Bumper cop of NHL rookies

Calgary Flame Roman Horak in Calgary, Thursday October 20, 2011. AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY, file

Calgary Flame Roman Horak in Calgary, Thursday October 20, 2011. AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY, file

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 AM ET

CALGARY - A look at the top dozen rookie scorers prior to Thursday's NHL action is an interesting study.

You have three players right out of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft: No. 1 pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, second pick Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers first-rounder Sean Courturier, the No. 8 pick.

You have a 2010 draft choice in Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets -- who is still eligible to play for Canada at the world juniors -- and Calgary Flames surprise Roman Horak, a fifth-rounder in 2009.

The majority of players on the list, however, are older. In some cases, they are much older than the 18- and 19-year-old skaters who have made the jump.

Buffalo Sabres' Luke Adam and Vancouver Canucks' Cody Hodgson were both drafted in 2008 and had to bide their time for a NHL shot, while Craig Smith of the Nashville Predators, Matt Read of the Flyers and Colin Greening of the Ottawa Senators went the NCAA route, and Montreal Canadiens' Raphael Diaz and the Sabres' Marc-Andre Gragnani are pushing their mid-20s.

The lesson is how hard it is for a young player, unless they're uber-talented and in the right scenario, to make the jump immediately from junior to the NHL.

In the past while, we've seen some of the young players from the 2011 draft rightfully returned to their junior or European clubs, such as the Senators' Mika Zibanejad, the Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad and the Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele.

It's disappointing for the players and fans who can become caught up in the excitement of outstanding pre-season performances -- Scheifele's four-point outing against a split-squad Blue Jackets team, for example -- but looking through the list of this year's top rookies so far shows how much young players benefit with time.

It's truly exciting to see the young players making the NHL in their draft year and excelling -- New Jersey Devils defenceman Adam Larsson is also part of that crop -- but as much as teams want to see youngsters flourish immediately, it's best to cool those jets.

Just imagine how much better those players will be a year from now.

FLAMING C-NOTES

That said, it would have been great for the Flames to somehow find a way for 2011 first-round pick Sven Baertschi and 2010 third-round pick Max Reinhart to play a few NHL games before returning them back to their respective junior clubs. However, that's the box the organization put itself in by having way too many forwards -- 14 -- on one-way contracts before training camp even started. Don't expect to see that mistake again "¶ After Flames captain Jarome Iginla nets his 500th career goal, it will be a long time before we see another NHLer hit that milestone. Jaromir Jagr (649 goals), now with the Flyers, and Teemu Selanne (640) of the Anaheim Ducks are the only active players to have scored more goals than Iginla's 486, but fourth on the NHL list is Jason Arnott (403), now with the St. Louis Blues, followed by the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa (393) and Sens captain Daniel Alfresson (392). The next player to hit 500 may very well be the Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk, who has 371.

HOCKEY TALKY

When you get a chance, check out the mask Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller has for the Movember campaign to promote prostate cancer awareness. On it are pictures of his Ducks teammates with drawn-on moustaches. It's so much better, and more fun, than that all-black mask Hiller wears ... Almost every time a pro athlete claims his Twitter account was hacked, we can't help but roll our eyes and say, 'Yeah, sure,' but when Taylor Hall's account said such things as '#oilersfansaretheworst' and 'I'm going to the flames, we'll believe him' "¶ How scary yet funny would it be to see the Zdeno Chara in a pink bunny suit? The towering Boston Bruins captain did it for a Halloween hospital visit, and the looks on some of the kids' faces are priceless. "Was that rabbit taller than you?" one little boy asked his father "¶ A story worth following just to see how it places out: The contract stalemate between Kyle Turris and the Phoenix Coyotes. If Turris isn't signed or receives his wish for a trade by Dec. 1, he can't play in the NHL this season.

YOU DON'T SAY

"Cal has tremendous growing potential, I've seen it before. I only hope he shaves on the first and follows by the rules. He does have an early start -- he's a hairy individual."

-- Ducks LW George Parros on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. Both players have the ability to grow perfect mustaches.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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