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The 2011-12 NHL season is underway and puck fans are busy cracking new Upper Deck hockey products for the season like Victory, O-Pee-Chee, Artifacts and coming in early November; 2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series One. As collectors pull new names, often they ask themselves, “Is this guy any good?” or even better than that, “How do I even pronounce this guy’s name?” We had Upper Deck NHL brand manager Josh Zusman take a little time to profile some of the early rookies to skate in this class and let you know just how good they are. Oh, and also how to pronounce their names.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Pronounced Ryan New-jent Hop-kins) – RNH was the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. He recorded a hat trick in just his third NHL contest, collecting all three Edmonton goals against the Stanley Cup finalist Canucks. It’s easy to see why his impact is already being felt, and even more so why collectors are thrilled at the prospects of nabbing one of his RC’s!
Gabriel Landeskog (Pronounced Gabe-ree-al Lan-dis-cog) – It didn’t take any time for the second pick in the 2011 NHL Draft to jump right into Colorado’s top six, instantly becoming a regular on a top line. Tabbed as the “Most NHL Ready” of this year’s crop, Landeskog has done nothing to disappoint, and is a key reason why the Avs have jumped out to a quick start to the season.
Sean Couturier (Pronounced Shawn Co-tour-ee-yay) – After leading the Flyers in pre-season scoring, the much-heralded Couturier cracked Philly’s line-up to open the season. He continued his strong play when the games counted, collecting his first helper in game No. 3, then chalked up three more points less than a week later.
Cody Hodgson (Pronounced Co-dee Hodge-son) – Once viewed as a premier sniper with Brampton (OHL) and the Canadian World Junior team, Hodgson’s stock has steadily been on the rise after battling through a couple injury-riddled seasons. His skills with the puck have never been questioned, and his desire to reach the Canucks’ top two lines is now being realized, through hard work, perseverance and the determination to prove he’s still the player many scouts drooled over just two years ago.
Brett Connolly (Pronounced Brett Con-oh-lee) – Connolly was an absolute force with Prince George (CHL), showing why Steve Yzerman and the Lightning used their first pick in 2010 to select the sniping center. Moreover, Connolly stuck with Tampa this Fall after displaying his talents and wherewithal to light the lamp, no matter how stiff the competition.
Ryan Johansen (Pronounced just as it is spelled) – The Blue Jackets’ skill level has been on the rise, and Johansen’s talents are now firmly in the mix. Slated to be the second-line center, many hockey pundits are predicting great things for Johansen. With a ton of hockey sense, great puck awareness and a proclivity for putting points on the board in Juniors (161 in just 134 games) it’s only a matter of time before it clicks at the NHL level.
Mark Scheifele (Pronounced Mark Shy-full-lee) – With much of the early 2011-12 hype surrounding the return of hockey to Winnipeg, the Jets’ first choice in this year’s draft did nothing to disappoint. Scheifele scored his first NHL goal in Toronto, giving his club a 3-1 lead in a battle against the Leafs. Much more is expected, and will come, from this talented forward who has the size to match.
Jake Gardiner (Pronounced Jake Garden-er) – When a GM drafts you in one place (Anaheim), then trades for you when he gets to another club (Toronto), there’s a reason for it. And when that GM’s name is Brian Burke, there’s good reason for it; you’ve got great hockey potential. With blazing speed, tremendous offensive upside and a very solid all-around game, Gardiner figures to be a stalwart on the Leafs’ blueline. And if Burke’s affinity for this blueliner proves to be accurate, Toronto fans will be cheering his name for years.
Mika Zibanejad (Pronounced Mee-ka Zi-bon-ee-jod) – Selected with the sixth pick in the 2011 Draft, Zibanejad excelled in Sweden the past three seasons. He put up 21 points in 27 contests for Djurgardens of the Super-Elite Junior squad before posting five goals in the Elite league last year. Knowing that he jumped into a top-six forward role to start the season gives great indication of what lies ahead for this playmaking winger.
David Rundblad (Pronounced David Rooned-blaad) – Well known for being one of the top all-around prospects in the game today, Rundblad brings a wealth of offensive talent to Ottawa. He posted 50 points in 55 Swedish Elite League contests, giving Senators’ brass all the confidence needed to entrench him on the blueline.
Tim Erixon (Pronounced Tim Erick-son) – The former first-round pick of the Flames is now playing with the Rangers and they don’t figure to let go anytime soon. With a booming shot and a great sense of the game, Erixon’s stellar two-way play figures to net him large minutes from the get-go. His skating ability gives him a leg up on many youngsters, as he can make up ground in a hurry.
Joe Colborne (Pronounced Joe Cole-born) – Possessing great size (6”5’), soft hands and a superb touch around the net, Colborne’s time in Toronto is coming – soon. Unlike some youngsters who made the NHL jump right off the bat, Colborne has been fine-tuning his immense talents, and will undoubtedly make Maple Leafs fans happy with his efforts in the near future. His hard work is a trait that no one questions, and his great character backs it up that much further.
Matt Read (Pronounced just as it is spelled) – Acclimating to the NHL was not a challenge for Read, who put up points in his second and third NHL contests before posting a superb 4-point effort in Game No. 5. Those types of stand-out nights already have Flyers fans screaming for more, and Read appears ready to give it to them.
Matt Frattin (Pronounced Matt Frat-tin) – There isn’t a better place in hockey to get thousands and thousands of people thrilled with your heroics than Toronto. So when Frattin scored the decisive goal in a shootout vs. Winnipeg (Oct. 19), it certainly sent Leafs’ fans home with memories of Frattin’s effort. Just three games later, he notched his first point, taking another step toward making an impact in Toronto.
Brandon Saad (Brandon Sod) – A strong power forward with good upside, Saad could be a very nice addition to the Hawks lineup. Given Chicago’s wealth of high-end skill and ability to light the lamp, Saad should fit right in and take his game to a new level.
Adam Larsson (Pronounced Adam Lar-son) – Certainly one of the most impressive all-around players to be drafted in June, Larsson easily cracked the Devils lineup to start the year. He figures to be a tremendous two-way player from the blueline, one who can be counted on to register 35-40 points a year while playing very solid defense. It should just be a matter of time before Larsson is regarded as an elite defenseman.
Devid Savard (David Sov-ard) – The Blue Jackets’ top defensive prospect possesses great puck-moving skills, and can put up points like few rearguards can (77 points in 64 regular season games). His efforts in the QMJHL were certainly noteworthy, as he took home the Butch Bouchard Trophy for best defenseman in the league.
Andy Miele (Pronounced Andy Mee-lee) – The reigning Hobey Baker winner made his debut on Oct. 23rd. He figures to make many more notable appearances for the Coyotes, who will be looking to utilize his offensive talents that he displayed with Miami (OH), when he posted 71 points in just 39 NCAA contests during his senior year.