Two-plus months into the season, let’s look at who the best AHL rookies have been:
1. John Gibson, G, Norfolk Admirals
Anaheim, Second round, 39th overall, 2011
21 GP, 2.46 GAA, 92.2% save percentage, two shutouts
With two shutouts and eight wins, as well as an excellent GAA and save percentage thus far this season, Gibson is the AHL’s top rookie. With four good goaltenders in their system, including two number ones, the Ducks are incredibly stocked in net. Not only do they have the 20-year-old prospect Gibson, but there is also 24-year-old Frederik Andersen, who is playing lights out for Anaheim when one of the two 31-year-old regulars is out injured. It behooves the Ducks to trade at least one of these goalies, but don’t expect it to be Gibson. A potential All Star in the making, Gibson is currently Hockey Prospectus’ top AHL rookie.
2. Ryan Strome, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
New York Islanders, first round, fifth overall, 2011
23 GP, 9 Goals, 24 Assists, 33 Points, 22 PIM, +9
Just promoted to the NHL roster last week, Strome is the top scorer in the AHL. The 20-year-old is expected to center the second line for the Islanders, a team with a shortage of secondary scoring. Prior to being called up, Strome posted 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in four December games.
3. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Syracuse Crunch
Tampa Bay Lightning, second round, 58th overall, 2011
17 GP, 13 Goals, 11 Assists, 10 PIM, +1
Drafted by the Lightning while skating in the KHL, Kucherov played major junior hockey last year. Recording 63 points in 33 regular season games in the Q during 2012-13 (his first season), Kucherov scored at a rate close to the top players in the league. Promoted to the NHL late last month, Kucherov has started slowly, but he has the potential to be on the first line with Steven Stamkos in the near future.
4. Malcolm Subban, G, Providence Bruins
Boston Bruins, first round, 24th overall, 2012
12 GP, 2.53 GAA, 91.5% save percentage, zero shutouts
The heir apparent to the number one goalie position in Boston, the Bruins are likely to be in an enviable position in a few years; the current number one in Beantown, Tuukka Rask, is one of the NHL’s best netminders. Only 26 years old himself, Rask will soon be looking over his shoulder, as Subban is only about two seasons from being ready as an NHL backup.
5. Cody Ceci, D, Binghamton Senators
Ottawa Senators, first round, 15th overall, 2012
24 GP, 2 Goals, 15 Assists, 17 Points, 10 PIM, +8
One of the younger players in the AHL, Ceci was in the top 10 in scoring among defensemen in the league before getting the call-up from Ottawa last week. A very good offensive blueliner, who has the potential to be a first to second pairing defenseman in the NHL, Ceci will need some time to learn the defensive side of the game. However, the eventual one-two punch of Erik Karlsson and Ceci on one team will be frightening for opponents, particularly when the Sens are on the power play.
6. Ryan Sproul, D, Grand Rapids Griffins
Detroit Red Wings, second round, 55th overall, 2011
26 GP, 6 Goals, 12 Assists, 18 Points, 12 PIM, +16
Tall and lanky, Sproul is an excellent offensive defenseman. With outstanding vision and offensive instincts, Sproul has worked on his defensive game and sufficiently rectified any skating issues to make himself one of the top defenseman in the AHL. He should be a second to third pairing blueliner in the NHL, maybe as soon as next season.
7. Markus Granlund, C, Abbottsford Heat
Calgary Flames, second round, 45th overall, 2011
24 GP, 12 Goals, 11 Assists, 23 Points, 10 PIM, +5
Now on an 11-game point streak, which dates back to mid-November, Granlund is having an excellent rookie North American professional season.
8. Rickard Rakell, C/W, Norfolk Admirals
Anaheim Ducks, first round, 30th overall, 2011
21 GP, 7 Goals, 8 Assists, 15 Points, 8 PIM, -1
Rakell has already been called up by Anaheim a couple of times, but is not really ready for NHL play, so he is expected to spend most of this season with Norfolk. A scoring center who can also play on the wing, Rakell has turned into a good offensive producer. With top-six potential, he is a very smart hockey player who can play both sides of the puck.
9. Dmitrij Jaskin, LW, Chicago Wolves
St. Louis Blues, second round, 41st overall, 2011
18 GP, 7 Goals, 7 Assists, 14 Points, 14 PIM, +7
Averaging four shots per game and with two game-winning goals thus far in the 2013-14 season, it is surprising that Jaskin hasn’t gotten more notice. An excellent power forward who missed almost a month early on with “an upper body injury,” Jaskin has top-six potential and toughness. Consistency will be the key to Jaskin’s success in the NHL.
(tie) 10. Danny Kristo, RW, Hartford Wolf Pack
New York Rangers, acquired from Montreal on July 3, 2013
24 GP, 11 Goals, 9 Assists, 20 Points, 8 PIM, -6
Very creative with the puck, Kristo has great hands and can finish. However, he does not have much offensive assistance in Hartford, on a team that gives up a lot of goals. He still needs to refine the defensive part of his game, but Kristo should be helping cure the goal drought in New York in the coming years.
(tie) 10. Alexander Khoklachev, C, Providence Bruins
Boston Bruins, second round, 40th overall, 2011
23 GP, 6 Goals, 11 Assists, 17 points, 6 PIM, +3
“A riddle inside an enigma” might be a good way to describe Khoklachev, a highly-talented player who has not yet put it all together. Excellent hands, vision, and instincts are his strengths, but consistent effort remains a challenge for the young Russian. Small and creative, when he is “on,” Khoklachev can be very exciting to watch.
Rasmus Ristolainen (finally playing at the proper level)
Leslie Treff covers professional and amateur scouting for Hockey Prospectus.
Follow Leslie on Twitter at @HFNYRangers.