NHL: Five rookie forwards to keep an eye on….Once the lockout is over
While fans await the NHL lockout to conclude and the start of a new season, whenever that may be, we’re going to take a look at some young forwards to watch out for, once the lockout is over.
1) Nail Yakupov – Edmonton Oilers: The first-overall pick in the June 2012 entry draft is explosive. He is ready for the NHL and will no doubt be a calder trophy favorite for rookie of the year once the season begins. In addition to being an outstanding skater, he is a pure sniper in the mold of former NHL star Pavel Bure. With the young talent he will be surrounded by in Edmonton, there is no reason to believe he will not put up strong offensive numbers right out of the gate. At some point in his career, most likely sooner rather than later, we should see the talented right winger hit the 40 plus goal mark on a consistent basis.
2) Mikael Granlund – Minnesota Wild: The talented young center out of Finland is also ready to make the jump to the NHL. With the Wild going out and signing Zach Parise to play on the first line with Mikko Koivu, there won’t be as much top end defensive pressure on Grandlund, and his linemates on the second line. He will most likely have veteran sniper Dany Heatley playing with him and despite Heatley’s decline in numbers the last couple seasons, their style’s of play will compliment each other very well. With Koivu and Granlund down the middle, the Wild have a very strong 1-2 punch. Granlund is a very creative offensive player and while not very physical or fast, he is quick and shifty and should be able to adjust nicely to the NHL.
3) Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues: This dynamic young russian right winger has played in the KHL for the last four years. This should help him with his transition to the Blues lineup, as he has the experience of playing against professional players. Tarasenko is a shifty winger, with a very solid build. He is not afraid to go into the corners and battle for loose pucks and is not only ready for the NHL, but he should be able to slide onto one of the Blues top two lines right away. The Blues have built a great foundation and being not only a top defensive team, but now with the additions of Tarasenko and fellow young winger Jaden Schwartz, their top end forward corps should be that much better.
4) Sven Baetschi – Calgary Flames: While the Flames future looks bleak as many of their top players are getting up there in age, this young Swiss winger has offered some more hope for the franchise. In a brief emergency call up last season, Baetschi had three goals in just five games. He is extremely quick, as well as gritty and he has the ability to be a top end sniper in the NHL for a long time. Expect him to make the transition into the Flames lineup full time, in a top six forward role once the season gets going.
5) Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers – This talented young center has all the makings of becoming the Panthers number one center in the near future. He may have to add a bit more muscle before making the jump to the NHL, but with his outstanding hockey IQ and strong two way play, he should be ready to make the jump out of juniors once the lockout is over. Huberdeau is a very creative offensive player, as he is a top playmaker that possesses outstanding hands. In his prime years, he should be a point per game player, that is very responsible in his own end as well.