Here are some of the top rookies to watch this season in the NHL:
Nail YakupovThe 1st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft is an early favourite to win rookie of the year. Yakupov has been playing over in the KHL for Neftekhimik this season and put up a very respectable 10 goals and 18 points in 22 games. He helped Russia beat Canada in the Subway Super Series and took home a bronze at the World Juniors this year, but it was in the KHL where he's looked the best. The kid already has an NHL-shot and should help the young Oilers on the scoreboard immediately.
Jonathan HuberdeauHuberdeau will have a chance to get second-line minutes with the Panthers who are pretty weak down the middle or they might play him at LW (where he played for Team Canada at the World Juniors). Taken 3rd overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Huberdeau is a slick playmaker who isn't afraid to drive to the net to score goals. Huberdeau has enjoyed a solid junior career and is clearly ready to make the jump to the NHL where we can see him being like a Vinny Lecavalier with some solid seasons down south and a wicked tan.
Sven BaertschiThe Flames finally have a decent prospect in their 13th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and Sven Baertschi could make a real impact on the Flames season this year. You may remember when he played 5 games last season with the Flames as an emergency call up and got Flames fans all excited when he potted 3 goals in his short stint. Well, he started off well this season strong with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL putting up 18 points in 21 games before getting injured and it's no surprise that the young prospect is ready to make the jump to the NHL. Look for the young Swiss forward to get some second line minutes playing wing with Mikael Backlund and Mike Cammalleri this season.
Mikael GranlundThe Minnesota Wild should be pretty excited with their 9th overall pick from the 2010 NHL Draft. Granlund has put up great numbers in the AHL for the Houston Aeros this season and even after missing some time with an ankle injury he has bounced back with 21 points in 21 games. The Wild have him behind Mikko Koivu on 2nd line centre duty when the season starts up and he should get a fair amount of powerplay time with his skillset.
Vladimir TarasenkoTarasenko was a steal for the St. Louis Blues who were able to snag him 17th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. Many teams feared that Tarasenko would stay in Russia and passed up on his top 5 pick talent. While in the KHL during the lockout playing for SKA St. Petersburg, Tarasenko put up 31 points in 31 games and really showed off his offensive skills which are making Blues fans foam at the mouth. It's looking like Tarasenko will slide onto a line with Andy McDonald and Alex Steen in what could turn into the Blues second line.
Chris KreiderThe New York Rangers drafted Kreider 19th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft and many fans got a chance to see his skill set last year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he scored 5 goals and 2 apples in 18 games. Kreider hasn't exactly been lighting it up this season in the AHL for the Connecticut Whale with just 12 points in 33 games, but with a few roster spots up for grabs for the Rangers, Krieder will get a chance to prove himself in the NHL regular season.
Mark ScheifeleScheifele earned himself a 7-game stint last season in the NHL after a strong preseason and potted one goal in those games before the Winnipeg Jets sent him back to the Barrie Colts in the OHL. This time around, the 7th overall 2011 NHL Draft pick is stronger and lighting up the OHL with 49 points in 30 games. Scheifele played major minutes for Team Canada at the World Juniors and his days of playing junior hockey seem to be done. Ya know?
Justin SchultzThe Oilers were able to steal him away from the Anaheim Ducks last summer and he seems to be the biggest prize of the free agency right now. Schultz was the Bobby Orr of the AHL this year, scoring 18 goals and racking up 48 points in just 34 games. He might not be NHL ready defensively just yet, but Schultz will be manning the power-play for the Oilers, and it wouldn't shock anyone if he is one of the top offensive defencemen in the league this year. Heck, there's even a chance he finishes as one of the top defensive scorers in the AHL as he still has a 13-point cushion on the next closest opponent.
Galchenyuk was drafted 3rd overall last June by the Montreal Canadiens and the 6'2" centre looks ready for primetime. So far this year Galchenyuk has ripped up the OHL scoring 27 goals and 61 points in just 33 games for the Sarnia Sting. Galchenyuk gives the Canadiens some much needed size up front and should get plenty of time on the powerplay this year.
21 18-year-old Grigorenko will get this shot at a 5-game try out this season and many feel he will stick. Grigorenko was touted go be drafted in the top 5 last June, but slipped to 12th overall and the Buffalo Sabres are stoked to have him in their organization. Scoring 29 goals and putting up 50 points in just 32 games, Grigorenko is offensively ready for the NHL.