The 5 Best NHL Debut Performances
The standard of talent in the NHL has been on the rise thanks in large part to an influx of young players that are capable of having an immediate impact on the ice. Historically, it often took prospects several years to get up to speed in the NHL. But lately, players like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Eichel entered the NHL and immediately established themselves as high-level contributors and team leaders. Countdown with us as we watch five of the best debuts in recent NHL history.
Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche
After being selected fourth overall in 2017, Cale Makar was making his NHL debut for the Avalanche in the third game of the first round of the Av’s playoff match-up against the flames. Having just finished his college season with UMass Amherst, the speedy defensemen ate solid minutes in his debut on the playoff stage. With under four minutes left in the first period, Makar buried a drop pass from Nathan Mackinnon to put the Avs up 3-0. The Avalanche would go on to win the game 6-2 and the series shortly thereafter. Makar’s debut has served as the first taste of what looks like a potentially elite defensemen in the NHL.
Andrew Hammond, G, Ottawa Senators
Without goalie Robin Lehner due to injury, the Senators elected to give Andrew Hammond the start following his call-up from the AHL. The home game match-up against the Habs would be Hammond’s NHL debut. The Senators allowed 44 shots on net but Hammond was up to the task, recording an impressive 42 saves on the way to his first career victory. Hammond would go on to allow two goals or less in his first 11 starts, earning himself the nickname the Hamburglar while helping the Sens to the playoffs and cementing his status as a fan favorite.
Fabian Brunnstrom, LW, Dallas Stars
On October 15th, 2008, the Dallas Stars were set to host the Nashville Predators in their third game of the 08-09 season. In the offseason, the Stars had won the free agency sweepstakes for Fabian Brunnstrom, a skilled winger from Sweden who put up 37 points in the Swedish Elite League the year before. After being a healthy scratch for the Stars’ first two games, Brunnstrom made his NHL debut against the Preds. In a high scoring and closely contested game, Brunnstrom was an immediate difference-maker, notching three goals against the Preds including the eventual game-winner with just three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, Brunnstrom’s debut would be the only multi-goal game of his career and he lasted just 104 games in the NHL.
Troy Grosenick, G, San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks
On November 16th, 2014, the San Jose Sharks traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina for a match-up with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Sharks were without goalie Alex Stalock, forcing them to call up undrafted rookie Troy Grosenick to make his NHL debut. Grosenick was a former Hobey Baker finalist at Union College and, at the time of his call up, was leading the AHL in goalie wins. Grosenick was absolutely shelled with shots in his debut - the Sharks were out-shot by the Canes 45-18 in the game - but Grosenick had the game of his life. With his parents in the crowd, the young netminder stopped all 45 shots he faced and set a new record for saves in a shutout debut. Tomas Hertl’s 1st period goal was all the Sharks would need as Joe Thornton’s empty netter in the waning seconds of the 3rd period capped off an amazing 2-0 Sharks win. Grosenick would go on to start the Sharks next game but allow 3 goals on 13 shots and hasn’t played an NHL game since.
Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
On October 12th, 2016, family and friends of Auston Matthews gathered at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to watch Auston in his first career NHL game. The Arizona native was selected 1st overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft and was entering into the league with high expectations. But even the most optimistic scout would never have predicted what Matthews would do in his NHL debut. Auston scored four goals in the first two periods alone, putting himself in the record books as the only player to score four or more goals in their rookie debut in the modern era. Despite the eventual OT loss, Matthews had announced his arrival to the NHL in epic fashion and has gone on to cement his status as a star player in the NHL.