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.

Forwards

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.

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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.

Defensemen

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.

tombarrasso.jpgGoalie

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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    VIDEO: Jamie Benn and David Backes fight right off opening faceoff

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    Sunday’s game between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars gave us an opportunity to check in on the relationship between Jamie Benn and David Backes, and it seems that they still do not like each other very much.

    Their on-ice feud continued literally as soon as Sunday’s game started, when they dropped the gloves right off the opening faceoff, which you can see in the video up above. It was clear right from the very beginning that fight was going to happen given the way they were discussing things before the puck was even dropped.

    These guys have been going at one another for years, dating back to Backes’ days with the St. Louis Blues, and their fight (it was mostly a lot of jersey pulling at the start) on Sunday is already the third time they have dropped the gloves with one another in their careers.

    Not much went right for the Stars following the fight as quick goals from Brad Marchand and David Krejci gave the Bruins an early 2-0 lead.

     

    WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars

    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 20:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Dallas Stars scores a goal against Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in the first period at American Airlines Center on February 20, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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    The Boston Bruins are starting to get on a little bit of a roll and they look to keep it going on Sunday afternoon when they visit their old friend Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars.

    The game will be shown live on NBC with a 12:30 p.m. ET faceoff and also be available on our Live Stream.

    It’s a Star Sunday with the focus falling on Seguin and David Pastrnak, while the game will also have Dave Strader calling the play-by-play action on NBC. Strader recently returned to the Stars’ broadcast booth as he continues to battle cancer.

    Click Here for the Live Stream

    Preview: Bruins look to stay hot against desperate Stars

     

    Ryan Carter is back with Wild after signing one-year deal

    CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 29: Ryan Carter #18 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 29, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    Ryan Carter’s comeback attempt with the Minnesota Wild is just about complete.

    After skating with the team in practices this month and getting a tryout contract with their AHL team, the Wild announced on Sunday morning that Carter has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the team for the remainder of the season.

    According to Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune, Carter contract carries a prorated salary of $525,000 if he plays in the NHL and $250,000 when he is with Iowa.

    He had been recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. An unrestricted free agent, Carter really had no interest in signing with any other team outside of the Wild. He spent the past two seasons with the team, including 60 games during the 2015-16 season where he scored seven goals and added five assists while also playing a role on the team’s penalty killing unit.

    Minnesota is currently the top team in the Western Conference with 84 points.

    NHL On NBCSN: Blues look to slow down Blackhawks

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24: Jori Lehtera #12 of the St. Louis Blues controls the puck between Artem Anisimov #15 (L) and Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    The second game on the NBC Networks today features a Central Division rivalry when the St. Louis Blues pay a visit to the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or on our Live Stream.

    It will also be the second Star Sunday broadcast of the day, with this one featuring Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews.

    From the minute he arrived in the NHL Tarasenko has been one of the league’s most electrifying players and is currently on pace for what would be his third consecutive season with at least 37 goals with an outside shot at his second consecutive 40-goal season.

    Toews, meanwhile, is doing his part to erase a miserable first half of the season offensively by completely taking over for the Blackhawks in recent weeks. Entering Sunday’s game Toews is on a scoring surge that has seen him record 23 points in the past 15 games. That is more offense than he created in his first 37 games of the season.

    As a team, the Blackhawks are simply crushing any opponent that gets in their way right now with wins in eight of their past nine games thanks to an offense that is scoring at least four goals every game during that stretch.

    It’s a big game for both teams when it comes to the playoff picture.

    For the Blues, winners of seven out of 10 under new coach Mike Yeo, they have a chance to put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in Western Conference wild card race if they can pick up a win. They enter the game three points up on the Los Angeles Kings.

    The Blackhawks are still trying to keep pace with the Minnesota Wild for the top spot in the Central Division, entering the day three points back.

    Chicago will be without a pretty significant member of its defense on Sunday night when Niklas Hjalmarsson misses the game due to an upper body injury. He had to exit their game against Arizona on Thursday night in the first period. He is currently listed as day-to-day. With Hjalmarsson out Michal Rozsival will draw back in to the lineup after scoring his first goal of the season on Thursday.