Monday, January 18, 2016

Musings on the Youth Movement

Rookie Kerby Rychel
In Saturday's game against Colorado, the CBJ started 5 rookies.  Korpisalo in goal, Rychel, Anderson, Karlsson, and Hanikainen.  That's one fourth of your skaters.  I'm not really sure what to make of this.  Ultimately, I guess I think it is a good move for this team at this time.  The problem comes next year, when you both want to be good AND you are going to have a lot of second year players.  That's not necessarily a really reliable mix.  Playing a lot of rookies, even very talented ones is not necessarily a recipe for success; ask Edmonton if you don't believe me.

Nonetheless, these rookies don't seem dramatically out of place in the NHL.  But I don't think you can really count on rookies for a lot of scoring, as their first task generally is to learn to contain the rest of the NHL, a fundamental prerequisite for staying in the league.  And, one advantage of having them up this year is they get to learn from the new coach, so they don't really have much, if anything, to unlearn.

It has been stated that Rychel and Anderson are going to get a 'long' look.  What that means is that you are going to watch them for at least 20 games.  The first 15 games of any new player in a new organization is a glimpse of the maximum they can be.  Think Kevin Connauton.  He had the 15 game burst, scored once more after that and everyone thought 'see, it's not just the 15 games!'  But his scoring tailed off sharply after that, never to return to that level.  He is young, and we'll see, but I suspect he will never match that burst he had after the Jackets claimed him off waivers from the Stars.

To me, that 15 games means a couple of things.  First off, the player is past any adrenaline that comes from being in the big show, or wanting to make an impression after a trade.  Secondly, the rest of the NHL has thoroughly scouted you in the context of your new team.  They know how they want to play against you, and who they want to match up against you, whereas in those first 5 games especially, this may not be clear to other teams.

The Rychel camp seems to believe that Kerby is ready for the NHL.  That may be, he has shown reasonably well so far.  The 'true' read, is after that 15 game mark.  Has he stabilized his game?  Is it showing signs of growing?  Does he appear to learn from his mistakes?

I think Alexander Wennberg will be a great player in this league.  I think Wild Bill Karlsson is right there with him.  They both have had games where they really struggled.  But they seem to be adept at taking the lessons learned from those games, and moving forward with them.  Those are the type of attributes we want to be looking for in this last half of the season.  When they get beat, do they learn from it, and then apply the lessons later?  If the answer is yes, this group might be scary good in a couple of years.  We shall see.


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