As the 2016-17 NHL season is about to start, new players coming into the league are expected to make a difference immediately. These rookies should make an impact for their respective teams as soon as the puck drops. Don’t be surprised if these players become noteworthy in short order.
The young Fin has a lot to live up to and the skill to match his charisma. Laine is a sniper in the same vein as Alexander Ovechkin. He is going to be a player that should be a star for the next decade-plus, but being on a middling Winnipeg Jets team could mean anonymity.
Is Laine going to be able to break out of the Canadian bubble and become a household name among hockey fans? His skill suggests as much, but the pressure could end up being a bear.
One of the shining stars from the World Cup of Hockey, the amount of skill Matthews showed playing on a line with Connor McDavid is almost unparalleled. That increased anticipation for the No. 1 overall draft pick’s NHL debut. He is going to be playing on a putrid, but improving Maple Leafs team.
Matthews is the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy. But the next question for him as a player is: where is his ceiling?
Another player from the Winnipeg Jets, Connor was easily the best player in college hockey last year scoring well over two points per game for the University of Michigan. While a good player in his draft year, his development skyrocketed, making him a shining star on an otherwise dull team.
If Laine doesn’t end up being the all-around superstar that the Jets are hoping for, Connor could easily fill that void and be a difference maker. He is definitely the hidden gem this year and could make the biggest impact of all first-year NHL players.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a couple of terrible seasons and need something to look forward to. The team and its fans finally have that in Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Bjorkstrand led the Jackets’ minor league affiliate in playoff scoring last year, as the team went on to win the Calder Cup (the Stanley Cup of the AHL). His smooth skating and amazingly quick shot should translate easily to the NHL. The problem for him could be his slight size against NHL competition. Is he going to get shoved off the puck often or is he going to continue to be a difference maker?
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 21, 2016
Playing with fellow rookie Jesse Puljujarvi last year in Finland, Aho was the name who stole the show. He ended up being the higher scorer of the two and a player who made the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey squads. As a young player, that is never supposed to happen, yet Aho was an under-the-radar selection for both clubs. He wasn’t an idle passenger either, putting up points at all levels.
Aho will get a chance to center a highly skilled line for the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the few improving teams in the league. As a player who has challenged on the big stage, he should be a contributor immediately.