The NHL announced its monthly awards on Tuesday, and the winner of October's top rookie was named neither Auston Matthews nor Patrick Laine. Maple Leafs forward William Nylander's seven assists and 11 points were enough to get him the nod over his teammate Matthews as well as Laine—the top two picks in the 2016 draft, respectively— as he was named the season's first rookie of the month. It probably comes as a slight surprise based on the how well the other two have lived up their enormous hype, but big things are expected of Nylander, too.
One of several high-impact super rookies playing for the Leafs—including Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Nikita Zaitsev—Nylander has flown under the radar as much as you can in a hockey-mad market like Toronto. His play through the first month of the season, however, is deserving of praise, as he has a team-leading seven assists and 11 points, one more than Matthews.
The 20-year-old Swede—born in Calgary while his father (Michael) was playing in the NHL—was drafted No. 8 overall in 2014 by Toronto and pegged by management as one of the first major pieces to the Maple Leafs' rebuild. Before being drafted by Toronto, Nylander spent parts of two seasons with Modo of Sweden's top league. He joined the Marlies (the Leafs' AHL affiliate) midway through the 2014-15 season and found a spot on the top line and flourished immediately, picking up 32 points in his first 37 games.
His impressive play continued with the Marlies last season, as Nylander put up 45 points in 38 games before being recalled by the Maple Leafs in late February. Though Matthews (his linemate) and Laine have dominated most of the conversation thus far, several (slightly) lesser known first-years are having veteran-like seasons across one of the best rookie classes we have seen since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin battled head-on for the Calder Trophy following the NHL lockout in 2004-05.
Mitch Marner: Drafted fourth overall by the Maple Leafs in 2015, Marner has six points through ten games of his first NHL campaign while mostly playing right wing on the second line with Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. The 19-year-old from Thornhill, Ontario, comes to the Maple Leafs after making a mockery of the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights. His collection of accolades from just last season include CHL and OHL most outstanding player, OHL, CHL and Memorial Cup first team all-star, and Memorial Cup MVP—while captaining London to OHL and CHL titles. He's a star in the making.
Jimmy Vesey: He was the subject of this offseason's biggest free agent bidding war. The 23-year-old was actually selected No. 66 overall by Nashville in 2012, but stayed unsigned despite numerous offer from Predators GM David Poile. Unable to come to an agreement within the four-year window allowed to negotiate with NCAA draft picks, Vesey became a free agent and signed with New York this summer. The native of North Reading, Massachusetts, comes to the Rangers after four seasons with Harvard, captaining the Crimson in his senior year while capturing the Hobey Baker award—hockey's version of the Heisman Trophy—in 2016. So far, Vesey has a team-leading six goals, to go along with nine points, while playing on the top line alongside Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. He may be an older rookie, but let's not have that be a reason to overlook the immediate impact he is making for the red-hot Rangers.
Travis Konecny: Selected No. 24 overall by Philadelphia in 2015, Konecny has seven points through his first ten NHL games while primarily playing left wing on the second line alongside Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Konecny was a standout over three OHL campaigns prior to making the jump to the Flyers. The 19-year-old from London, Ontario, had 101 points in 60 games splitting time with Sarnia and Ottawa last season.
Zach Werenski: He went No. 8 overall in 2015 to Columbus and currently sits second overall on the Blue Jackets with eight points while playing along Seth Jones on the team's top d-pairing. The 19-year-old from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, joined the Blue Jackets this season after two huge years for the University of Michigan Wolverines. Werenski put up 25 assists and 36 points and was a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award in each of his last two campaigns.
After his historic four-goal NHL debut, Matthews has leveled off somewhat, scoring twice in nine games since. He still sits in a second-place tie for the NHL goal-scoring lead, and one point behind Nylander for the rookie points lead. Laine is tied with Matthews with six goals and has eight points, just two back of the rookie lead.
Matthews and Laine are exceptional young talents we don't see come around very often. When you take a look around the NHL, however, it's clear that this elite rookie class extends far beyond just them. The others are pretty good, too.