Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikael Granlund and Top NHL Rookies off to Hot Starts

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IJanuary 22, 2013

Jan 19, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) keeps an eye on the puck against the Detroit Red Wings during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Red Wings 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most exciting parts of the new 2013 NHL season has been the amazing performances of some top rookies throughout the league.

However, the success of these players hasn't been a huge surprise because a lot of them played in junior hockey, the AHL or overseas leagues during the lockout. 

Let's look at four rookies who have gotten off to a hot start this season.


Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

Even though no team has played more than three games yet, St. Louis Blues rookie winger Vladimir Tarasenko has already established himself as the early Calder Trophy favorite.

Tarasenko is playing like a seasoned veteran to start the season, and even though he's just a rookie, some defensemen are already backing off of him when he enters the attacking zone. You don't often see rookies get that kind of respect at the very beginning of their careers.

The 21-year-old forward has greatly benefited from playing in the KHL for the last four years, and that experience has helped him step into the NHL and thrive against the best competition in the world.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock rarely plays rookies a lot of minutes, and in a shortened schedule when regular season games mean more, a lot of people didn't expect him to give Tarasenko a lot of ice time early in the season.

Surprisingly, Tarasenko has gotten plenty of ice time, and to his credit, he's showing why scouts considered him a top prospect and a future star heading into this season.

If Tarasenko continues to score goals and helps the Blues earn a top-three seed in the Western Conference playoffs, he will be the favorite to win the Calder Trophy.

Stats: 2 GP, 3 G, 2 A


Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild

Mikael Granlund's first real NHL game with the Minnesota Wild was one of the most anticipated rookie debuts of the season and he gave the hometown fans reasons to cheer with his first career goal.

The 20-year-old center has given the Wild more speed and playmaking on the second line and has adjusted well to the intensity and physicality of the NHL game.

Offensive depth was an issue for Minnesota last year when injuries became a problem and Granlund has provided head coach Mike Yeo with the second-line center he desperately needed.

As Granlund continues to develop and earn some more NHL experience, he will become a top candidate for the Calder Trophy this year. Granlund should have no problem racking up points on the Wild's second line and on the power play.

Stats: 2 GP, 1 G, 0 A


Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers 

Jonathan Huberdeau's Florida Panthers career has gotten off to an impressive start through two games.

He has shown his coaches and teammates the kind of vision, goal scoring and playmaking skills that made him a top prospect in the QMJHL for the last four seasons.

The 19-year-old was fantastic in the Panthers' season opener on Saturday night, with a goal and an assist in the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes. He also created several other scoring chances with his impressive offensive talent.

After watching Huberdeau in his first two NHL games, it's clear the Panthers have a future star that their fans will enjoy watching for many years to come.

Stats: 2 GP, 1 G, 2 A


Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay Lightning

After playing in the ECHL and AHL for the last two-plus seasons, Cory Conacher finally got his chance to shine in the NHL this year and he's made the most of his opportunity thus far.

The 23-year-old forward scored a goal and had an assist in the season opener against the Washington Capitals and had two assists in Monday's loss to the New York Islanders.

At the beginning of the season, the Lightning needed a third-line center who could provide the team with playmaking and speed.

If Conacher can continue to give the Lightning these skills, he will play an important role in the team's offense this season.

Stats: 2 GP, 1 G, 3 A



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