Rookie Watch: Top seasons by defensemen in past 30 years

The play of several high-profile rookies, including forwards Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the 2019 NHL Draft, respectively, is one of the major storylines of the 2019-20 season. Each Monday, NHL.com will examine topics related to this…

The play of several high-profile rookies, including forwards Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the 2019 NHL Draft, respectively, is one of the major storylines of the 2019-20 season. Each Monday, NHL.com will examine topics related to this season’s class in the Rookie Watch.

Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche were having two of the most productive seasons by a rookie defenseman in recent history before the NHL paused the regular season on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

This week, a look at the five highest point-producing NHL rookie defensemen in a season since 1989-1990:

1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings (60 points, 1991-92): Selected in the third round (No. 53) by the Red Wings in the 1989 NHL Draft, Lidstrom had 11 goals and 49 assists in 80 games (0.75 points per game) as a rookie in 1991-92, finishing second to Vancouver Canucks right wing Pavel Bure in the voting for the Calder Trophy as the League’s top rookie. Lidstrom was selected to the 1992 NHL All-Rookie Team after leading all rookies in assists, power-play points (31) and plus-minus (plus-36). The Red Wings never missed the playoffs in Lidstrom’s 20 seasons and he helped them win the Stanley Cup four times (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008), winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2002. He won the Norris Trophy seven times, tied with Doug Harvey for second most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

Video: Nicklas Lidstrom won seven Norris Trophies

2. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (53 points, 2019-20): The 20-year-old is first among rookies this season in points, assists (45) and power-play points (25) in 68 games (0.78 points per game). Selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, it’s remarkable to think Hughes already has the second-highest point total for a rookie defenseman in a season since 1989-90. He set Canucks rookie records in assists, power-play points and takeaways (35) and was three points from tying Dale Tallon (1970-71) for the most in a season by a rookie defenseman in team history before the season was paused. Hughes, who was the only rookie to participate in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, had a goal and three assists in a 10-5 win against the Central Division in the first game and had two assists in a 5-4 win against the Atlantic Division in the championship game.

Video: VAN@NYI: Hughes wins it in overtime for Canucks

3. Vladimir Malakhov, New York Islanders (52 points, 1992-93): Selected by the Islanders in the 10th round (No. 191) of 1989 NHL Draft, Malakhov finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting in 1992-93. He led rookie defenseman in points, assists (38), power-play points (22), power-play goals (seven), shots on goal (178) and points per game (0.81) and finished third in plus-minus (plus-14).

4. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (50 points, 2019-20): The 21-year-old leads rookies in points per game (0.88), and rookie defensemen in goals (12), power-play goals (four) and even-strength goals (eight). The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft is second among rookies with 50 points in 57 games, trailing only Hughes, making it the first season in NHL history in which defensemen were the first two rookies to reach 50 points. Makar has the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques rookie record for points, assists (38), points-per game, even-strength points (31), power-play points (19), and takeaways (34). He made his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 games.

Video: COL@OTT: Makar cranks home heavy one-timer for PPG

5. Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames (49 points, 2005-06): Selected No. 9 by the Flames in the 2003 NHL Draft, Phaneuf finished sixth in rookie scoring in 2005-06 (first among rookie defenseman) and was third in Calder Trophy voting. He scored 20 goals as a rookie, one of three NHL defensemen to ever do so (Brian Leetch, 23 with the New York Rangers in 1988-89; Barry Beck, 22 with the Colorado Rockies in 1977-78). Phaneuf played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2007, 2008 and 2012 and has 494 points (137 goals, 357 assists) in 1,048 regular-season games with the Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings.

Head to Head comparison

Larry Murphy scored the most points by a rookie defenseman when he had 76 in 80 games with the Los Angeles Kings in 1980-81, finishing second in Calder Trophy voting that season behind Quebec Nordiques center Peter Stastny (109 points in 77 games). Let’s compare Murphy’s rookie season with what Hughes has done with the Canucks this season.

Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks (2019-20)

Games: 68

G-A-Pts: 8-45-53

Game winning goals: 2

Shots on goal: 126

Points per game: 0.78

Telling stat: Has 28 even-strength points (three goals, 25 assists)

Larry Murphy, D, Los Angeles Kings (1980-81)

Games: 80

G-A-Pts: 16-60-76

Game winning goals: 0

Shots on goal: 153

Points per game: 0.95

Telling stat: Had 40 even-strength points (10 goals, 30 assists)

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