The start of promising NHL careers

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Ryan Dadoun
·10 min read
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Two of the biggest rookies of the 2020-21 class made their NHL debuts last night and the results were very different. Alexis Lafreniere, the first overall pick in 2020, took the ice with the Rangers, but his team suffered a 4-0 loss at the hands of the Islanders. Of course, that means Lafreniere was also held off the scoresheet in what was a largely quiet game for him.

Elsewhere, Kirill Kaprizov made his debut for the Wild. Unlike Lafreniere, Kaprizov is a former fifth round pick, but rather than going straight to the NHL, Kaprizov first made a name for himself in the KHL. He was a star with CSKA Moscow last season, scoring 33 goals and 62 points in 57 contests. There were still questions about how well Kaprizov would adapt to the NHL, but the early results were encouraging. He registered two assists and scored the overtime winner to lead Minnesota to a 4-3 victory over Los Angeles.

Of course, the Calder race won’t be decided by one night’s results and even if Kaprizov ends up having the better season, that’s in no way a knock on Lafreniere or even an indication that Kaprizov is the better franchise cornerstone in the long run. After all, Kaprizov is 23-years-old while Lafreniere is just 19, so it’s completely reasonable for Lafreniere to need a longer adjustment period despite his talent. All the same, the two of them were among the top picks to win the Calder Trophy going into the season and now we’ve finally been given our first indication of how NHL-ready each of them truly is.

WASHINGTON 6 BUFFALO 4

The Capitals got off to a 4-1 lead, but the Sabres cut it down to a 4-3 lead early in the third period. Jake McCabe played a big role in the Sabres’ attempted comeback with a goal and an assist.

Jakub Vrana slowed the Sabres’ rally with an unassisted goal 46 seconds into the third. His marker proved to be the game-winner.

T.J. Oshie scored a goal and registered two assists for the Capitals. He had 26 goals and 49 points in 69 games last season.

Ilya Samsonov stopped 22 of 26 Sabres shots. The Capitals are counting on Samsonov to be their starting goaltender this season. Their alternative, Craig Anderson is a solid backup, but at the age of 39 it’s hard to see him carrying the team for extended periods of time.

At the other end of the ice, Carter Hutton saved 22 of 27 shots. The Sabres surrendered two goals in each period, but the final goal of the game was on an empty net.

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BOSTON 3 NEW JERSEY 2 (SO)

Tuukka Rask turned aside 20 of 22 shots in regulation time. He was also perfect in three shootout rounds to help the Bruins win their opener.

Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 35 of 37 shots before the shootout. He was beaten by Brad Marchand in the third round, which was enough to cost New Jersey a point.

Marchand also scored a goal and registered an assist in regulation time. It was a particularly encouraging start given that he was questionable for the start of the season after undergoing sports hernia surgery in September.

Jack Hughes assisted on both of the Devils’ goals. He’s coming off a disappointing rookie season where he was limited to seven goals and 21 points in 61 games. The first overall pick in 2019 should do significantly better this season though, now that he’s adjusted to the NHL.

Nick Ritchie scored the Bruins’ other goal. He had nine goals and 21 points in 48 contests last season.

NY ISLANDERS 4 NY RANGERS 0

Semyon Varlamov stopped all 24 Rangers shots to earn the shutout. It was his 28th career shutout, which moves him up to a nine-way tie for 71st place on the all-time list.

That of course means that the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere didn’t record a point in his NHL debut. The 2020 first overall pick had a minus-one rating, a shot, a hit, and a block in 15:21 minutes of ice time.

Igor Shesterkin turned aside 29 of 33 Islanders shots. The Rangers are hoping to establish themselves as a contender this season, but their success will be heavily tied to the performance of their rookie goaltender. Certainly he has a lot of promise, but rookies are never a sure thing.

Brock Nelson scored the first and therefore game-winning goal. He finished 2019-20 with 26 goals and 54 points in 68 contests.

Anders Lee netted a pair of goals for the Islanders. He’s coming off a somewhat down season by his standards where he scored 20 goals and 43 points in 68 contests.

CAROLINA 3 DETROIT 0

After a horrendous 2019-20 campaign, the Detroit Red Wings want to show some improvement this season. This was a terrible start. Petr Mrazek only needed to make 14 saves to earn the shutout.

Dylan Larkin, in his first game as the Red Wings’ captain, finished with two shots, two hits, and a minus-two rating in 20:39 minutes of ice time. He had 19 goals and 53 points in 71 contests in 2019-20.

Thomas Greiss saved 40 of 42 Hurricanes shots. It was a strong Red Wings debut for him, but he couldn’t save his new team last night.

