Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s daily bulletin, covering all the latest news in the NHL and providing unique analysis and insight, while highlighting the content you need in your lives.
We’re two weeks into the 2020-21 NHL season and there has already been a whole boatload of storylines to digest, in addition to a plethora of incredible performances and some real eye-catching highlight-reel plays, including from this year’s crop of rookies.
And that’s where our focus lands today. In today’s Inside The Box we are going to take a look at the five rookies who have made quite the impression within the first two weeks of the 2020-21 season, and also take a look at those who are perhaps already grasping one hand on the 2020-21 Calder Trophy.
Before we delve in, however, there will be some notable omissions on this list, including the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Alexis Lafreniere who hasn’t recorded a point in his first five NHL games although, as we mapped out here, there is no need to panic about the generational talent’s lack of production just yet. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in….
The Five NHL Rookies who have really caught the eye in 2020-21 so far…
Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Minnesota Wild
This is an obvious one given that Kirill Kaprizov has without a doubt been the most impressive rookie in the National Hockey League so far this season. The Russian stud arrived in North America with a lot of hype and fanfare and, so far, he has well and truly delivered. You can argue that the Minnesota Wild haven’t had a player this naturally gifted since Marian Gaborik and, as such, the State of Hockey finally have a legit young star they can invest in.
Kaprizov has come out swinging this season with six points (1 G, 5 A) in six games, including an Overtime winner, and he’s also assisted on a couple of game-winners too. It is the way the 23-year-old plays the game that is most impressive though, dazzling with a mouthwatering array of skill and speed and, as we saw against the San Jose Sharks last week, Kirill Kaprizov isn’t afraid to try the ridiculous after nearly scoring a sublime between-the-legs goal. He just oozes skill and talent and he’s going to be a star in Minnesota for the Wild for a very long time.
Ty Smith, D, New Jersey Devils
It has been quite the start to the 2020-21 season for Ty Smith who, after being a hyped prospect for years, was finally unleashed on the NHL this year by the New Jersey Devils and he hasn’t been fazed by playing on the biggest stage in the world. In fact, the 20-year-old has flourished and he leads all NHL rookie defensemen in points with six (1 G, 5 A) in five games. He’s a +5 and has averaged 15:31 of ATOI so far.
Plus, after recording two assists in the Devils’ 2-0 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday, Smith became the sixth NHL rookie defenseman to record points in his first five games, with Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche the last to do it in 2019. Granted, Ty Smith has some work to do in his own zone and it might help if he’s given a new partner other than Matt Tennyson, but there is no doubt that Smith has a high ceiling as an offensive blueliner and he’s been incredibly impressive to watch so far in 2020-21.
Alexander Romanov, D, Montreal Canadiens
Similar to Kirill Kaprizov, there was a lot of intrigue surrounding Alexander Romanov after he caught the eye in the KHL and, after signing an Entry-Level deal with the Montreal Canadiens in the offseason, the rookie defenseman has enjoyed a solid start to life in the National Hockey League.
Though he only has two points (1 G, 1 A) in six games, that doesn’t tell the whole story with Romanov currently averaging a hefty 19:05 of ATOI while he has seven blocked shots and 15 hits under his belt already, Plus the 21-year-old boasts a hugely-impressive 61.6% CF% and a 70.2% oZS%, which proves just how effective he has been for the Montreal Canadiens as an all-round blueliner who does everything well, and the best could yet be to come.
Josh Norris, C, Ottawa Senators
Not getting as much attention as his peers because he plays for the Ottawa Senators, Josh Norris has quietly recorded four points (1 G, 3 A) in six games while averaging 16:20 minutes of total ice time. It has been an impressive start to his NHL career for Norris who is seeing top-line action with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson, and he’ll likely continue to get a big role on the power play too. Plus, with 11 hits already, Josh Norris is proving that he’s not afraid to lay the body on or battle hard in the dirty areas and that is an incredibly positive sign for the Ottawa Senators.
Nils Hoglander, LW, Vancouver Canucks
It hasn’t been the best of starts to the 2020-21 season for the Vancouver Canucks, although they did rebound nicely on Monday by dismantling the Ottawa Senators in a 7-1 win, but they have had one bright note in the form of rookie Nils Hoglander, who was the 40th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Hoglander has four points (2 G, 2 A) in eight games for the Canucks, averaging 14:40 of total ice time while recording an impressive CF% of 50.2% and an even better 50.8% oZS%. Furthermore, Hoglander’s shooting percentage is currently 16.7% so that makes you think more goals will come, while he’s already blocked eight shots and laid on five hits, highlighting the fact that he plays with a lot of energy and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line for his team despite his 5-foot-9, 185 pounds frame.
David Pastrnak is closing in on a return to action and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time for the Boston Bruins.
We have been treated to a first glimpse of Pierre-Luc Dubois in a Winnipeg Jets jersey, and it looks pretty, pretty good.
John Gibson is doing his best to ensure that the Anaheim Ducks have a chance of sneaking into the postseason out of the West Division this year.