By Daniel Friedman
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Rookie phenom Connor McDavid will miss extensive time recovering from surgery, but luckily for you, there are a number of talented freshmen this season.

Perhaps some of them will get more attention now, but if you’re wondering who to focus on, here’s a primer on my top 15 rookies to watch in his absence:

15. Noah Hanifin – Defenseman, Carolina Hurricanes

Drafted: First round, fifth overall (2015)

Age:18

2015-16 stats: 2 points (0 goals, 2 assists) in 11 games

Analysis: He’s a steady defenseman with puck-moving skills. Defensemen take time to develop, but his development will be fun to watch

14. Jared McCann – Center, Vancouver Canucks

Drafted: First round, 24th overall (2014)

Age: 19

2015-16 stats: 6 points (5 goals, 1 assist) in 11 games

Analysis: He is not afraid to go hard to the net and is willing to pick up the trash in front. He has a heck of a wrist shot.

Anthony Duclair of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 26, 2015. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Anthony Duclair of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 26, 2015. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

13. Anthony Duclair – Left Wing, Arizona Coyotes

Drafted: Third round, 80th overall (2013)

Age: 20

2015-16 stats: 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 11 games

Analysis: A pure goal scorer. There is strong chemistry between him and Max Domi in Arizona.

12. Robby Fabbri – Center, St. Louis Blues

Drafted: First round, 21st overall (2014)

Age: 19

2015-16 stats: 3 points (2 goal, 1 assist) in seven games

Analysis: He missed some time early with a concussion, but he’ll work his way back into the mix. He has a phenomenal release.

11. Darnell Nurse – Defenseman, Edmonton Oilers

Drafted: First round, seventh overall (2013)

Age: 20 2015-16 stats: 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in six games

Analysis: He was called up recently, and it’s doubtful he’s going back down, as he has already shown his offensive ability. He’s not afraid to be physical, either.

Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg skates against the Flyers on Sept. 30, 2014, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg skates against the Flyers on Sept. 30, 2014, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

10. Oscar Lindberg – Center, New York Rangers

Drafted: Second round, 57th overall (2010)

Age: 24

2015-16 Stats: 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists) in 12 games

Analysis: He has flown under the radar and is quietly producing. He’s a crafty skater and playmaker, and is versatile.

9. Colton Parayko – Defenseman, St. Louis Blues

Drafted: Third round, 86th overall (2012)

Age: 22

2015-16 stats: 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 13 games

Analysis: If there’s a wild card on this list, it’s Parayko. At 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, he’s certainly an imposing presence. He’s also been racking up points early on, but is that indicative of what’s to come, or is he just getting the bounces right now? It’ll be fun to see how things play out.

8. Sam Reinhart – Center, Buffalo Sabres

Drafted: First round, second overall (2014)

Age: 19

2015-16 stats: 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 12 games

Analysis: He didn’t stick around for very long in 2014, going back to juniors after nine games. But now he’s back in the NHL for his first full-time gig, and has gotten little to no attention due to the plethora of young talent both on his team (Jack Eichel) and around the league. He’s had a solid start to his season.

7. Sam Bennett – Center, Calgary Flames

Drafted: First round, fourth overall (2014)

Age: 19

2015-16 stats: 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 12 games

Analysis: He got his first taste of NHL hockey in the playoffs last spring and showed he’s capable of making plays. Just a dozen games into the season, he’s showing it again.

Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers chases a loose puck against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place on Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Dan Riedlhuber/Getty Images)

Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers chases a loose puck against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place on Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Dan Riedlhuber/Getty Images)

6. Leon Draisaitl – Center, Edmonton Oilers

Drafted: First round, third overall (2014)

Age: 20

2015-16 stats: 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in three games

Analysis: Similarly to Reinhart in Buffalo, Draisaitl has been overshadowed in Edmonton by a cerebral stud (Connor McDavid), but he’s a talented player as well. With McDavid out for at least a couple of months due to a broken clavicle, the Oilers need Draisaitl to step up. Fortunately for them, he already has.

5. Dylan Larkin – Center, Detroit Red Wings

Drafted: First round, 15th overall (2014)

Age: 19

2015-16 stats: 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 12 games

Analysis: Arguably the most complete player on this list. He’s putting up points but has also impressed without the puck and been very responsible in all three zones.

4. Nikolaj Ehlers – Right Wing, Winnipeg Jets

Drafted: First round, ninth overall (2014)

Age: 19

2015-16 stats: 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 13 games

Analysis: He’s probably the best skater in the NHL, and can make quality plays at top speed. He has that “wow” factor to him that makes you jump out of your seat whenever he has the puck.

3. Artemi Panarin – Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks

Drafted: Undrafted

Age: 24

2015-16 stats: 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) in 13 games

Analysis: A KHL import from Russia, he’s certainly benefited from playing alongside Jonathan Toews (and, at times, Patrick Kane). But he’s also shown that he’s pretty darn good in his own right. He’s a fantastic puckhandler.

Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes in action against the Vancouver Canucks at Gila River Arena on Oct. 30, 2015. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes in action against the Vancouver Canucks at Gila River Arena on Oct. 30, 2015. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

2. Max Domi – Left Wing, Arizona Coyotes

Drafted: First round, 12th overall (2013)

Age: 20

2015-16 stats: 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 11 games

Analysis: Clicking at a point-per-game pace, Domi is excelling as a playmaker, and has meshed with Duclair. He can shoot and make things happen in traffic that most players can’t.

1. Jack Eichel – Center, Buffalo Sabres

Drafted: First round, second overall (2015)

Age: 19

2015-16 Stats: 4 points (4 goals, 0 assists) in 12 games

Analysis: It’s only a matter of time before he emerges as the leader of the pack.

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