The 2009-10 Colorado Avalanche currently have four rookie players on the roster. After eight games, three of them are proving to be valuable assets for an underdog team overcoming dire pre-season predictions.
Two of the rookies are fresh-faced 18 year-olds drafted this summer. Matt Duchene was chosen third overall, and fellow center Ryan O'Reilly was picked 33rd in the 2009 draft. Left wing T.J. Galiardi was picked 55th in 2007, deep in the second round. He played just eleven games last season, which means he still qualifies as a rookie this year. The fourth rookie, defensman Ryan Wilson, was floating around in the Calgary Flames system for a few years before Colorado acquired him in the trade of Jordan Leopold. So far he's played only two games, and just to fill the gap left by John-Michael Liles' shoulder injury.
Somewhat surprisingly, O'Reilly currently leads Duchene in points, but that probably has more to do with line combinations than it does with talent. O'Reilly is not as fast or as flashy as his rookie counterpart, but he's been in the right places at the right time and has had success when paired with David Jones and Cody McLeod. Duchene has had to get by with a struggling Marek Svatos next to him, and even though Svatos has the speed to keep close to Duchene, he hasn't had the presence or the hands to finish with many goals. That's not always unlike him.
Regardless, Duchene has impressed most Avalanche fans. He's fun to watch, and confounds opposing defensemen with his quick feet and amazing stick-handling. While his scoring has not matched his efforts on the ice so far, there's no doubt he's ready for the NHL and a huge asset to his team.
O'Reilly has proven his worth not just on the scoreboard, but also in the faceoff circle. Of the four primary draw-takers on the Avalanche (others: Stastny, Galiardi, Duchene), O'Reilly leads with a 54% success rate. The other three all lose more than they win. That success in the circle has been extremely helpful to both his personal stats and Colorado's early-season success. Also helpful: O'Reilly's game-winning goal against Montreal.
Galiardi's primary strength is his defense. He's proving to be an effective two-way forward, with extended time on the penalty kill. He's also fifth on the team in hits, with 10. His effectiveness on defense is also bolstered by his clean play---he has no penalty minutes. He hasn't made many stupid decisions or put his team in a weak spot very often. He's at a healthy +3.
These three rookies, Galiardi, Duchene, and O'Reilly are meeting, if not exceeding expectations so far. And they're one of the major reasons why the Avalanche are doing so well.