Some Other Kids


Written on 10/19/2010 by Jim Cerny

Think NHL young guns and the names of John Tavares, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Matt Duchene, and Jordan Eberle are probably among the first to come to mind.

But while those players are surely some of the true rising stars in the National Hockey League, there is a whole group of youngsters not receiving nearly the amount of publicity the aforementioned group is.

Here's a quick look at five young guns you should know more about.

Chris Stewart-Colorado Avalanche

Stewart (photo right) began to take off in his second NHL season a year ago, scoring 28 goals and notching 64 points in 77 games, and that just may be the tip of the iceberg for this hulking power forward. The Avs first round pick in 2006 is an absolutely fearless physical force, as capable of dropping the gloves on the first shift of a game with one of the league's most willing fighters---as he did on Saturday with the Islanders Zenon Konopka---as he is camping out in front of the opposition's net to bang home a goal or two---as he did last night, scoring twice against the Rangers from no more than a foot or two from the goal line. Stewart (23 next week) already has 5 goals and 7 points in 6 games this season, and could be on his way to a 35-goal or better campaign.

Mark Letestu-Pittsburgh Penguins

The feel-good story of the 2010-11 season, so far, Letestu registered another goal and assist in last night's 5-2 win over Ottawa, raising his season numbers to a point-per-game average (4-3-7 in 7 games). Not drafted, spent parts of four years in the minors---including time in the ECHL---Letestu (24) made his NHL debut last season and even appeared in four playoff games, earning one assist, for the Pens. Though Letestu had "AHL Star...NHL Wannabe" written all over him, he earned a roster spot out of camp and has been terrific over the first two weeks of the season.

Josh Bailey-New York Islanders

Like Stewart, Bailey's success so far this year should not be a huge surprise because he, too, was a first-round pick (9th overall in 2008). As a 20 year-old second-year pro a year ago he picked up 16 goals and 35 points in 73 games. This year it's not only the 3 goals and 6 points in 6 games he has scored, it's how he is earning his points, with tremendous skill, vision, and artistic flair. Still just a baby at 21, the Islanders should be reaping the benefits this year from having force-fed Bailey at the NHL level right after drafting him in '08.

Cal O'Reilly-Nashville Predators

In his third NHL season, O'Reilly (24) has seen his ice time jump five minutes per game from a year ago (to an average of 18+ minutes a night). As a result, O'Reilly has four points (all assists) in four games. It's a small sampling, but it looks like the Preds are ready to give the kid a chance to show he can replicate his point-per-game numbers from the minors, where has spent the bulk of the past four years after being selected in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. Looks to be more of a playmaker than a goal scorer (he has taken only 5 shots on goal, so far, this year), but there's nothing wrong with that. Nashville seems to always fly under the radar, and so, too, has O'Reilly to this point.

Matt Taormina-New Jersey Devils

He's not a forward, and probably won't fit under the title of "Young Gun", but Taormina is a surprisingly poised rookie defenseman off to a good start playing for a head coach---John Maclean---who coached him in the minors a year ago. Maclean witnessed first-hand Taormina's 50-point season at Lowell last year. When he became bench boss in Jersey, Maclean brought Taormina with him, and the kid is playing 20+ minutes a night, with 3 points in his last 3 games. With Paul Martin now in Pittsburgh, and no other great option on the roster, keep an eye on Taormina (24 tomorrow) evolving into the Devils power play quarterback of the future---and the present.

If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed

No Comment

Post a Comment