The two rookies, particularly winger Marchand, made their presence felt during Boston's march to its first Stanley Cup since 1972. The feisty Marchand, who scored 11 goals in 25 postseason games, proved to be a major irritant to the Vancouver Canucks in the Cup final. Center Seguin, the second pick in the 2010 NHL draft, blossomed with the start of the 2011-12 season, scoring 14 goals and 31 points in his first 32 games while going plus-26. Marchand, who started plus-25, earned the league's First Star honors for the week ending Dec. 25 by scoring four goals to up his team-leading total to 15.
2 of 10Julie Jacobson, Karl B DeBlaker/AP
Selected seventh in the 2010 NHL draft, the 18-year-old center made an immediate impact in Carolina. The league's youngest player last season, Skinner finished with 31 goals and 63 points, earned the distinction of becoming the youngest All-Star in the history of the four major sports leagues and won the 2011 Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year. Skinner had 12 goals and 12 assists in his first 30 games of the 2011-12 season before being sidelined with a concussion.
3 of 10Shelly Castellano/Icon SMI
The top pick in the 2011 draft grabbed the early Calder Trophy lead by scoring 13 goals and 34 points in his first 34 NHL games. Part of an impressive stable of young talent, which includes winger Taylor Hall (the first pick in 2010), the supremely skilled 18-year-old center has drawn raves from teammates and foes alike. "He's a very level-headed young man," Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter told The Calgary Sun. "He handles everything really well -- very grown, very mature for his age."
4 of 10Tony Medina/Icon SMI
The 22-year-old center, San Jose's first-round pick (ninth overall) in 2007, finished the 2010-11 season with 32 goals and 56 points (both totals ranked second among rookies), earning a nomination for the Calder Trophy. His exceptional performance continued in the playoffs where his seven goals and seven assists helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference Final. Signed to a two-year, $5.75 million extension in August, Couture continued to prove he belonged among San Jose's talented core players by scoring 15 goals, his 26 points in his first 33 games of the 2011-12 season good for second on the team with captain Patrick Marleau and behind only Joe Pavelski.
5 of 10Gerry Broome/AP
When the shadows cast by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were removed by trades in June (Richards to LA, Carter to Columbus), the 23-year-old center quickly earned recognition as one of the NHL's best young players. Having made an impact with 10 goals and 21 points during Philly's run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, and following it up with a 25-goal, 76-point campaign in 2010-11, Giroux got off to a strong start to 2011-12 and was leading the league in scoring when he suffered a concussion on Dec. 11. Returning 11 days later, he lit up Dallas for a goal and three assists, reconfirming his place in the season's early Hart Trophy talk.
6 of 10Fred Vuich/SI
Now in his fifth full NHL season, the Pens' 24-year-old power play quarterback and ace penalty-killer became a viable Norris Trophy contender during the 2010-11 season. He continued his fine play into 2011-12 where he was logging a career-high 26:11 minutes of ice time per game and had produced three goals and 19 points with a plus-five rating in 22 games when he was halted by a concussion suffered on Nov. 26.
7 of 10Don Heupel/AP
A 2006 first-round pick by Vancouver, Grabner washed out with the Canucks and Florida Panthers before he was plucked off the waiver scrap heap by the Islanders in October 2010. The 23-year-old, lightning-fast Austrian winger became a huge surprise by scoring 34 goals and earning consideration as a 2011 Calder Trophy finalist. Having signed a five-year deal worth $15 million after the season, Grabner remains one of the pillars of the perpetually rebuilding Isles with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. "We all recognized the fact he's a dynamic player," Isles GM Garth Snow told Newsday . "It's no mistake he produced the way he did with his speed, skill set and hockey sense.
8 of 10Damian Strohmeyer/SI
An unheralded 258th overall draft pick in 2004, the athletic, 6'-5" Rinne rose steadily, if quietly, into the ranks of the NHL's elite netminders. His 2009-10 numbers were solid (32-16-5, 2.53 goals-against average, .911 saves percentage), but his 2010-11 campaign (33-22-9, 2.12. .930) earned him increasing recognition that culminated with the Predators eliminating the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference quarterfinals for Nashville's first-ever playoff series victory.
9 of 10Christine Cotter/AP
Howard's climb to stardom has been slow and steady since Detroit took him in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft. Now in his third full NHL season, and second full campaign as the Red Wings' No. 1 netminder, the 2010 Calder finalist has gone from solid if unspectacular to an early 2011-12 Vezina Trophy favorite with his 22-8-1, 1.95 GAA, .927 save pct. start.
10 of 10David Duprey/AP
All but forgotten after being chosen by the New York Rangers in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2004 draft, he surfaced in Phoenix for five games in 2008-09. Trapped behind Ilya Bryzgalov and doing spot duty for AHL San Antonio, Montoya was dealt to the Islanders on Feb. 9, 2011, for a sixth-round pick in that summer's draft and soon justified his lofty draft status by going 9-5-5 with a 2.39 GAA and .921 save pct. for his woebegone new team. Starting 2011-12 as part of a three-headed net monster with Evgeni Nabokov and the perpetually injured Rick DiPietro, Montoya was playing well (6-5-3, 2.45 GAA, .917 save pct.) for the struggling Isles when he was concussed in a game against Winnipeg on Dec 20. The feeling is that he will either become the Isles' No. 1 goalie or be dealt to a team that allows him to continue fulfilling his considerable promise.
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