Impact rookie forwards for 2013-14
August, 14, 2013
By Victoria Matiash | ESPN.com
With training camps set to open in about a month, talented young prospects are using whatever time left of their summer holiday to best prepare physically and mentally for the tough task ahead. Some will do enough to earn an opening-night roster spot. Most won't. And only a few will keep a grip on their regular NHL role for the duration of the season. In no particular order, here's a gaggle of rookie forwards worth watching next month, and beyond.
Nathan MacKinnon, (Colorado Avalanche). After foregoing the top-ranked defenseman, and local sentimental favorite, Seth Jones at this year's draft, those running the show in Colorado made it evident MacKinnon would start the season in the bigs. Specifically, the soon-to-be 18-year-old is pegged to center the third line, flanked by wingers Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie. If the teen adjusts well, the Avs may be even more inspired to trade veteran centerman Paul Stastny during the season (assuming the 27-year-old isn't dealt, or extended, before then). In which case, MacKinnon could finish the 2013-14 campaign in a top-six role.
Ryan Strome, (New York Islanders). Not only is Strome expected to nail down a roster spot, but the 20-year-old centerman is already pegged to fill a top-six role with the Islanders -- either as a second-line center, or top-line winger alongside John Tavares. Lofty expectations for a lad who has yet to play a single NHL game. However, anyone who watched the 2011 fifth-overall draft pick light it up (94 points in 53 games) with the OHL Niagara IceDogs, and then more than hold his own with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers this spring, won't be all that surprised. It also doesn't hurt that Strome has been working out with Tavares this summer either.