NHL rookies ruling roost

Lightning's Victor Hedman laughs during the Top Rookies for 2009 event in Pittsburgh. (Dave...

Lightning's Victor Hedman laughs during the Top Rookies for 2009 event in Pittsburgh. (Dave Abel/Sun Media)

CRAIG ELLINGSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

There's a six-pack of players that, this early in the season, look to have a profound effect on the Calder Trophy race.

While the league's next superstar-in-waiting, first-overall pick John Tavares, was pretty much expected to make an impact his rookie year with the New York Islanders, others have turned heads as well.

They include the second-, third- and fourth-overall picks -- Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Matt Duchene (Colorado) and Evander Kane (Atlanta) -- as well as the 14th (Florida's Dmitry Kulikov) and 33rd (Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly) selections of June's NHL Entry Draft.

All have notched a handful of points and have earned a decent amount of ice time.

Thanks to these six, the Class of 2009 is shaping up to be one of the most prolific batches of 18-year-olds to make a noticable impact in their rookie season.

Last year's class -- headed by No.-1 pick Steven Stamkos of the Lightning -- saw 12 players hit the ice with their teams during the season, with five playing regularly. Stamkos was the top scorer among them, with 46 points in 79 games, with Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker (78GP, 28Pts) and L.A.'s Drew Doughty (81GP, 27Pts) right behind him.

Of course, how any of these players succeed over time remains to be seen. But I'm sure we'll see a lot more raw rookies playing big roles early with their clubs as this salary-cap era progresses, one which puts pressure on young players to produce early and often. Hey, it worked for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

0-6

Many may be surprised by the stupendously stumbling 0-6 start to the season by the NFL's Tennessee Titans, considering they started 12-0 in 2008. But winning hasn't been that much of a regular thing for the franchise under head coach Jeff Fisher. Consider he's only led the Titans/Oilers to six winning seasons out of the 16 he's guided them. Plus, the Titans have been down this lose-lots-at-the-beginning road before. Just three years ago, Tennessee got off to an 0-5 start only to roar back and finish at 8-8. So there's hope. Kinda.

241

Here's another about-face NFL team for ya: The Baltimore Ravens. No, the former Browns are not off to a bad start a la Tennessee -- the purple-clad Birds are 3-3. And yes, the AFC North squad has quite the multi-faceted offence now, with quarterback Joe Flacco leading a charge away from more of a running game for a pass-happy one, with impressive results.

But the Ravens' bread-and-butter has gone AWOL: It's tough-as-nails defence. Tough, as in 'tough to beat,' isn't the case anymore for this D. Teams facing Baltimore these days are probably feeling more comfortable with sending four- and five-receiver sets seeing as the Ravens are giving up an average 241 passing yards per game, good enough for 22nd in the NFL. Last year, the Ravens were second in that category, allowing a mere 180 through the air per contest.

27.3

Percentage of powerplay success by the New York Rangers in this young season (good for seventh. Calgary's first at 28.6%), thanks in part to the play of early Calder favourite Michael Del Zotto, who leads all defencemen with four goals and five assists for nine points in 10 games. Three of his goals are on the PP.

2,775

Estimated number of bottles of champagne major-league baseball teams will have gone through celebrating playoff berths and series victories this fall.

7

Number of World Series champions since the end of the 1994-95 MLB lockout that have come from either New York, Boston or Philadelphia.

CRAIG.ELLINGSON@SUNMEDIA.CA

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THE YOUNG GUNS

How this season's 18-year-olds are faring so far

Pos., Player, Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM TOI/G

C John Tavares, NYI 8 3 4 7 -3 2 19:48

C Ryan O'Reilly, COL 9 1 6 7 6 0 14:25

D Victor Hedman, TBL 8 0 4 4 1 10 24:34

C Matt Duchene, COL 9 1 3 4 -3 0 17:12

C Evander Kane, ATL 7 2 2 4 2 8 13:08

D Dmitry Kulikov, FLA 7 0 3 3 -6 6 18:21


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