Nino Niederreiter scored the Hurricanes’ first and therefore game-winning goal. He had 11 goals and 29 points in 67 contests in 2019-20.

Andrei Svechnikov also found the back of the net for Carolina. He took a big step forward in 2019-20 with 24 goals and 61 points in 68 games.

NASHVILLE 3 COLUMBUS 1

Boone Jenner scored Columbus’ only goal. It was the 114th marker in his career.

Joonas Korpisalo stopped 32 of 34 shots for the Blue Jackets. He surrendered a goal in each of the second and third periods.

At the other end of the ice, Juuse Saros saved 29 of 30 shots. He allowed a goal at 9:24 of the first period, which put Nashville behind early, but he was strong beyond that, allowing the Predators to mount a comeback.

Filip Forsberg scored the game-winning goal. He finished last season with 21 goals and 48 points in 63 games.

Luke Kunin also scored a goal for the Predators. He contributed 15 goals and 31 points in 63 games with Minnesota last season.

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WINNIPEG 4 CALGARY 3 (OT)

Patrik Laine came up big with two goals, including the overtime winner, and an assist. Laine accepted a two-year bridge contract back in September 2019 and he’s in the second season of that. He’s in line to get a big payday after this season, the only question is how big. His performance this season will be a major factor in determining that.

Kyle Connor scored a goal and registered two assists for the Jets. He had 38 goals and 73 points in 71 contests in 2019-20.

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of 26 Flames shots. All three of the goals he surrendered came in the first period.

Elias Lindholm scored a goal and registered an assist for the Flames. He contributed 29 goals and 54 points in 70 contests last season.

Jacob Markstrom kicked out 30 of 34 shots for Calgary. Not exactly the Flames debut they were hoping for after he signed a six-year, $36 million contract, but this is just the beginning and things could get a lot better from here.

EDMONTON 5 VANCOUVER 2

Connor McDavid led Edmonton with a hat trick and an assist. He was held off the scoresheet in the Oilers’ opener, which they lost 5-3 on Wednesday.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the game’s first and last goals. He also contributed an assist on McDavid’s hat trick marker.

Speaking of assists, Leon Draisaitl chipped in four helpers. That gives him five assists in two games to start the season.

Mikko Koskinen stopped 38 of 40 Canucks shots. Mike Smith was originally expected to start, but he ultimately wasn’t available so Koskinen had to play between the pipes for the second straight night. Fortunately for Edmonton, that worked out fine.

Nate Schmidt scored a goal for the Canucks. It was his first point with Vancouver since the team acquired him in the offseason from Vegas.

Thatcher Demko kicked out 41 of 46 Oilers shots. He had to face 17 shots in the first period and another 16 in the second.

SAN JOSE 4 ARIZONA 3 (SO)

Martin Jones stopped 34 of 37 shots in regulation time. He surrendered a goal in the shootout, but the Sharks still won.

Darcy Kuemper saved 32 of 35 shots before the skills competition. He was beaten in both shootout rounds, which resulted in the Coyotes’ missing out on a point.

Clayton Keller scored a goal and registered an assist for Arizona. He had 17 goals and 44 points in 70 contests last season.

Sharks forward Tomas Hertl netted two goals and registered an assist. It was his first game since undergoing a procedure in late January to repair a torn ACL and MCL.

Evander Kane found the back of the net and recorded two assists for San Jose. He contributed 26 goals and 47 points in 64 contests with the Sharks last season.

VEGAS 5 ANAHEIM 2

Max Comtois scored both of Anaheim’s goals. He had seven goals in 39 career games going into this contest.

John Gibson stopped 24 of 28 Golden Knights shot. He allowed two goals in each of the first and third periods.

Mark Stone scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist. The marker was his 150th career goal.

Max Pacioretty also found the back of the net for the Golden Knights. He had 32 goals and 66 contests in 2019-20.

Robin Lehner saved 20 of 22 shots last night. He allowed two goals on seven shots in the first period, but was perfect the rest of the way.

MINNESOTA 4 LOS ANGELES 3 (OT)

Kirill Kaprizov scored the overtime winner and registered two assists. It was a pretty much ideal start to his NHL career.

Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin also scored a goal. He had two markers and 28 points in 69 games in 2019-20.

Cam Talbot saved 31 of 34 Kings shots. It was his first game with Minnesota after signing a three-year, $11 million contract during the offseason.

At the other end of the ice, Jonathan Quick saved 23 of 27 shots. The Kings took a 3-1 lead into the third period, but Quick stopped just five of seven shots in the that frame.

Andreas Athanasiou scored a goal for the Kings. He’s looking to turn his career around after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign where he had 11 goals and 26 points in 55 contests.