With a busy calendar that includes the NHL All-Star Game, the NHL’s All-Rookie Team Game, and the Winter Classic, we look ahead to the new season with a look back at the players who will have to make some tough decisions.
With the season winding down, here are a few highlights from the 2015-16 NHL season, including some of the players and storylines that were shaping up to be big-name picks for the league’s All and Rookie Teams.
With that said, let’s take a look at the first-round picks, including how they could be impacted by the NBA Draft lottery, and what the future holds for them.
There were many big names picked in the first round, including defenseman Jordan Nolan (No. 6), forward Nikita Kucherov (No., 28), and center Alex Galchenyuk (No, 45).
The trio combined for seven goals, 12 points, and 44 penalty minutes.
The trio’s big scoring numbers were the biggest surprise of the bunch.
But it was Nolan’s defensive play that caught the attention of NHL Central Scouting, and he quickly became a top-three prospect.
Nolan led all NHL defenders in blocked shots with 5.7 per game and had a plus-10 rating and a plus/minus rating of plus-24.
Nolan was also the top overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and that was before he got to college, which didn’t exactly turn out well.
After a breakout year at the University of Minnesota, Nolan went to the University.
He had four goals and 16 points in 32 games and was second in the team’s scoring race, which he led all skaters in.
The 19-year-old finished the year with a plus 24 rating and had seven goals and 21 points in 55 games.
With a strong performance in the NCAA Frozen Four, Nolan had a big year in the 2016 NCAA tournament, as he led the NCAA in points (19), goals (17), and assists (11).
The 19th overall pick had a strong finish to the tournament, posting three goals and five points in four games.
The first overall pick is no stranger to controversy, and while he has had some issues in the past, his struggles this year are much different.
Nolan, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators, was suspended for two games by the NHL for an incident with a security guard in March.
He was suspended four games by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in June for his conduct toward a fan after a game in Buffalo.
But, as with most players, the real question is whether Nolan will ever be ready to play in the NHL.
With a lack of NHL-ready depth behind him, Nolan has to prove he can be a real impact player.
That’s a big ask for a 19-y.o. player who has had a lot of struggles with his game in college, and his college career wasn’t even his first experience in the pros.
The fact that Nolan was drafted in the top-five, and is the biggest name on the NHL draft board, speaks volumes about his ability to be successful in the league.
But, there are some questions about Nolan’s maturity level and attitude.
In his first year in Nashville, Nolan’s biggest test was on the power play.
The rookie had six power-play goals, and six power play points, in just 33 games.
That was good for 13th among all rookies.
He wasn’t the fastest skater, nor was he a good playmaker.
Nolan had four power-side goals and nine power-forwards.
He also had six shots on goal, which was good.
But Nolan also had some really poor decisions on the penalty kill, especially in the offensive zone.
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound defenseman scored three goals in 16 games.
He missed 11 of his 24 shots, and scored just one goal.
Nolan also didn’t have the same willingness to take big hits that some of his college peers did, and didn’t make his shots that often.
This year, Nolan is hoping to prove his value to Nashville as a young player.
He has the skills and skills to be a good NHL defenseman.
He could become a solid third-pairing option behind Tyson Barrie and Jake McCabe.
Nolan is the type of player who can play on the top power play unit and be a quality penalty-killing option, and could be a valuable piece in a playoff push.
If Nolan can improve his power play, he’ll have a lot to work on in terms of his skating and defensive positioning, but his skating could be more consistent with the help of some coaching.
He’ll have to show improvement on the defensive side of the puck if he wants to become a top defenseman in the League.