Putting Connor Zary’s strong start into recent Calgary Flames rookie context

Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
Earlier on, we discussed the strong start to the season for Calgary Flames rookie Connor Zary. Our analysis to this point has focused on Zary’s performance relative to the rest of the National Hockey League’s current rookies.
But for another glimpse at how Zary stacks up, let’s take a glance back at some past Flames freshmen.
Zary’s been quite impressive early on, posting 14 points over his first 19 NHL games. While he’s one of the most productive rookies in the NHL as of mid-December, we can understand a healthy amount of skepticism among Flames faithful – especially given how up and down the past few years have been for the franchise.
So let’s put Zary’s start in its proper context.
Since the beginning of the Salary Cap Era (2005-06) until last season, 74 different rookie skaters and 10 rookie goaltenders played at least one game for the Flames. Of those 74 skaters, 24 played in 10 or more games and registered 10 or more points:
Dion Phaneuf (2005-06)Roman Horak (2011-12)Matthew Tkachuk (2016-17)
David Moss (2006-07)Sven Baertschi (2012-14)*Mark Jankowski (2017-18)
Mark Giordano (2006-07)Joe Colborne (2013-14)Andrew Mangiapane (2018-19)
Eric Nystrom (2007-08)Sean Monahan (2013-14)Rasmus Andersson (2018-19)
Dustin Boyd (2007-08)Johnny Gaudreau (2014-15)Dillon Dube (2019-20)
Adam Pardy (2008-09)Markus Granlund (2014-15)Juuso Valimaki (2020-21)
Mikael Backlund (2009-11)*Josh Jooris (2014-15)Adam Ruzicka (2021-22)
TJ Brodie (2011-12)Sam Bennett (2015-16)Walker Duehr (2022-23)
(* – Backlund and Baertschi both technically played two rookie seasons, as they didn’t exhaust their Calder eligibility during their initial NHL seasons.)
These 24 skaters are the guys you could probably classify as “Rookies of Some Significance.” Of these 24 skaters, just three have maintained a 0.50 points-per-game pace as rookies: Phaneuf, Gaudreau and Tkachuk. Zary, if he could maintain his current scoring pace, would be the fourth. And Zary’s current 0.74 points-per-game, if maintained, would be second behind only Gaudreau’s 0.80 in his rookie year in terms of rookie productivity in the Cap Era.
It’s easy to be skeptical about rookie performance. Heck, it’s downright smart to be skeptical, especially early on. Through a third of the 2023-24 season, Zary is off to a really, really good start. Historically good, even. If he can maintain it, he’ll be among the top rookies in recent club history.
The challenge will be to see if he can maintain this pace. Plenty of players have started their careers with a good first 20 games. Fewer have started with a good 60-80 games. But when young players can produce a good first 60-80 games, what follows is often something special.

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