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Rookies Scheifele and Trouba are making their mark

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The known commodities of the NHL largely drive the bus and create the buzz.

We know how good an all-round player Sidney Crosby is, probably the best in the game.

The determination of Jonathan Toews is no secret, and the secret of his success, and while we marvel, it's no surprise how accurately Steven Stamkos can shoot a puck or how hard Shea Weber might hit you if you're not paying attention.

It's the newest, freshest faces in the league, the ones with all that unrealized potential who are starting to realize it, that add the intrigue.

It's a little overdue, but the Winnipeg Jets, despite their sketchy record, are dynamic in this department with their rookie duo of centre Mark Scheifele and defenceman Jacob Trouba.

How does their impact on the 2013-14 season compare around the NHL?

It's a snapshot only, but we decided to have a look at multiple-rookie impact as of this week.

For the purposes of this examination, there were some rookies left out in the cold because their teams basically don't have any other freshmen making significant impact.

And so you will find little about Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, Detroit's Danny DeKeyser, New York Rangers' Chris Kreider or Pittsburgh's Olli Maatta on this page.

Look for a story on Calder Trophy candidates another day -- so go no further with us if you're unable to think in multiple dimensions and impacts.

Winnipeg's Scheifele-Trouba combination is the only 20- and 19-year-old duo we could find this season making serious impact.

On age alone, Florida has the tightest comparables with highly skilled 18-year-old Aleksander Barkov and 21-year-old Nick Bjugstad. Their aggregate points are almost identical, but the Jets' pair includes a defenceman and the Panthers' does not.

In terms of minutes used to play rookies, Tampa Bay is the runaway leader, using three players about 17 minutes per game or more, plus mixing in 23-year-old defenceman Mark Barberio in 33 games so far at 13:50 per game.

Nashville is next on that chart for top two rookies actually played, mainly due to 19-year-old Seth Jones's rookie-leading 1,040 minutes, and the Jets come next, even though Trouba missed 17 games with a neck injury after he crashed face-first into the boards in late October.

Points are not the greatest of gauges because some teams boast defencemen and some do not, but the Lightning, when more than one player is tallied, have a leading 57 points from Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, and 72 if you go three deep and count Radko Gudas's scoring. Johnson, it's worth noting, has benefited from time with one of the NHL's greatest producers, Martin St. Louis.

The Dallas Stars, with 49 points from Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Chiasson, also rank ahead of Winnipeg's 45 from Scheifele and Trouba.

Among the forward-defence combinations we identified, only Boston could be judged to be getting better bang for a buck. With 22-year-old blue-liner Torey Krug -- the league's elite rookie, in some minds -- and 21-year-old centre Ryan Spooner, the Bruins' duo has slightly better output for time played than Scheifele and Trouba.

Another interesting lens we put on rookies' impact on NHL teams found if we cut the season so far in about half, using late November as a line, the amount coaches use rookies tells a tale.

In the case of Scheifele and Trouba, their average ice time has increased since that mark; Scheifele's from about 14:42 to 16:09 per game and Trouba's from 21:15 to 21:29.

We could find this increasing trend with only two other teams. Florida has bumped time for both Barkov and Bjugstad since our admittedly random mark, as has Toronto with Morgan Reilly and Peter Holland.

From a Jets' perspective, both Scheifele (written off early by some sky-is-falling types while he was finding a comfort level with his responsibilities) and Trouba (injury) have had their speed bumps, but are trending positvely in terms of real NHL impact.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 C3

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