Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Top 5 Tuesday

Today we take a look at some NHL rookies, not named Stamkos, Turris or Brunnstrom you should keep your eye on:

5. Oscar Moller-Los Angeles Kings
The super swede scored his first NHL goal Monday night against Colorado.
Playing on a line with Alexander Frolov and Michael Handzus, Frolov took a pass down low and from a bad angle fired in his first. It was a goal Peter Budaj should have stopped, but it was a goal Moller (pictured courtesy Getty Images) has likely scored many times in his career, simply because he loves to shoot the puck. He lit up the WHL with 39 goals last year, and could be doing the same thing with Chilliwack as a 19 year old, but he cracked the Kings roster. Moller said during an intermission Monday night that he was "a little surprised" about making the team, but now he's making the most of it. Along with 18 year old Drew Doughty (who also scored his first career NHL goal Monday night, and was undressed by Ryan Smyth on an Avs goal), and 20 year Wayne Simmonds Moller is fitting well as a young star in Hollywood playing almost 15 minutes a night.

4. Viktor Tikhonov-Phoenix Coyotes
At the 2008 NHL draft in Ottawa, the Coyotes took a player who Peter Deboer told TPS before the Memorial Cup - was the most NHL ready player in the draft, selecting Mikkel Boedker 8th overall. The "Great Dane" as TPS started calling him during the Memorial Cup has 2 goals in 5 Coyotes games as of Monday and joins an embarassment of riches when it comes to young players in the desert. Kyle Turris, Kevin Porter, Peter Meuller, and Martin Hanzal are all stars on the rise like Boedker. But Viktor Tikhonov (pictured left courtesy thehockeynews.com)is another guy to watch. The grandson of the legendary Soviet Union coach of the same name was acquired by the Coyotes with the 28th pick in the first round this past June, a pick they traded to get, and select the Russian who had twice been passed over in the draft. The 20 year old was born in Moscow but grew up in California before moving back to Russia and representing his country at the 2008 World Junior Championship where Russia won a bronze medal. The fact that the Coyotes used a first round pick on a 20 year old tells you how important they think Tikhonov can be to their organization immediately.

3. Luca Sbisa-Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers grabbed Italian born, and Switzlerand raised Luca Sbisa 19th overall last June, and most including myself expected him to play a second season with Lethbrige of the WHL. It looks like the Flyers have other ideas. Sbisa who started at the bottom of the defence pile in Philly, is now in the team's top 4, skating with Brayden Coburn on the 2nd pairing. The smooth skating rearguard ranks 5th among rookie D-men averaging 18:44 of ice time, but played a season high 21:05 recently against Montreal and has been on the ice in late game situations. Heading into action Tuesday the 18 year old had yet to register a point, but that will come in time. There's still a chance he could end up back in Lethbridge as he's yet to reach the magical 9 game mark, but it looks like the Flyers blueline of the future with Sbisa, Ryan Parent, and Brayden Coburn is in good hands.

2. Patrick Berglund-St. Louis Blues
Another Sweded on our list, the Blues 1st round pick, 25th overall in 2006 came over to St. Louis about a month before training camp to get used to the surroundings and make sure he was ready for the season. I'd say the plan worked. Berglund picked up his first goal, and assist in just his second NHL game, putting up 2 points versus the Leafs. He's since added another assist for 3 points in 4 games. Berglund has a ton of goal scoring potential, having netted 43 goals and 102 points in 81 games back in Swedend the past 2 years. He also has the size St. Louis is drooling over, at 6.04 and by his account was 210 pounds before training camp. While TJ Oshie might be more well known when it comes to Blues rookies, Berglund who's tied for 4th in rookie scoring heading into Tuesday night will soon be on the radar screen for hockey fans.

1. Derick Brassard
Quick, can you name the top scoring rookie in the NHL right now? If you raised your hand and answered Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks, give yourself a gold star. With a goal and 5 helpers in 5 games, Versteeg has a 1 point lead on the Stars Fabian Brunnstrom. The question is will the 5th round pick of Boston from 2004 keep it up? Not likely. Only 2 points back of Versteeg is Columbus Centerman Derick Brassard, a player that is finally getting a shot in Columbus now that Gilbert Brule is no longer around. The 6th overall pick from 2006 played 17 games for the Jackets last season, and while he didn't dazzle with just 2 points, he reportedly did impress head coach Ken Hitchcock. This year he's been spotted with Jakub Voracek and Jason Chimera. Chimera told me at Perry Pearn's summer camp this year, he loved playing with the 2 young guys, and jokingly said he might get 50 goals with the rookies. Brassard almost reached the half century mark in junior with Drummondville in his draft year, potting 44 goals, and adding 72 assists in just 58 games. A shoulder injury limited him to just 14 games in 2006-2007, but Brassard (pictured right courtesy of syracusecrunch.com) rebounded with 51 points in 42 AHL games last season, which was his first as a pro, and included a few stints with the big club. Brassard has notched 2 goals and 2 assists in 5 games this year, 2 more points than he scored last year in 17 games.

A few others to keep your eye on are James Neal in Dallas, Ryan Jones of Nashville and Alex Goligoski in Pittsburgh.

(Pictures courtesy: Sbisa-Zimbia.com, Berglund-jamd.com,)

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