Chris Peters is ESPN’s NHL draft and prospects analyst. The Chicago native previously covered the NHL for CBSSports.com and founded the popular independent blog UnitedStatesofHockey.com where he covered the game at all levels since 2010.
A large number of rookies yet again injected talent and entertainment into the NHL at a fairly high rate this season. While the depth of this 2018-19 class wasn’t quite as strong as some from recent seasons, the top end was pretty special.
With the season complete, it’s time to take a look back at the first-year players who made the best first impressions, ranking them from No. 1-10. Let’s begin with a Swedish star out in Vancouver.
Note: Statistics cited are from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com and Corsica Hockey.
Key stat: 0.93 points per game
Despite fading a bit down the stretch, Pettersson put together a remarkable rookie season that breathed some optimism into a Vancouver fan base that was starving for it. Needing almost no time to make an impact, last season’s Swedish Hockey League MVP transitioned to the NHL by leading all rookies in goals (28), assists (38) and points (66). The 20-year-old also led all rookie forwards in average time on ice by more than two minutes per game.
Having averaged 0.93 points per game, Pettersson is only the eighth rookie since 2005-06 — when Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby set a new benchmark for rookies in the modern NHL — to eclipse the 0.9 mark. The bar has been set awfully high for him to achieve in his sophomore season, but there’s no reason to believe he’ll do anything but shatter expectations, as he has for the past two seasons. And there’s no chance he is unseated for the Calder Trophy in the meantime.