Five key rookies face serious obstacles

Originally Published: January 29, 2009
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine
Every rookie's season is filled with uncertainty. (How will I do? Am I good enough?) But there's one thing all of them can count on: As Old Man Winter gets serious past the midseason, the newbies will hit "the wall." It could stem from too many minutes, too much responsibility -- or too much of everything. Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock has witnessed the effect, and he calls it "overwhelming." Some players persevere; others wither and wilt. Here's how these early-season success stories can hit the wall and skate right through it.

Kris Versteeg, LW, Blackhawks

After spending most of the past two seasons in the AHL, the 22-year-old has emerged as a scoring threat. In 44 games, Versteeg has 13 goals and 23 assists while posting a plus-16 rating. "He's smart and quick," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews says.