High-scoring rookie Jason King adds firepower to Vancouver's second line
As the most experienced Canuck, 36-year-old forward Mike Keane took the responsibility of showing rookie right winger Jason King the ropes. The two are usually among the last players off the ice after practice, and as neighbors in Vancouver they often hang out away from the rink. Having Keane as a mentor works well, because power-play positioning and restaurant tips aren't the only things the 22-year-old King needs help with. "Who's he?" King asked recently after Keane brought up former seven-time All-Star defenseman Brad Park. Says Keane, "I'm sure he knows the guys who are in the league now, but he doesn't know all the Hall of Famers yet."
King's poor sense of hockey history will be forgiven as long as he keeps scoring. Through Sunday the 6-foot, 195-pound King led Vancouver—and all NHL rookies—with 10 goals. (The 10-4-2-2 Canucks led the league with 57 goals.) "He has a very good shot, and his feel and game sense are terrific," says coach Marc Crawford. "You just watch and admire it."
Drawing admirers was once very hard for King. He grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, so far off the radar that he wasn't drafted by a major junior team. He eventually made the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL as a 17-year-old walk-on and scored 111 goals over his last two seasons. Still, he wasn't selected in the 2001 NHL draft until the 212th pick, by the Canucks.
King was solid enough in the minors last season to earn an eight-game stint with Vancouver. He didn't score, but Crawford was impressed by the chemistry between King and 23-year-old twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin. This season King has been a perfect complement to the pass-happy brothers. That trio, which carried the team when the top line of Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison sputtered early, had combined for 36 points and earned the nickname the Mattress Line—a King and two twins.
"Teams are starting to key on us a little more" says King. "But when both [top] lines are scoring, we're tough to stop."
Abundance of Rookies
Clubs Like Young (Cheap) Talent
The Canucks' Jason King is one of the leading candidates for the Calder Trophy, but diligent voters will have their hands full sifting through a rookie class that is marked as much by quality as quantity. There were 64 rookies on opening-night rosters this season, compared with 46 last year. Why the youth movement?
First, this is an unusually talented group that included four 18-year-olds: Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Panthers forward Nate Horton and Hurricanes forward Eric Staal. Secondly, first-year players usually come cheaper than vets. It's no accident that the teams with the most rookies—the Penguins (six), Predators (five) and Black-hawks (five)—have payrolls that rank in the bottom quarter of the league.