NHL Power Rankings: Top second-year players for this season

NHL Power Rankings

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are taking a look at the second year players that are set to have the biggest seasons.

A few things to keep in mind.

This is not a ranking of the best rookies from a year ago, or even necessarily a list of who will have the best overall career. This is simply a projection as to which rookies from 2019-20 are going to have the best performance this season.

• Only players who were eligible to win the Calder Trophy in 2019-20 are eligible. That is who we are considering “second year” players. We had to draw the line somewhere and make a uniform requirement. This is the line.

So, for example, even though Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood played 20 games two years ago, it did not qualify as his rookie season. He was still eligible for the Calder this past season (he finished in sixth place in the voting). That puts him on the list.

Conversely, Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin is still eligible for the Calder because he is considered a “rookie” (he only appeared in 12 regular season games last season). So he is not eligible for this list.

Those are the rules.

Now that you know them. Who makes the list?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche. Already an outstanding player with superstar potential. A great talent that is surrounded by a Stanley Cup caliber roster. He should have a massive season.

2. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks. He was neck and neck with Makar in the Calder race and quickly became Vancouver’s top defenseman. The two will be competing for the Norris Trophy for years. Given his position and role, Hughes might end up being the most impactful player out of Vancouver’s big-three.

3. Adam Fox, New York Rangers. The Rangers defense has some big question marks but Fox is not among them. The Makar-Hughes race hid how impactful he was in his rookie season, but he was not far behind them.

4. Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals. He will share the net with Henrik Lundqvist, but Samsonov is still the future of the position in Washington. He will also take the primary role in the present. And he will be excellent.

5. Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens. The Max Pacioretty trade has turned out to be a huge win for Montreal. Suzuki was one of Montreal’s best forwards a year ago and is in position for a breakout season.

[Related: Looking at five potential breakout players]

6. Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets. Probably the most surprising rookie from the 2019-20 class, but he was a huge part of Columbus’ success. Expect a little regression from that .923 save percentage, but he should still be a strength for the Blue Jackets.

7. John Marino, Pittsburgh Penguins. Nobody paid attention to it when the Penguins traded a sixth-round pick for him. Then he went and became one of the top rookies in the league and will be a major part of their defense for the foreseeable future.

8. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks. A 24-year-old rookie that scored on 20 percent of his shots is a small red flag for me. That shooting percentage is going to regress. Nobody scores that efficiently in the NHL every year. Still a very good player, but if you are expecting a 37-goal pace over 82 games again you are probably expecting too much. Maybe 25-30 per 82 games is more realistic.

9. Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres. Would like to see a little more even-strength production from him, but he has become a real weapon on Buffalo’s power play.

10. Denis Gurianov, Dallas Stars. When he plays he always makes an impact. Now the Stars just need to play him more.

11. MacKenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils. With Blackwood and Corey Crawford in net the Devils’ biggest weakness from the past two years might turn out to be their biggest strength this season.

[ProHockeyTalk’s Free Agency Tracker]

12. Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes. One of the many young players the Hurricanes are building around. Not quite on the level of Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, but still a significant part of their long-term outlook.

13. Kirby Dach, Chicago Blackhawks. He had the kind of inconsistencies and growing pains you would expect from a 19-year-old rookie, but he took on a bigger role in the postseason and did not look out of place. Of all the young players on the roster, he is the one that I would be most excited about for the future.

14. Joel Farabee, Philadelphia Flyers. A very strong rookie season and impressive postseason for the Flyers. Farabee has top-line potential and could be in line for a breakout year.

15. Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils. Not every No. 1 overall pick is going to immediately be a star. Hughes struggled a lot in his rookie season, but there were still flashes of what is ahead for him and the Devils. Expect significant improvement with a season under his belt. That is the hope.

16. Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers. Speaking of growing pains, Kakko produced some of the worst underlying results of any player in the NHL a year ago. He struggled. A lot. But he is still an enormous talent and is going to be playing alongside a pretty talented group of forwards. I like that combination. He is one of the big “what ifs” in New York that could help power a breakthrough season.

17. Matt Roy, Los Angeles Kings. A real bright spot in an otherwise lousy Kings season. Roy was sensational defensively and should continue to be a solid top-four defenseman.

18. Philippe Myers, Philadelphia Flyers. He was one of the Flyers’ most effective defenders a year ago and should get an even bigger role this season following the retirement of Matt Niskanen.

19. Ethan Bear, Edmonton Oilers. He had a very strong rookie season, and the Oilers are going to need him to be even better in the absence of Oscar Klefbom.

[Related: Which NHL team has best defensemen?]

20. Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are counting on him to be a core player, and the potential is there. With 28 games a year ago he barely makes the cut for this list. His 82-game pace at the NHL level was for 23 goals and 45 points, solid for a rookie, and he was very good in the AHL. This season could be a big step for him.

21. Cody Glass, Vegas Golden Knights. A lot of this might depend on just how big of a role he gets. The Golden Knights have some depth issues at center following the departure of Paul Stastny. Can Glass help fill that? He has big offensive potential and showed flashes of it before an injury cut his season short.

22. Alexandre Texier, Columbus Blue Jackets. I had high hopes for him entering his rookie season, and it got off to a fine start right up until he joined the rest of the Blue Jackets roster on the injured list.

23. Noah Dobson, New York Islanders. The trade of Devon Toews and Johnny Boychuk‘s injury opens the door for Dobson to get his shot. I think he will take advantage of it.

24. Sam Steel, Anaheim Ducks. He did not make a huge impact offensively, but he is one of the Ducks’ most promising young players. They need him to take a big step forward.

25. Blake Lizotte, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are loaded with young talent, and Lizotte seemingly came out of nowhere as an undrafted free agent and put together a solid rookie season. He may not be a star, but he has a strong future.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.


    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).


    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.