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North Bay, ON • Canada • 26 Years Old • Male
In this article, I would like to outline some of the second year players who have caught my eye. They are not ranked by skill, and some key players may be left off the list. The purpose is not to compare, but rather to analyze players which will be highly discussed entering their second year.

1. Aaron Ekblad: Defense ; ( 81 GP, 12 G , 27 A , +12) Age: 19

I believe that Ekblad is the most complete of all the players in his rookie class. His size, physicality, and responsible play really stood out for me. Unlike all the other rookies, he was expected to contribute in the defensive end first and foremost. He is a shut down player and he proved that he is already capable of doing that against the worlds best players. Ekblad is entering into his second season at the age of 19. He will only improve from here, and I expect that he will take on a larger role offensively as he develops. It would not surprise me if Ekblad takes over the captaincy of the Panthers within the next five years.

2. John Klingberg: Defense ; ( 65 GP , 11 G , 29 A , +5 ) Age: 22

In his first NHL season, Klingberg proved to many that he is a lot better than his draft selection would indicate. He was chosen in the fifth round, 131st overall by the Stars in 2010. Klingberg played the majority of his career in Sweden up to this point, but exploded into the NHL quite unexpectedly. He was a fantasy steal last year, racking up 40 points in just 65 games. Moving forward however, he will have to make the defensive side of his game a priority. He weighs just 180 pounds at the most, and relies far too heavily on his skating and vision to carry his game. If he can put on some muscle and work on his defensive skills, I could see him becoming a real cornerstone on the Dallas back-end.

3. Mark Stone: RW ; ( 80 GP , 26 G , 38 A , +21 ) Age: 23

Stone was another draft steal, getting picked in round 6, 178th overall by Ottawa in 2010. This was his first full season in the NHL. Despite playing a small number of games the previous two seasons, this was by definition his rookie season. He has always been an extremely hard worker who never backs down from the tough areas of the game. He is a very opportunistic shooter who consistently pucks the puck on net when given the chance. He is a real character guy, who brings a great attitude into the locker room. This energy and contagious determination was a huge part of the Senators late season surge. I expect that Mark will be working hard on his skating stride and foot speed this off-season. It is the only weakness I have noticed in his game thus far.

4. Johnny "Hockey" Gaudreau: LW ; ( 80 GP , 24 G, 40 A , +11) Age: 21

Johnny Hockey may be the most purely offensive player on this list. He weights a startling 150 pounds and is only 5'9". What he lacks in size, he makes up for in stick-handling, vision, and ability to make defenders miss. He tied for the rookie lead in points this past season, helping the Flames reach round 2 of the playoffs. He is a very shifty player, and I was quite impressed with the way he uses his body to shield the puck against defenders. His quickness is unparalleled, and I cannot imagine how good Gaudreau would be if he can put on some size. I am not certain if Gaudreau can replicate last seasons point production, though. A guy his size is very vulnerable in a big, strong Western conference which can really wear down smaller players. I am very impressed with what he was able to do, but I do not anticipate him eclipsing the 60 point mark in the 2015-16 season. That is not to say he will not have a great career in the NHL. I expect him to have a wonderful career, but he will need to develop certain areas of his game if he wants to continued his success.

5. Filip Forsberg: LW ; ( 82 GP , 26 G , 37 A , +15 ) Age: 20

Forsberg was drafted quite high by the Capitals in 2012, going 11th overall. Despite the high pick, the Capitals elected to trade the young Swede to the Predators in exchange for Michael Laata and Martin Erat; Both players who have had mediocre success since the trade. Forsberg however, has showed the league that he is a young star well on his way to an outstanding career. He put up 63 points playing alongside Mike Ribeiro and James Neal. I will be the first to admit that Forsberg and his team were a big shocker to me this season. I never expected this kind of success, especially from that first line. Early in the season, it appeared that Forsberg was a lock for the Calder Trophy. As the season progressed, the rookie class of 2015 began to turn up the heat. Nonetheless, I expect Forsberg to have another spectacular season. He has been criticized for being too flashy, but many ignore how well rounded his game really is. He skates well, has great puck skills and outstanding vision. He is responsible in both ends and helps drive puck possession for the team. He possesses a big frame for such a young guy, but could use a little bit more strength and grit, especially in the corners. These weaknesses are so minute; I do not expect them to hinder his ability to develop as a player whatsoever.

