Pressed into service when starter Michael Leighton was sidelined by back surgery, the 22-year-old Russian goaltender has not only been the league's top rookie thus far but also among the season's biggest surprises, seemingly coming out of nowhere to secure the starting goalie role with the Flyers. In 22 games, his numbers (14-4-3, 2.29 GAA, .922 SP) ranked among the league leaders in goalie statistics, making “Bob” a fan favorite in Philadelphia and a strong candidate to win the Calder trophy as rookie of the year.
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Selected 51st overall in the 2008 entry draft, the 21-year-old Stepan wasn't expected to make the Rangers this season but has proven himself a valuable part of their offense so far. His 17 points entering mid-December placed him fourth in both rookie points and Rangers points lead. After scoring a hat trick in his first game of the season, Stepan struggled through an offensive drought in late October through early November. But in recent weeks he's found his offensive consistency, which could put him on pace for a 50-point performance.
NHLI via Getty ImagesScott Levy
John Carlson, Washington Capitals.
Having shown considerable promise through 22 regular season and seven playoff games last season, Carlson continues to shine in his first full rookie campaign. He's currently tied for 10th in the rookie points race with 13 while his 22 minutes of ice time is second most for rookies and the Capitals while his physical play has him fourth in rookie penalty minutes. The 20-year-old from Natick, Mass., should become a blueline stalwart for the Capitals.
NHLI via Getty ImagesMitchell Layton
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
Many predicted Hall as a shoo-in to win the Calder Trophy, but the first overall pick in the 2010 entry draft struggled early to find his scoring touch. But since late November, Hall has been appearing more frequently on the scoresheet. His 10 goals entering this week ranked second for rookies and first on the Oilers, while his 16 points were good for fifth overall in the rookie points and sixth with the Oilers. If Hall continues to improve over the course of the season, he could end up challenging for the Calder after all.
NHLI via Getty ImagesAndy Devlin
Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks
At only 19, Fowler has quickly proven himself as a valuable part of the Ducks defense corps. His 15 points in 27 games placed him ninth overall in rookie scoring and second for rookie defensemen, plus his 22.11 of average ice time leads all rookies. His performance didn't suffer despite being sidelined for two weeks in late October by a broken nose. For a Ducks team that began this season lacking blueline depth, Fowler has proven a welcome addition.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
There hasn't been much for fans of the rebuilding Oilers to cheer for this season, but Eberle has given them reason to be optimistic about the club's future. By mid-December, he was third in rookie scoring with 18 points and second in assists with 13 and was also the Oilers third-leading scorer. Eberle is part of a talented young group the Oilers hope to use to rebuild into a playoff contender and so far, Eberle has more than played up to expectations.
NHLI via Getty ImagesAndre Ringuette
Michal Neuvirth, Washington Capitals
The 22-year-old Neuvirth's strong debut in October — winning 7 of 11 games — earned him NHL rookie of the month honors. He's struggled lately, going winless since mid-November and lost some playing time to Semyon Varlamov, but his overall numbers so far (12-5-2, 2.68 GAA, .908 SP with one shutout) have been solid, ranking behind only Philadelphia's Sergei Bobrovsky among rookie netminders this season.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Colorado Avalanche
Called up in early November, Shattenkirk has made the most of his opportunity, netting 16 points in only 18 games while averaging just more than 20 minutes of ice time. He currently leads all rookie blueliners in points, is sixth in overall rookie points and seventh on the Avalanche. If he continues on his current pace, he could end up not only challenging for the rookie scoring lead but also for the Calder Trophy.
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Skinner, 18, wasn't expected to crack the Hurricanes roster this season, but the seventh overall pick in the 2010 entry draft not only made it but became an invaluable part of Carolina's offensive attack, sitting among their top scorers heading into mid-December. Entering this week, his 20 points placed him second overall in the rookie points race. With more consistency, Skinner should have a bright future as an NHL scoring star.
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
The ninth overall pick in the 2007 entry draft, Couture has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise average season for the Sharks. The 21-year-old center not only led all NHL rookies by mid-December in goals and points, but his 14 goals also led the Sharks in that category. In addition, he led all rookies in game-winning goals (4) and power-play goals (3). At his current pace, Couture could finish the season with 40 goals, the first rookie to reach that mark since Alexander Ovechkin in 2006, which could also garner him rookie of the year honors.