The rookie class of the NHL seems to be quite strong every single year and the 2018-19 NHL class has the potential to be a strong one once again. There are so many highly talented players worldwide these days, the sport of hockey has never been more competitive.
There are a lot of players drafted in the last 2-3 years who are looking to take the next step and make names for themselves in the NHL. Here are 5 players that have the potential to be the best of next years freshman class.
- Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Nashville Predators
Eeli Tolvanen had a strong draft year, putting up 30 goals and 54 points in 50 games with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL. After being drafted 30th overall by the Predators in 2017, Tolvanen went over to play one season in the KHL to play against men. In a league where it is difficult to score and put up points, especially when you’re a young player, Tolvanen scored 19 goals and 36 points in 49 KHL games as a 19-year-old.
When he came over to Nashville at the end of this past season, he only played 3 regular season games and didn’t see any action during the postseason. It maybe wasn’t as quick of a transition as some may have thought, but those games that he played in will give him valuable experience on what the NHL is like. Having that experience he can use it going into next season.
Tolvanen is a terrific offensive player that loves to shoot the puck. He can score in a multitude of ways, whether it’s a one-timer on the powerplay, a quick wrist shot off the rush, Tolvanen is dangerous when he has the puck in the offensive zone. If he earns more and more ice time and get’s an opportunity with Nashville’s top players like Johansen, Forsberg, and Turris, he could be in for a big rookie season.
- Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Carolina Hurricanes
The 2nd overall pick from this past Junes draft produced at almost a goal per game pace with Barrie in the OHL last season, scoring 40 goals and 72 points in just 44 games. Svechnikov has all the tools to be a dominant force in the NHL for a long time.
He has a very well-rounded game, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s a powerful skater, he has a fantastic shot, he can also kill penalties and is very reliable without the puck. Assuming Svechnikov makes the team which he most likely will, he has a good chance of playing big minutes right away.
Carolina still has question marks up the middle, however, they still have good players up front in Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Jeff Skinner (assuming he doesn’t get traded). Carolina has been looking for a superstar up front for years and Svechnikov has the potential to be that guy soon and for a long time. I believe that he’s capable of having a similar rookie season as other high picks like Hischier, Marner, Nylander in the 50-60-point range.
- Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres 2017 8th overall pick came off a strong freshman season with the University of Minnesota as well as a dominant World Junior Championship where he was named the tournaments best forward. Mittelstadt is a dynamic player with elite puck skills and skating ability. He has the ability to be a play driver and take over games offensively.
Like Tolvanen, Mittelstadt came over after his season ended and he suited up for 6 games with the Sabres, scoring a goal and 4 assists. He will have several good young players to play with next year in Jack Eichel, Alex Nylander, Sam Reinhart and now Rasmus Dahlin. I expect him to get powerplay time with those players as well. He will be put in a position to succeed in Buffalo this coming season and he should be a strong candidate for rookie of the year consideration at the end of the year.
- Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres
It’s not often that defensemen win the Calder trophy, only 2 defensemen have won the award in the last 10 seasons and only 11 defensemen have won the trophy since 1933. However, if any defensemen can do it, it’s Rasmus Dahlin. The consensus number 1 pick in this past draft is projected as a franchise-changing defensemen. Dahlin is capable of being an impact player in the NHL right away, some believe he’s better than Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman was at the same age.
There is not much more that needs to be said about Dahlin, he can step right in to a top 4 role with Buffalo this season. Having guys like Eichel, Nylander, and another Calder favorite Mittelstadt to work with up front, Dahlin should have a very good year and be a Calder favorite all season long.
- Elias Petterson, C, Vancouver Canucks
If there are a lot of hockey fans that don’t know too much about Elias Petterson, you will learn a lot very soon. Petterson led the Swedish Hockey League in scoring as a 19-year-old with 56 points in just 44 games. He also took home awards for SHL rookie of the year, SHL Best Forward as well as League MVP, while playing in a professional league against men all season.
The SHL is not the NHL, and it’s not exactly fair to expect Petterson to put up 90 points this year. But he proved that he can not only make an impact against grown men as a teenager but can dominate against very difficult competition. He has the hands, the playmaking ability and has a terrific shot, he can be a game breaker on any given night. The sky is the limit for Elias Petterson as to what he can become as an offensive star.
Vancouver is the not the deepest team in the league so Petterson has a chance to play a significant role with top 6 minutes and powerplay time. He might see some time with guys like Brock Boeser or Bo Horvat on a line or on the powerplay as well. If he makes the team he is going to get a very good opportunity to be an impact player for the Canucks and barring any injury or setback, I truly think as of right now that this is his award to lose.