Through just over a quarter of the 2015-16 season, there have been a few consistent hot topics around the NHL. The early successes of the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers. Patrick Kane’s dominant offensive run in the face of a tumultuous off-season. And the rookies.
This season has seemed like the first in several seasons where the rookie class has been deep and talented. Of course, everyone in the hockey world was talking about the two golden children: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid. Both were expected to turn around their respective franchises and possess the talent to be the best players in the league for a decade.
Past them, the conversation has focused on several others. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin has grabbed the spotlight at several points and with good reason. Just a teenager who was playing his first (and only) season of college hockey last year, Larkin has made the jump to the NHL flawlessly, playing on Detroit’s top line and leading all NHL rookies with 10 goals (his 18 points are third).
Artemi Panarin has taken the league by storm, posting 23 points in 25 games for the Blackhawks. Riding shotgun on Kane’s line, Panarin leads all NHL rookies in scoring and continues to produce at a pace that most rookies simply don’t. If he continues to produce the way he has, it won’t matter who he’s playing with — he’ll be rookie of the year for certain.
But the name that doesn’t get talked about enough these days is the one who has been the league’s top rookie through the quarter-way mark. That’s right, Max Domi doesn’t get his due.
Domi has more than earned his right to that accolade through 24 games with the Coyotes. He’s third in goals (eight), second in assists (13) and second in points (21) among NHL rookies. He’s been dynamic and exciting for an Arizona team that has been better than expected. Not that they are world-beaters, but they were expected to be bottom-feeders and have managed to keep themselves competitive.
Unlike Panarin and Larkin, who play with the likes of Kane and Henrik Zetterberg respectively, Domi hasn’t had the benefit of traditionally great linemates. That’s no disrespect to Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker, but among the elite in the game they are not. The fact that Domi is doing what he’s been doing shows how well he’s played as a whole and the kind of impact he has had on the way the Coyotes have played.
Again, there is a lot of hockey left to go. Domi could hit the skids and Panarin could continue to light up the scoreboard playing next to Kane. Eichel could explode offensively and take his place at the top of the mountain. But at this point in the game, Tie Domi’s kid is without a doubt the rookie of the year.