Coast To Coast: Rookie Of The Year Races In The ECH, WCHA, AHA & NHL

Coast To Coast: Rookie Of The Year Races In The ECH, WCHA, AHA & NHL

Who doesn't love a good Rookie of the Year race? We dive into the ECHL, WCHA, AHA and NHL to check out the frontrunners.

Mar 3, 2021 by Jacob Messing
Coast To Coast: Rookie Of The Year Races In The ECH, WCHA, AHA & NHL

Coast To Coast is FloHockey’s monthly, cohesive news on North American hockey and live-streaming partnerships.

Every year fresh young talent sparks excitement, creativity, and promise as leagues debate the annual rookie of the year race. This week’s Coast to Coast looks at the top newcomers in a number of leagues, from collegiate to professional. 

Let’s dive right in.


In September, FloHockey discussed its 2020-21 ECHL Rookies to Watch coming out of the NCAA. Now, approaching the halfway point of the 2020-21 ECHL season, the rookie race is tight with players from every position making a case.

On offense, Matthew Boucher of the Utah Grizzlies leads all rookies with 20 points (8 G, 12 A) in 28 games. Bobby McMann sits with a high per-game rate with 16 points (5 G, 11 A) in 15 games.

Leading defensive candidates are Ben Finkelstein of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and Mike Lee of the Indy Fuel. Finkelstein leads defensive rookies with 4 G and 13 A for 17 points in 18 games. Lee has registered 14 points (4 G, 10 A) in 21 contests, pushing the Fuel from the backend to a 20-6 record and the league’s second-best win percentage.

Coming up through the crease, Devin Cooley holds a 2.52 GAA, .918 SV%, and one shutout with an 8-4 record for Florida.


After the program returned only through a fundraiser, Alabama Huntsville forward Tyrone Bronte led all WCHA rookies in per-game numbers with four goals and 13 points in 18 games.

Meanwhile, at Michigan Tech, Arvid Caderoth led WCHA freshmen in total scoring with 16 points (2 G, 14 A) in 26 games.

A pair of Minnesota State defensemen in Akito Hirose and Jake Livingstone showed offense thinking that earned them 12 and 11 points, respectively, in 20 games. Every year the Mavericks rely on incoming talent to keep the program among the nation’s best and their blue line saw that this season.

Atlantic Hockey

Mercyhurst and Robert Morris lead the Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year race among the 11 programs. Colonials forward Randy Hernandez continues to lead all AHA freshmen with 10 goals and 22 points in 21 games, giving him a 1.05 points-per-game mark, good for second in the entire NCAA

Close behind, Mercyhurst's Carson Briere has been an astounding playmaker with an AHA rookie-best 14 assists and 18 total points in 20 games.

Bentley defenseman Drew Bavaro leads all Atlantic Hockey rookies in per-game rate with 10 points (2 G, 8 A) in 15 games. Army defenseman Brian Kramer finished with one more point with zero goals and 11 assists in 19 games to thrust Army among the conference’s best.


The question about who exactly benefits from this strange, shortened season is still up in the air. Some say veterans gain from a shorter schedule that doesn’t leave them as worn down, which could be more relevant come playoffs. Others say the faster turnaround between games and condensed format benefits younger, fresher players — like rookies — who hold more youthful energy.

So it’s no surprise the rookie race is packed so far. The hype surrounding Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov has been warranted as he leads all rookies with 17 points (6 G, 11 A) in 19 games.

Immediately behind Kaprizov are a pair of Ottawa Senators forwards in Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Kaprizov, Stutzle, and Norris have all thrust excitement into their organizations, which are actively looking toward the future.

On the backend, the New Jersey Devils’ Ty Smith has 11 points in 17 games and has a plus-six rating with strong possession numbers (56.1% Corsi-for) on a team that has a minus-five goal differential.

In net, Minnesota has another head-turner in Kaapo Kahkonen, who holds an 8-4 record backed by a rookie-leading 2.41 GAA and .915 SV% that falls third (for rookies that played a minimum of 10 games).

But Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen is the rookie leader among goaltenders. Lankinen has revitalized a Chicago team that saw an influx of young talent in a transitional year with a 50-50 chance for a playoff spot.

Among goaltenders with a minimum of 10 games played, Lankinen is fifth in the league with a .924 SV% along with a 2.55 GAA, and a 9-3 record.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.