For most players entering their first season in the NHL, it takes time to adjust to the pro game. However, for a select few players, not only are they up to the task, they're ready to secure their place among the leagues best. Besides a couple of exceptions, every player on this list were easy choices to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL best rookie in their respective seasons.
Having a good start to your NHL career helps pave the way to a long successful career. Almost all of these players ended up winning multiple individual awards, Stanley Cups, and were eventually enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On top of that, most of the players on this list were high draft picks, so that meant there was a lot of pressure on them to produce immediately. These players not only lived up to those high expectations, they exceeded them. Some of these players were so good that they single-handedly changed the fortune of their franchise. Teams that were near the bottom of the standings, all of a sudden were near the top.
In the following list you will notice that "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky was not included. This is because he started his professional hockey career in the WHA, before making his NHL debut in 1979-80 with the Edmonton Oilers. The NHL did not consider him a rookie and as a result Gretzky was not eligible to win the Calder Trophy. He had an amazing 137 points in his first season in the NHL, which would have been a record for a rookie. He would of definitely been one of the top players on this list had he been eligible.
Here are the top 15 incredible NHL rookie seasons of all time.
15 Bryan Trottier - 1975-76
14 Joe Juneau - 1992-93
13 Ed Belfour - 1990-91
12 Sidney Crosby - 2005-06
11 Joe Nieuwendyk - 1987-88
10 Brian Leetch - 1988-89
9 Dale Hawerchuk - 1981-82
8 Alex Ovechkin - 2005-06
Alex Ovechkin had the luxury of being in the shadow of fellow rookie Sidney Crosby heading into the 2005-06 season, as Ovie was selected before the lockout year, so his hype had quieted a little.. Some experts had Crosby a lock to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year. However, Ovechkin had other plans. He would go on to out score Crosby , scoring 52 goals and 54 assists for 106 points.
7 7. Ken Dryden - 1971-72
Ken Dryden's story is unlike any player on this list. His official rookie season didn't take place until 1971-72, however Dryden played a crucial part in the Montreal Canadiens 1971 Stanley Cup Championship. Dryden only played six regular season games for the team, but was called upon come playoff time. Dryden's play was outstanding as he would take home the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff's most valuable player.
6 Peter Stastny - 1980-81
5 Tony Esposito - 1969-70
4 Mario Lemieux - 1984-85
3 Mike Bossy - 1977-78
2 Terry Sawchuk - 1950-51
Terry Sawchuck was originally the property of the Boston Bruins before he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, a move Boston would soon regret. Sawchuk saw his first NHL action in 1949-50, playing seven games towards the end of the season for the Wings. He was outstanding, allowing only sixteen goals in those games. His performance was enough to give Detroit the confidence to have Sawchuk as their starting goaltender going forward.
1 1. Teemu Selanne - 1992-93
Teemu Selanne was drafted 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. He wouldn't make his NHL debut until the 1992-93 season, but it was well worth the wait for Jets fans. Selanne absolutely tore it up in his rookie season, scoring a rookie record 76 goals to go along with 132 points. There is a very good chance that his record of 76 goals will never be broken by another rookie. In today's NHL, it's a rarity for any player to even eclipse the 60 goal plateau, nevermind a rookie. His time with the Jets may have been brief, only playing two and a half seasons for the team, but his impact continues to live on in the city of Winnipeg, thanks in part to his unforgettable rookie season.
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