Rookies have been getting the cold shoulder this week – Puljujarvi is getting bumped by Cammalleri on McDavid's wing, Keller is on Richardson's wing rather than Stepan's, and Tim Heed has been a scratch for San Jose despite being the second-highest-scoring D on the squad.
Now that we're past the quarter-pole and teams start worrying more about winning every single game, its easy for the newbies to take a hit in ice time while the coaches rely on their tried-and-true veterans to carry the load through tough stretches. Through roughly 20 games so far, here are the rookies maintaining decent time for their teams:
Charlie McAvoy – 23:35
No surprise here, we knew McAvoy was a stud ready to play big minutes and he hasn't disappointed. He could do to shoot the puck a little more, but with 11 points no one is complaining about the franchise rearguard.
Sam Girard – 19:56
His newfound powerplay time in Colorado helps this number, but Girard is earning his minutes by playing the top-four minutes (top-two currently) for the Avs. The team lacks enough better options for this to change without a really good reason, so expect this TOI to continue regardless of where the team goes in the standings.
Robert Hagg – 19:47
I didn't see this one coming. But the injury to Andy MacDonald left a hole ready for a shut-down-style d-man not requiring any offensive upside, and Hagg has filled the role decently. That being said, its still under 20 minutes a game, and its likely to go down once MacDonald returns. Overall, it's a down year for defesemen getting serious ice time – McAvoy is the only guy seeing over 20 minutes aTOI, but last season 8 skaters topped that mark.
Clayton Keller – 19:26
Thank goodness Arizona is a forward-thinking organization, otherwise Keller might be limited alot more than he is now. The team's top forward is getting every opportunity to make his mark, although as mentioned above he has been booted to play with Richardson on the "second" line (even though Keller makes any line the top line). No reason to expect a serious change – Keller should lead rookie forwards come the end of the year.
Kyle Connor – 17:50
He started a little later than other rookies after beginning the year in the AHL, but Connor has stuck on the top line which means serious minutes, including some top-unit PP minutes. There's too much talent on the Jets for his spot there to be safe, so if a scoring slump comes along don't be surprised if he take a bit of a hit. He still looks like he's here to stay and is scoring like a top-six forward should, so I don't expect any drop in ice time to be overly significant.
Yanni Gourde – 17:17
Here we go with another surprise at number 3. We knew Gourde had the energy to be a decent penalty-killer and bottom-six boost from his call-ups last year, but Gourde has taken advantage of some struggling veterans to make his way into the top-six and 2nd powerplay unit. He deserves full credit for being a player capable of being useful in any situation, which will make him a full-time NHLer. Unless Kunitz or Callahan start producing (and there's no reason to expect this), his small PP time is safe, along with his 2nd line RW spot. Therefore I can't make a case for his ice time taing a significant hit…until the trade deadline when tampa picks up an extra piece for the cup run. These TOI for forwards is roughly the same as top forwards saw last season, so Gourde being here isn't due to this being a weak year.
First NHL Goals time!
Samuel Blais get's to the slot on the powerplay and is ready for the one-timer:
Matt Grzelcyk sneaks one through for his first:
Thanks for reading, and best of luck in the remaining 75% of your fatasy seasons!