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Cream of the crops

The 10 best rookie seasons in NHL history

Posted: Thursday February 2, 2006 1:54PM; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2006 4:34PM
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This season's stellar rookie scorers have far to go to top Teemu Selanne's mark of 76 goals.
This season's stellar rookie scorers have far to go to top Teemu Selanne's mark of 76 goals.
Al Bello/Getty Images
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Due to the lockout, two rookie classes (2004, 2005) are providing plenty of excitement in the NHL this season. Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Peter Prucha, Dion Phaneuf, Marek Svatos and Henrik Lundqvist are enjoying outstanding debut campaigns. By season's end, if not sooner, we may conclude that one or more members of this crop should be included when compiling a list of the best rookie seasons of all time.

Indeed, there have been many memorable rookies in NHL history. So many, in fact, that selecting the 10 best among the Calder winners resulted in painful omissions that are sure to elicit debate. What cannot be denied is the impact some of these players had on their teams.

In order to be considered for this list, players had to be eligible for the Calder Trophy, the hardware awarded to the NHL's rookie of the year (which is why Wayne Gretzky's 137-point season in 1979-80 is not included here). The criteria for being Calder-eligible has changed over the years, but the magnitude of these players' seasons has not.

1. Tony Esposito, G, 1969-70, Blackhawks
After being claimed from Montreal for $25,000 in the intra-league draft, Chicago's new netminder posted a 2.17 goals-against average and set the modern NHL record of 15 shutouts en route to winning the Vezina as the league's top goalie. "Tony O" also led the league with 38 wins while lifting his team from the basement to the top of the East Division.

2. Mike Bossy, RW, 1977-78, Islanders
During a season in which he was one of JUST two 50-goal scorers, Bossy became the first rookie in league history to reach the half-century mark when he posted 53. He added 38 assists for 91 points to finish sixth in scoring. The right wing was also a plus-31 in helping the Isles to their first-ever division title.

3. Teemu Selanne, RW, 1992-93, Jets
As great as Ovechkin and Crosby have been, they will not come close to the Finnish Flash's rookie records of 76 goals and 132 points posted during the end of the highest-scoring era in NHL history. Selanne's 76 goals, 24 of which came with the man advantage, is tied for fifth all-time.

4. Terry Sawchuk, G, 1950-51, Red Wings
While playing all 70 games, Sawchuk led the league with 44 wins and 11 shutouts. He permitted only 1.99 goals per game while copping First-Team All-Star honors. Thanks in large part to his efforts, the Red Wings compiled the first 100-point season (101) in league history.

5. Ken Dryden, G, 1971-72, Canadiens
Dryden backstopped the Habs to a Stanley Cup after being called up in time for the preceding season's playoffs, and he continued to stand tall during his official rookie season. He led the league with 39 wins while posting a 2.24 goals-against average with eight shutouts. Perhaps most impressive, he appeared in an NHL-high 64 games and lost just eight.

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