Karen’s Print Rite brings you updates on former Waterloo Black Hawks players. Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Canucks / Getty Images.
By one important measure, it is 100 percent accurate to say Brock Boeser’s first National Hockey League season is the best rookie year ever by a former Waterloo Black Hawk.
Less than three full seasons removed from playing at Young Arena, Boeser has scored in the last three Vancouver Canucks games, giving him 16 goals this season. That total – in just 28 games – is more than any Hawks alum during their first year in “The Show.”
Already. Lest we forget, it’s still a long way from the season’s midpoint, much less the end of the year.
Yet “best” is a very subjective word. In this Where Are They Now Feature, we’ll rank the five previous best NHL rookie seasons by Waterloo Black Hawks. Then you can decide – now and during the coming months – where Boeser’s year ranks.
First a word about “rookies.” The NHL currently defines the term with a few criteria: 1) must be under age 26, 2) cannot have played in 25 NHL games or more prior to this season, and 3) players who meet the first two criteria while appearing in parts of at least two seasons cannot have appeared in more than six games during any of those years. At age 20 and with just 9 appearances last spring after joining Vancouver from the University of North Dakota, Boeser is firmly within the boundaries of the term.
For comparison’s sake, here is a more detailed current Vancouver stat line for Waterloo’s 2014/15 scoring leader:
28 games / 16 goals / 12 assists / 28 points / Even +/- / 12 power play points / 4 game-winning goals
Here’s how some other notable former Hawks stack up…
5. Vinnie Hinostroza, Chicago Blackhawks 2016/17
49 games / 6 goals / 8 assists / 14 points / -1 / 0 power play points / 2 game-winning goals
Almost exactly one year ago, Chicago was visiting the St. Louis Blues. With the December 17th game tied at 4-4 and less than five minutes to play, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook set up a Hinostroza for the go-ahead score which proved to be the winner. At home one night later, he assisted on a Ryan Hartman game-winner, then scored an insurance goal at 17:40 of the third. Those highlights were among several memorable efforts as Hinostroza settled in for his hometown club.
4. Jason Blake, Los Angeles Kings, 1999/2000
64 games / 5 goals / 18 assists / 23 points / +4 / 4 power play points / 1 game-winning goal
Blake’s first NHL season was more than just the best NHL rookie year for a former Black Hawk. Up to that time, it was the best effort at that level by ANY former Waterloo player. During a seven game span from January 27th through February 11th, Blake turned in seven points (all assists) in seven games. On February 3rd, he notched two assists on goals by Bryan Smolinski and Glen Murray against the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings. It was one of three multipoint games.
3. Andrew Alberts, Boston Bruins, 2005/06
73 games / 1 goal / 6 assists / 7 points / +3 / 0 power play points / 0 game-winning goals
Eye-popping scoring statistics were never part of Alberts’ nine season NHL career. When he retired after the 2013/14 campaign, he had eight regular season goals over course of his stay in the league. Yet, no former Black Hawk has skated in more NHL games as a rookie. Amidst that consistency, his first league goal came on what was otherwise a rough night for the Bruins. Trailing the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 late in the second period, Glen Murray set up an Alberts one-timer, and the big blue-liner scored shorthanded.
2. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks, 2006/07
46 games / 14 goals / 14 assists / 28 points / +4 / 11 power play points / 3 game-winning goals
Pavelski did not start the 2006/07 season with the Sharks, but he was called up from their affiliate in Worcester in time to meet the Kings on November 22nd. Midway through the third period, he found the net on assists from Scott Hannan and Patrick Marleau. Pavelski ended up scoring goals in four of his first five NHL contests. Against the Kings again three weeks later, the former Waterloo captain tallied his first multigoal game. By the end of the season, Pavelski had almost completely established himself as the indispensable part of the San Jose lineup he has become during the last decade.
1. Craig Smith Smith, Nashville Predators, 2011/12
72 games / 14 goals / 22 assists / 36 points / -9 / 13 power play points / 1 game-winning goal
Like Pavelski (and Boeser, for that matter), Smith scored in his NHL debut. Visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets on opening night, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter set up Smith’s go-ahead goal with just over four minutes to play in the second period. Nashville led the rest of the way during a 3-2 victory. The next night, Smith was all over the scoresheet with a goal and two assists during a 4-2 win versus the St. Louis Blues. He had two other three-point nights during the winter and finished as the Predators’ eighth-leading scorer for the season. Other than the 2012/13 lockout year, Smith has played in at least 72 games during each season of his NHL career.
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