A whopping 10 players stepped on to NHL ice for their first meaningful game last night and get a nod for their accomplishment. Four of them were just taken in the draft three months ago, including Florida’s Aleksander Barkov, who scored his first goal.
Olli Mattaa, Pittsburgh
Shout out to Jyvaskyla, Finland, whose native son made his first appearance in a real NHL game. Maatta, the 22nd overall selection in 2012, logged 14:44 of ice, three blocked shots, one hit and one shot in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. Pretty good stat line for a rookie defenseman who may only be in the lineup because of Kris Letang’s injury.
Sean Monahan, Calgary
Repping Brampton, Ont., the sixth overall pick from the past summer’s draft will be a key part of Calgary’s rebuild. He got an assist in his first game and though it won’t appear on any highlight packages, it came from good forechecking pressure. Monahan comes from the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, where he scored 31 goals and 78 points in 58 games last season. But despite taking a 3-0 lead, Calgary fell 5-4 to Washington.
Justin Fontaine, Minnesota
The Bonnyville, Alta., native only logged 6:42 of ice in his debut and had zeroes across his stat line, but it’s always a good story when an undrafted player makes it to the show. The 25-year-old is an alum of the Minnesota-Duluth program and had a solid rookie season with the AHL’s Houston Aeros last season, scoring 16 goals and 55 points in 73 games. the Wild lost the game 3-2 to Los Angeles in a shootout.
Seth Jones, Nashville
The fourth overall pick of this past summer’s draft and Plano, Texas native saw lots of ice time – 18:35 – in his first game on Nashville’s blueline. He was a plus-2 with three shots and a hit and had the fourth-most power play time for the Predators in their 4-2 loss to St. Louis.
Aleksander Barkov, Florida
The Tampere, Finland native with a Russian name got his career off to a great start in Florida’s 4-2 win over Dallas.The surprising second overall pick in June with a 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame brings a man’s game to the table after spending the past two years in the SM-liiga with Tappara Tampere. He showed off his presence with a sturdy net-front play on his goal. He logged 15:34 of ice and registered four shots.
Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas
Taken 10th overall this past June, the only explanation why Nichushkin wasn’t taken earlier is the Russian Factor. He’s considered among the favorites for the Calder Trophy this season and got 19:50 of ice in his debut. He didn’t score a point, but the Chelyabinsk, Russia native did record a shot and two hits in the loss.
Jesper Fast, New York Rangers
The Nassjo, Sweden native made the Rangers out of camp in his first full season of North American hockey. A sixth round pick from 2010, Fast has spent the past three years with HV71 in Sweden’s top circuit and scored 18 goals and 35 points in 47 games there last season. Fast got 10:13 of ice with a shot and a hit in New York’s 4-1 loss to Phoenix.
Lucas Lessio, Phoenix
A second-rounder from 2011, Lessio hails from Maple, Ont. (hey, I get Tim Horton’s coffee from that rest stop!) Formerly of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, Lessio got a taste of pro action in five regular season and three post-season games with the AHL’s Portland Pirates at the end of last season. In his NHL debut, Lessio logged 9:22 of ice with a shot, hit and roughing minor.
Tomas Hertl, San Jose
The Sharks don’t have the best pipeline – a side effect of being so good for so long – which is why it’s so important for Hertl to become an impact player. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Prague, Czech Republic native was picked 17th overall by the Sharks in 2012 and spent the past two season with Slavis Praha in his home country’s top league. He earned an assist in his first game and made Chris Tanev’s night a little harder by throwing a couple hard hits on the Canucks defender.
Matt Nieto, San Jose
The Long Beach, Calif., native and Boston University alum is in his first full pro season after getting an 11-game taste in the AHL to end 2012-13. He got 9:43 of ice and an interference penalty on Alex Burrows in San Jose’s 4-1 win over Vancouver.