During the first game of the season, Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard spotted St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, only he didn't know it was Tarasenko, the highly touted rookie from Russia.
"I thought it was another guy from last year that they had," Howard said.
Two goals on five shots later from the 21-year-old, Howard figured it out.
"No idea who he was," Howard said. "I know who he is now."
These performances are the kind typically saved for preseason games where rookies seize ice time to make an impression and opponents build up scouting reports in the process. But this season, the league's newcomers are doing it in real time.
As the 2013 season gets underway, there's a group of impressive rookies already taking advantage of being in midseason form as veterans find their timing or nurse early injuries.
It starts with Tarasenko, who followed his two-goal opener with a three-point effort against the Nashville Predators. He's quickly earning the trust of veteran coach Ken Hitchcock, as his ice time has grown from 13:52 in the opener to 15:33 against the Blackhawks in Game 3.
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