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.

[snip]

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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    NHL odds: Coyotes biggest long shot to make playoffs in 2016-17

    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  (L-R) Christian Dvorak #18, Luke Schenn #2, Radim Vrbata #17, Dakota Mermis #43 and Max Domi #16 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrate after Schenn scored a first period goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the preseason NHL game at Gila River Arena on September 26, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    With Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dylan Strome all in place, the Arizona Coyotes have an exciting core of young talent that should have a bright future in the NHL.

    From a big picture outlook, there are plenty of reasons for optimism surrounding the Coyotes.

    Vegas, on the other hand, isn’t a big believer in the Coyotes chances for the 2016-17 season.

    The folks at Bovada released their playoff odds for the upcoming season and the Coyotes opened as the biggest long shot to make the playoffs (-600 to miss the playoffs; +400 to make them).

    Here are the odds for every team, via Bovada.

    Playoff Odds (From Most Likely to make the playoffs to least likely to make the playoffs)

    Washington Capitals – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -1000 (1/10)
    No +600 (6/1)

    Tampa Bay Lightning – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -850 (17/2)
    No +525 (21/4)

    Chicago Blackhawks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -800 (1/8)
    No +500 (5/1)

    Pittsburgh Penguins – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -800 (1/8)
    No +500 (5/1)

    St Louis Blues – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -800 (1/8)
    No +500 (5/1)

    San Jose Sharks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -700 (1/7)
    No +475 (10/4)

    Los Angeles Kings – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -300 (1/3)
    No +240 (12/5)

    Dallas Stars – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    Florida Panthers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    Nashville Predators – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    New York Rangers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    New York Islanders – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -250 (2/5)
    No +200 (2/1)

    Anaheim Ducks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -180 (5/9)
    No +150 (3/2)

    Boston Bruins – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -165 (20/33)
    No +135 (27/20)

    Montreal Canadiens – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -165 (20/33)
    No +135 (27/20)

    Philadelphia Flyers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -150 (2/3)
    No +120 (6/5)

    Minnesota Wild – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -140 (7/5)
    No +110 (11/10)

    Winnipeg Jets – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -115 (20/23)
    No -115 (20/23)

    Calgary Flames – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +120 (6/5)
    No -150 (2/3)

    Edmonton Oilers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +120 (6/5)
    No -150 (3/2)

    Detroit Red Wings – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +125 (5/4)
    No -155 (20/31)

    Colorado Avalanche – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +150 (3/2)
    No -180 (5/9)

    Vancouver Canucks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +180 (9/5)
    No -225 (4/9)

    Buffalo Sabres – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +240 (12/5)
    No -300 (1/3)

    New Jersey Devils – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +250 (5/2)
    No -325 (4/13)

    Ottawa Senators – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +250 (5/2)
    No -325 (4/13)

    Toronto Maple Leafs – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +250 (5/2)
    No -325 (4/13)

    Columbus Blue Jackets – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +275 (11/4)
    No -350 (2/7)

    Carolina Hurricanes – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +300 (3/1)
    No -400 (1/4)

    Arizona Coyotes – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +400 (4/1)
    No -600 (1/6)

    If you’re feeling bold, the Coyotes aren’t the worst bet to make here. They are certainly not a lock to make the playoffs, but the biggest long shot seems like it is a little much as well.

    Getting into one of the top three spots in the division is going to be tough because Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose had a pretty commanding lead for those spots. But the Coyotes still weren’t that far out of a playoff spot this past season, finishing in 10th place in the Western Conference, nine points out of the second wild card spot. It’s not like they were a bottom-feeder in the NHL. Plus, they made the move over the summer to bring in veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski to help on the blue line and should have Strome, the No. 3 overall pick from a year ago, ready to make his NHL debut.

    Report: Ekblad cleared by Panthers doctors

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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    Aaron Ekblad has been medically cleared by Florida Panthers doctors, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

    That’s a big relief for everyone involved after Ekblad was injured while representing Team North America in the World Cup. The injury was originally reported as a “mild” concussion, though it was later called a neck injury.

    The 20-year-old has since been back on the ice working out.

    “Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said. “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

    The first overall pick in the 2014 draft, Eklbad had already dealt with at least one concussion during his playing career. He suffered one in an international exhibition game during the summer of 2014, just prior to his outstanding rookie season with the Panthers.

    Ottawa sends Brown, 11th overall draft pick, back to junior

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Logan Brown celebrates with the Ottawa Senators after being selected 11th overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    It didn’t take long for one of the top picks at this year’s draft to be sent packing from training camp.

    On Wednesday, Ottawa announced that Logan Brown — the 11th overall selection in June — has been sent back to his junior team in OHL Windsor.

    Brown, the son of ex-NHL defenseman Jeff Brown, played in Monday’s exhibition win over Toronto and scored once. He didn’t play in Tuesday’s OT loss to Buffalo.

    Though he wasn’t expected to make the team this season, Brown, 18, is considered to be a high-end prospect, which makes his early dismissal a bit curious.

    At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, he has terrific size and the Sens wasted little time locking him in after the draft, signing him to a three-year, entry-level deal in August.

    Related: Get to know a draft pick — Logan Brown

    Seidenberg expected to sign with Islanders

    BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Four of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    Dennis Seidenberg is expected to sign with the New York Islanders after the World Cup, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

    It’s a one-year, $1 million deal, per Dreger.

    Seidenberg is currently playing a significant role for Team Europe, a surprise finalist against the heavily favored Canadians.

    The 35-year-old defenseman was unexpectedly bought out by the Boston Bruins over the summer. He had two years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.

    Seidenberg was a key part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup champion team in 2011, but injuries limited him to just 61 games last season, and his average ice time fell below 20 minutes for the first time since he was with the Hurricanes in 2007-08.

    He’ll likely take on a bottom-pairing role with the Islanders, below Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, and Calvin de Haan. He may even be the extra defenseman, pushing the likes of Thomas Hickey, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield for a spot in the lineup.

    Related: Seidenberg shocked by Bruins’ decision