NHL Rookies Are Setting A Staggering Scoring Pace
November 11, 2016
There are kids throughout North America and Europe who grow up living and breathing hockey.
These young people grow up idolizing the great players who preceded them. Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Steve Yzerman and the list goes on.
These larger-than-life figures offer inspiration and guidance to new players, and hopefully a path that leads to a Stanley Cup.
The annual NHL draft convenes within two weeks of the final Stanley Cup playoff game. This event provides an opportunity for the 14 teams that did not make the playoffs to acquire new talent and hopefully a better year. And every new season reveals new superstars.
Sidney Crosby is an excellent example of how high the bar is being set for new players these days. Even with his injuries he has rallied to become a dominant force in the league.
The 2016-2017 season already recognizes Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, William Nylander, and Patrick Laine. These rookies are setting a staggering point-per-game pace and there is little doubt that these players are distinguishing themselves through a new style of offensive play.
Every fan who has watched Gretzky in action is familiar with his behind-the-net patience. Waiting for an opportunity to pass, then moving effortlessly to the front of the net and rocketing the puck past the goalie before he’d even realized what happened. That kind of offense is almost impossible to beat.
But the draft isn’t just about finding big time scorers. Most fans crave a fast-paced, hard-hitting game that keeps things exciting and memorable. In past seasons the hard-hitting has come from Lindros, Neely, Ovechkin, Stevens and Blake.
I still remember watching a game in which Rob Blake landed a perfect body check on an offensive player at center ice. The slow motion replay looked like the other player had simply hit a brick wall while skating at top speed. The hit laid him out on the ice, luckily without major injury. Meanwhile Blake just skated off as though he’d barely felt it.
While exciting, this kind of big physical contact can take a toll. Eric Lindros’ career was cut short due to repeated concussions. When he was drafted he showed tremendous potential and was expected to impact the league well beyond the seasons he played.
Checking and blocking require a high level of skill and split-second decision making. Countless suspension days have been doled out to players who failed to make responsible decisions about when and how to hit another player.
Players who transform into legends are the ones who use their brains and their brawn in harmony. Hockey is a thinking person’s game. It moves fast and waits for no one. Individual skill is required to complement team play.
Coaches and players alike struggle with teammates who skate from end to end wanting only to get the puck into the net. An elite player is able to keep team puck possession and utilize an arsenal of moves that require training and practice.
Lately current commissioner Gary Bettman has taken a bit of heat over changes made to league guidelines and equipment focused on preventing serious injury.
Despite public complaints about these precautions changing the game for the worse or dulling it down I believe they’re the right call. Nobody really wins if everyone leaves the ice on a stretcher.
So, this new round of players coming up through the league today will need to continue to hone their skills and embrace the thinking part of the game in order to play effectively while still keeping the real fans satisfied.