Rookie Race: Backlund, Grabner Among the Best So Far

In BAL, GLP, IHS, NAS, Special Features on December 27, 2011 at 10:31 am

We might be just 20 games into the 2011-2012 rookie race, but there’ve already been some flat-out stunners. With several marquee freshmen handed plum jobs in their teams’ top-sixes, it’s boom-or-bust time. Here are four of the biggest surprises – good and bad – so far.

Mikael Backlund, Ice Harbor Storm

Backlund is a 2009 draftee who saw 23 games last year (0 goals, 4 assists). This season, with a young Ice Harbor team that’s thin up the middle, he’s had a chance to play a big role. And while the Storm have struggled (6-13-1), Backlund’s played well with second-line minutes, notching 8 goals and 6 assists on the quarter.

Taylor Hall, Great Lakes Pilots

First overall Jeff Skinner has had a decent start for 8-11-1 Nashville, with 12 points in his first 20 games. But where’s second overall Taylor Hall? He’s playing big minutes for the Great Lakes Pilots but has managed just 3 goals and 3 assists so far, is being outscored by teammates like Darren Helm, and sits at a team-worst -11.

Michael Grabner, Baltimore Crab

The fleet Austrian was drafted in 2010 by Vancouver and immediately dealt for a second rounder in 2011, who would become winger Kyle Palmieri. After spending all of last season on reserve, Grabner has started this season well with the Baltimore Crab, with 11 goals in his first 20 games.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Nashville Knights

Bobrovsky was taken 21st overall in 2011 and the expectation was that he’d step in and backstop a young but very talented Nashville team to playoff contention. But no one’s going anywhere with numbers like his: a 4.30 GAA and .887 save percentage. Bobrovsky has been soundly outplayed by Cory Schneider (4 games, 1.76, .927).

Points – Rookies

PLAYER           TEAM  GP   PTS
Grabner          BAL   20   14
Backlund         IHS   20   14
Skinner          NAS   20   12
Eberle           IHS   20   12
Ennis            SCA   20    9
Subban           NAS   20    9
Stepan           DEL   20    8
McQuaid          BAL   20    8
Desharnais       SCA   20    8
T.Hall           GLP   20    6

Goals - Rookies
PLAYER           TEAM  GP    G
Grabner          BAL   20   11
Skinner          NAS   20    8
Backlund         IHS   20    8
Subban           NAS   20    5
Seguin           WPG   20    5
Eberle           IHS   20    5
Desharnais       SCA   20    5
Ennis            SCA   20    4
Stepan           DEL   20    4
Johansson        BOS   10    3

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