Youngsters vying for roster spots

Because of tight-fisted spending, more talented rookies are close to cracking lineups this season.

Updated: September 24, 2003, 1:26 PM ET
By By Jim Wilkie | NHL Insider
With all due respect to 2002-03 Calder Trophy winner Barret Jackman of the St. Louis Blues, last season's rookie class was unimpressive.

Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg led all first-year players with 22 goals and 44 points, the lowest point total for a rookie scoring leader since 1995-96 when Daniel Alfredsson scored 43 points.

This season figures to be different as more rookies and more talented rookies are close to cracking lineups because of tight-fisted spending with the end of the collective bargaining agreement coming next summer. A bumper crop of draftees in this year's draft also has an unusually high number of 18- and 19-year-olds challenging for roster spots.