was already terrorizing goaltenders. He finished his first season with 137 points, tying L.A.’s Marcel Dionne for the scoring lead (Dionne won the Art Ross Trophy by scoring two more goals) and leading the Oilers to the playoffs.


Mario Lemieux

Despite missing seven games with injuries, Lemieux became the youngest 100-point scorer in NHL history and earned the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. The Penguins improved by 15 points — though they were still next-to-last in the League with 53.

Of course, Lemieux isn’t even the highest scoring teen in Penguins history, as Sidney Crosby narrowly edged him with a 101-point debut in the NHL. Other forwards who made the list include Dale Hawerchuk, Steve Yzerman and victim of the Wayne Gretzky Trade Jimmy Carson.


While better overall players Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr also made Kreiser’s list, one very good defenseman had an even better debut season than those two Bruins legends.

Larry Murphy

Since the expansion era began, no defenseman has had a bigger effect on his team in the first season after he was drafted than Larry Murphy did with Los Angeles in 1980-81.

The Kings, who historically had struggled defensively, took Murphy with the fourth choice in the 1980 draft and wasted no time putting him into the lineup. They were rewarded with a 16-goal, 76-point season — still the most assists and points by a first-year defenseman in NHL history — and a 25-point improvement in the standings.


Finally, the teenage goalie performance stands alone.

Tom Barrasso

Not only did Barrasso win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, he took home the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender and was named a First-Team All-Star. No teenage goaltender has come close to his accomplishments.

Barrasso went on to win two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in the early 1990s and retired with 369 victories, now the second-highest total by a U.S.-born goaltender.

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    Scary moment: Carlo Colaiacovo hospitalized with ‘dented trachea’

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    Buffalo Sabres defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has experienced plenty of bad injury luck in his winding career, but Saturday presented one of his worst scares.

    As you can see from the video above, Colaiacovo received a scary cross-check from Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators, who received a major penalty and game misconduct.

    Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Colaiacovo was hospitalized with a “dented trachea” yet is OK, the Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports.

    Frightening stuff from an eventual 4-1 Sabres win.

    PHT will keep an eye out for additional updates regarding Colaiacovo’s health (and a possible suspension for Arvidsson).

    Comeback Kings: Gaborik pulls L.A. past Kane, Blackhawks

    Jake Muzzin, Scott Darling

    Patrick Kane set an American scoring record, and added another assist to make it more impressive, but the Los Angeles Kings just wouldn’t be denied.

    In the end, Marian Gaborik‘s big night meant more than Kane’s; he scored the tying and then overtime game-winner, both assisted by Anze Kopitar, for a rousing 4-3 overtime Kings win.

    Gaborik’s first goal:

    And here’s video of the OT-GWG:

    Noticing a theme tonight? Yeah, it’s been an evening in which it’s dangerous to assume a lead would stand.

    With that, the Kings stick to the No. 1 spot in the Pacific Division, but Chicago shouldn’t feel all bad. The Blackhawks were able to piece together a decent run during their dreaded “circus trip.”

    Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record


    When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

    With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

    As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

    Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

    So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


    You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

    Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

    “Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

    Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

    Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

    It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

    Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

    On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

    It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

    * – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.