Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings should be the three top rookie defensemen in the NHL these season.
Each could play big roles this season and each could earn Calder consideration. We covered their potential earlier in our list of 10 emerging offensive defensemen.
Here are 10 more rookie defensemen to keep an eye on:
Joe Morrow, Pittsburgh Penguins: His impressive training camp almost earned him an early shot at the NHL last fall. Instead he returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League and scored 64 points in 62 regular season games. If the Penguins hold training camp this season (a big “if” given the ongoing labor dispute), Morrow will try it again.
“I'm going to come in with the same expectations, the same determination I had last year,” Morrow told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I was on top of the world, getting treated well, and everything fell into place. I'm going to come in with the same kind of confidence I had. Being my second year rather than something brand new, I can play with a chip on my shoulder. I'm going to shoot for the stars, listen to everybody's advice, see how far I can take this. Do everything I can to stay as long as I can.”
Tim Erixon, Columbus Blue Jackets: He was a key piece of the Rick Nash trade with the New York Rangers. He scored two points in his first 18 NHL games last season, but he produced 33 points in 52 games for Connecticut of the American Hockey League. He scored 24 points in 48 games in his final Swedish Elite League season for Skelleftea HC. He is ready to make the jump.
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators: He joins the cast of talented young D-men looking to fill at least part of the Ryan Suter void. His first NHL trial last just two games, but he made the most of his return to the SEL last season. He earned the Borje Salming Award winner as the league’s top defenseman after producing nine goals and eight assists in 41 games for Brynas IF Gavle.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins: Once he makes it in Beantown, he will quickly graduate into a power play role. Last season he scored 17 goals and added 55 assists for Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League. He was plus-72 in his last two seasons in junior hockey.
Paul Postma, Winnipeg Jets: After three strong seasons in the AHL, he could move into a starting role this season with Zach Bogosian shelved by wrist surgery. He scored 40 goals in 188 games for Chicago and St. John’s, but played just four NHL games in the past two seasons.
Griffin Reinhart, New York Islanders: The fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft has the size (6-foot-4, 204 pounds), skill and bloodlines to advance quickly. The son of former NHL standout Paul Reinhart scored 12 goals, earned 24 assists and posted a plus-23 rating in 58 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL this past season.
Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche: The son of former NHL player (and former part-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning) Len Barrie has progressed nicely. In four seasons with Kelowna of the WHL he scored 51 goals and earned 177 assists in 256 games. He produced five goals and 27 assists for Lake Erie of the American Hockey League last season and got in 10 NHL games for Colorado. He could give the Avalanche another badly needed puck mover.
Brandon Gormley, Phoenix Coyotes: Knee and foot injuries have slowed his development, but the 13th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft is still regarded as a blue-chip prospect. He scored 80 points in his last 82 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He also played four games for San Antonio of the AHL two years ago.
Ryan Murphy, Carolina Hurricanes: The 12th overall pick of the 2011 draft posted big numbers (134 points in his last 112 regular season games) at Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League and overcame a nasty concussion last season. His end-to-end offensive skills should eventually translate into a Joe Corvo-like role in the NHL.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs: Will general manager Brian Burke take a serious look at the fifth overall pick of the 2012 this fall? Rielly missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL and undergoing knee surgery. He did score 18 points in 18 WHL games for Moose Jaw.