With the 2013-14 NHL season underway, rookies are in the spotlight as debates surround the under-20 players from the CHL who may or may not be sent back to their junior teams for more seasoning. Once a player has skated in his 10th NHL game, his entry-level contract officially kicks in, and even if he's sent back later, the team will have burned a season on that deal.
Rookies can be a big part of major roster makeovers, but making the wrong choice can have severe financial consequences down the road; unfortunately, teams must make those calls after just a nine-game trial period. Given the small sample size, one has to be very wary to not be too conclusive about player performances, as there is still much to learn about the players, but the decision must still be made.
It's still too early for a proper ranking of the top rookies up for the Calder Trophy at season's end, but here are observations on some of the top NHL rookies from the first handful of games played.
Jones has been nothing short of great as a rookie under-20 defenseman in the NHL. When Roman Josi got hurt, Jones moved up to Nashville's top defensive pairing alongside Shea Weber, and has not looked out of place. Jones' best attribute has been his hockey sense, which, along with all his other skills, has allowed him to elevate his level of play beyond where players his age usually are. He's a well-rounded, two-way player with elite potential.