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Stats Corner: Penguins rookies earning their keep

| Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 11:18 p.m.

Through injuries, suspensions and ever-changing line combinations, the Penguins just keep winning.

The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference with 55 points and have outscored the competition by 38 goals, trailing just the St. Louis Blues. While the club's established stars deserve plenty of praise, the Penguins wouldn't hold a double-digit point lead in the Metropolitan Division and a top playoff seed without a cadre of rookies playing like seasoned veterans.

Seven rookies have suited up for the Penguins already this season, playing crucial minutes and cushioning the blow of losing coach Dan Bylsma's top four projected defensemen and backup goalie, among others. You wouldn't know that these youngsters just ascended from junior hockey or stepped off a bus from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton based on their production.

Penguins rookies have racked up a collective 5.5 Point Shares (PS), which measures the number of standings points that a player contributes to his team through his offensive and defensive value. Only the Anaheim Ducks have benefited more from NHL neophytes.

Team Rookie PS

Ducks 6.1

Penguins 5.5

Predators 4.5

Sharks 4.0

Flames 3.7

Source: Hockey-Reference.com

Penguins rookies are proving to be catalysts between the pipes and on the blue line. Backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff (1.3 PS) has filled in admirably for Tomas Vokoun, helping Marc-Andre Fleury stay fresh as he re-establishes himself as one of the game's elite net minders. Olli Maatta, a 19-year-old defenseman who skated for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last year, ranks third among rookies in Point Shares.

Player Team PS

Tomas Hertl Sharks 3.9

Hampus Lindholm Mighty Ducks 3.2

Olli Maatta Penguins 3.0

Martin Jones Kings 2.7

Marek Mazanec Predators 2.7

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