Notable Omissions:

Matt Hoffman (Senators - 48 PTS in 79 GP )
Kevin Hayes ( Rangers - 45 PTS in 79 GP)
David Pasternak (Bruins - 27 PTS in 47 GP )
Jonathan Drouin ( Lightning - 32 PTS in 70 GP)
Anders Lee ( Islanders - 41 PTS in 76 GP)
Jake Allen ( Blues - 22-7-4 .913 save% 2.28 GAA )
Petr Mrazek ( Red Wings - 16-9-2 .918 save % 2.38 GAA)
Filed Under:   Ekblad   Klingberg   Stone   Gaudreau   Hockey   NHL   Forsberg  
August 10, 2015 1:32 PM ET | Delete
what about BO Horvat, where does he fit in?
August 10, 2015 2:23 PM ET | Delete
Ryan Strome?
August 10, 2015 2:43 PM ET | Delete
August 10, 2015 2:47 PM ET | Delete
sorry, it will be his third year
August 10, 2015 7:31 PM ET | Delete
August 11, 2015 8:14 AM ET | Delete
Strome is going into his third season now. Horvat is a bit of a wild card for me. I am a huge Canuck fan so it was hard to leave him off this list. I think he has some developing to do in a third or even fourth line role before he is ready to move up the roster. I expect him to have another solid year, but he will probably not have his breakout season until year 3 or 4. I guess he could have made an appearance as one of my Notable Omissions.
August 11, 2015 9:36 AM ET | Delete
Johnny Gaudreau had the most consistent season of anyone on this list and he is also by far the most talented. If he did not wear down over the course of his first 82 game season plus playoffs playing first line minutes, I see no reason why he breaks down in his second season. Prediction: 80 pt season.
August 11, 2015 10:25 AM ET | Delete
August 11, 2015 10:42 AM ET | Delete
Victor Rask?
August 11, 2015 11:45 AM ET | Delete
thank you to responding to my Bo Horvat question. I am also a huge Canuck fan and although there appears to be a lot of negativity surrounding the team this summer with all of the moves they have made, I am not one who shares in that negativity. What our your thoughts on the Canucks for next year?
August 11, 2015 1:37 PM ET | Delete
I guess it just goes to show, all the players you could have included, the amount of good young players making the league and contributions to their clubs.
August 11, 2015 3:18 PM ET | Delete
I think the Canucks are in a tough spot, being tied up with the Sedin contract and what not. That being said, they seem to be trying to rebuild for when the two brothers leave town. I am hopeful that some young lines can step up though. Going forward, the core would appear to be that of Horvat, Tanev, Virtanen, McCann, etc. Until they are ready to take over, the team is still alright. The Sedins are good for 50-60 and we have some wild card offensive guys like Vey and Baertshci. I think we will be battling for an 8th spot in the West. The division is looking really strong, especially with the Kings and Sharks looking to bounce back.
August 11, 2015 9:52 PM ET | Delete
Do you like the Sutter trade and subsequent contract extension? Also are Calgary and Edmonton playoff bound?
August 12, 2015 6:28 AM ET | Delete
I think acquiring Sutter was the right move for him and the team. Bonino needed out, and I think we could have achieved this deal without downgrading draft picks. The extension is awesome in my mind; solidifying the center position for the team. With regards to Calgary and Edmonton; I feel they are in the same boat. Both have some great young talent with a few key veterans. I believe they will both finish between the 7th and 10th spot in the West, but it is so tough to predict. I think Calgary might sneak in, but Edmonton will probably need another year to develop McDavid, Nurse and Draisaitl before making a push. I am not counting them out, but they will have to stay mentally tough to succeed in that tough division.
August 12, 2015 9:44 PM ET | Delete
Mr Benning has been heavily criticized for the Lack trade. However, I believe it was more of a function of the market for Lack vs anything else. Your thoughts please
August 13, 2015 6:02 AM ET | Delete
That Forsberg trade was soooo bad for WAS, what where they thinking?
August 13, 2015 6:30 AM ET | Delete
I think Benning believes that Markstrom is their guy going forward. In the end, one of the two goaltenders needed to be traded as they both wanted NHL minutes. I believe Markstrom would have left the Canuck organization if he stayed in Utica for much longer. Benning shopped around and found the best deal he could at the time. I really like Lack, but Benning had to make a decision. If not, he risks losing a quality young goaltender for nothing.
August 13, 2015 10:05 AM ET | Delete
Severson should be close he was putting up ekblad numbers before a injury sidelined him for a month.
August 14, 2015 10:17 PM ET | Delete
August 15, 2015 2:17 PM ET | Delete
Rasmus Ristolainen was terrific the second half last year during the tank as he played against opposing top lines and took the top pp and pk minutes. Look for him to have a HUGE sophomore season now that he actually has good players to move the puck to.
August 15, 2015 4:28 PM ET | Delete
August 16, 2015 7:03 AM ET | Delete
Ya, I am interested to see how he does next season. The team in general should be fun to watch. So much young talent, combined with a few new guys like Evander Kane.
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