Rookie Watch: Boldy, Vejmelka among best in Central Division

The impact several rookies are making on the NHL is one of the biggest storylines of the 2021-22 season. Each week, will examine topics related to this season’s class in the Rookie Watch.

This week, a look at the top six NHL rookies from the Central Division (listed alphabetically).

Matt BoldyF, Minnesota Wild: Boldy (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) is second among Central Division rookies with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) and a plus-13 rating in 36 games. He returned and had a goal and an assist in a 6-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Boldy scored his first NHL hat trick in a 7-4 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 14, becoming the fourth rookie in Wild history to score three goals in one game and joining Justin Fontaine (Jan. 9, 2014), Kirill Caprizov (March 12, 2021) and Rem Pitlick (Nov. 13, 2021). The 21-year-old is averaging 0.81 points per game, first among Central rookies with at least five games played this season. The No. 12 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft scored one goal and had four shots on goal in his NHL debut at the Boston Bruins on Jan. 6. He’s averaging 15:37 of ice time.

Alexander CarrierD, Nashville Predators: The 25-year-old right-hand shot is averaging 20:53 per game with defense partner Mattias Ekholm. Carrier (5-11, 174), chosen in the fourth round (No. 115) of the 2015 NHL Draft, is first among Central rookies with 26 assists, second with 103 blocked shots (Dysin Mayo, Arizona Coyotes, 123) and tied with Colorado Avalanche forward alex newhook and Predators forward philip tomasino for second with 28 points (two goals, 26 assists) in 66 games. Carrier scored three points (one goal, two assists) in 19 regular-season games, and two assists in six Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Predators last season.

“He’s not the biggest, but he has quite an instinct,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “He’s smart and competitive, he can use his anticipation of him to defend in many situations. We’re really happy with his progress of him, and it’s nice to see.”

Tanner JeannotF, Nashville Predators: Nashville’s domination of Central Division rookies is led by Jeannot. The 24-year-old left wing (6-2, 208) leads all NHL first-year players with 24 goals and 252 hits and is eighth with 56 blocked shots in 70 games. He is tied with Dallas Stars forward Jacob Peterson and Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras with five game-winning goals and third with 23 penalties drawn. He’s tied for fifth with 41 points and averages 15:55 of ice time.

Jeannot, who was undrafted, signed with Nashville as a free agent April 2, 2018. He became a father when his wife, Keely, gave birth to Jayce Robert Patrick on March 25. He had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick two days later, scoring the game-winner with 1:19 left in the third period, getting two assists and fighting Philadelphia Flyers forward Hayden Hodgson in a 5-4 win.

“He does it all,” Predators captain roman josi said after the victory. “I don’t know how many hits he had (three). He had a fight, he scores and he gets an assist. That’s just kind of his season. He just does it all for us, and I think we can’t talk about him enough. He’s unbelievable. He’s one of those guys who does it all and he’s a great player for us, so very happy for him.”

alex newhookF, Colorado Avalanche: Selected No. 16 in the 2019 NHL Draft, Newhook (5-10, 190) is tied for second among Central rookies with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 62 games. The 21-year-old from St. John’s, Newfoundland was the first from the province to be chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft since Daniel Cleary went No. 13 to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1997. He’s averaging 13:42 of ice time in a top-nine role, playing left wing and center, and is tied with Boldy for the most power-play goals (three) among Central rookies.

philip tomasinoF, Nashville Predators: Tomasino (6-0, 179) is tied for second among Central rookies with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) while averaging 11:24 of ice time in 65 games. The 20-year-old, selected No. 24 in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored six points (four goals, two assists) in seven games for second place Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“I think Phil has come in and done a good job,” Hynes said. “He’s shown sometimes where he looks really good. What I really liked is his pace of play is strong. You see a player with offensive instincts and offensive ability, and that’s come out in almost every game. You’ve seen opportunities or chances that he’s had, he scored some nice goals.”

Karel VejmelkaG, Arizona Coyotes: Vejmalka has been a bright spot for the Coyotes (22-45-5), who are last in the NHL and eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention. The 25-year-old goalie, born in Trebic, Czech Republic, ranks second among NHL rookie goalies in games played (44 games), shots against (1,436) and saves (1,297), all behind Alex Nedeljkovic of the Detroit Red Wings, and is fourth in save percentage (.903) and even-strength save percentage (.915) among rookies with a minimum 25 games.

Vejmelka (6-3, 224) was selected by the Predators in the fifth round (No. 145) of the 2015 NHL Draft, signed a one-year contract with the Coyotes on May 5, 2021 and a three-year contract March 21 to avoid restricted free agency. He made 37 saves in a 2-1 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 31, the highest save total for a Coyotes rookie since Adin Hill made 41 in a 3-2 overtime loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 11, 2020.


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