Patrik Laine is only 19, but his disarming candor, booming shot and scruffy beard have already earned the Winnipeg winger a legion of fans on two continents.
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: Nico Hischier earned comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk heading into the 2017 NHL draft, which isn’t entirely fair to the Swiss rookie, as Datsyuk had an otherworldly goal-scoring ability. But you could see strands of the Detroit Red Wings legend’s DNA in Hischier’s hockey genome during his rookie season with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him first overall: last June the speed, the awareness and, most of all, his grand larceny of opposing players, relieving them of possession of the puck with frequency.
Keller had 65 points this season, second most among rookies. He went through the ups and downs many first-year players do, with a fluctuation in production. Part of that was because he was on a team that struggled. That said, the 2016 seventh overall pick showed how much he can flourish on his own through long stretches of the season thanks to his high-level puck skills and hockey sense. Keller, 19, is also a year younger than the two players who likely will end up getting more Calder votes than he does — as they should. The list of teenage rookies to contribute at least 0.79 points per game over the past 20 years, as Keller did, is 10 players long.
Morris: “Playoffs, man. Crazy stuff happens. I think we all had to take a deep breath like, ‘Damn,’ and be resilient.”
Al Horford, Celtics center: “That’s tough because I thought it was over. Everybody always says play to the last second and everything, but half a second — I figured we were good. As soon as he shot it, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good.’ I just had a feeling.”
Stevens: “Well, obviously, Middleton made a 30-footer, and you don’t want to foul in that situation, but, you know, we could’ve done better.”
Despite juggling both sports, Murray went through spring ball without missing a single football practice. And, with Riley and Johnson coordinating with one another, Murray has been able to start 32 of Oklahoma’s 39 baseball games.