2013 NHL Calder Watch Week 3: Slumping Rookies
By Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood)
The adrenaline and excitement has subsided among first year NHL players as they begin their journey into the heart of the season. The increased pressure to perform and compete consistently in a jam-packed NHL season can be challenging enough for a seasoned veteran, but for a fresh-faced rookie the task of meeting lofty expectations of fans, management and even themselves can become overwhelming. As the freshmen settle into their roles and begin experiencing all of the challenges that an NHL season entails, including practices, video analyses, workouts, travel and the overall fatigue of the entire process, they quickly realize that that excitement of playing in the National Hockey League can only carry them so far. It is during these testing times that rookies learn that not everything comes easy and sporadic consistency is normal.
As the following #CalderWatch will highlight, several of the rookies (Tarasenko, Conacher, Galchenyuk to name a few) have hit this “testing time” and are experiencing a bit of a slump while others (notably Matteau, Schroeder and Kreider) are starting to figure the NHL out and their games have been raised as a result. It is because of these differences in prospect development and progression that always makes following the Calder Trophy race all that more exciting. With one-quarter of the season already complete, all that is guaranteed is that the unpredictability of rookie performances will continue to make news.
Follow this new weekly column, #CalderWatch, throughout the remainder of the 2012-13 NHL regular season to keep tabs on all of the 2013 NHL Calder Trophy candidates
#CalderWatch 3 Stars of the Week
(ending Sunday, February 10th):
Jordan Schroeder being trusted in all situations (Photo: theprovince.com)
1st Star: Jordan Schroeder, C, Vancouver Canucks (9GP-2G-4P)
Schroeder has been a pleasant surprise in Vancouver as the Canucks try to weather the storm with Kesler and Booth out of the lineup with injuries. Vancouver’s first round selection in 2009, Schroeder has been developed slowly but early in this season he has stepped his game up in all situations. Alain Vigneault has trusted Scroeder, who has less than 10 games of NHL experience, in all situations and his ice time is reflecting the coach’s trust. Last week, Schroeder picked up a pair a goals and a helper to lead all first year players with three points.
2nd Star: JT Miller, C, New York Rangers (3GP-2G-2P)
Despite posting mediocre numbers (20 points through 37 gmaes) in Conneticut, J.T. Miller received the call to join the blueshirts in New York last week. Drafted 15th overall in 2011, the Rangers have big plans for Miller in the Big Apple but his NHL debut has been a bonus. Miller has logged over 13 minutes in each of his three games and has been responsible in all three zones, an area that is expected of him in the future. In a trio of games, Miller has registered six shots and picked up two goals, both of which came in his second career NHL game versus their crosstown rivals, the Islanders.
3rd Star: Stefan Matteau, LW, New Jersey (8GP-1G-2P)
Many people were surprised when the New Jersey Devils opted to use their 2012 1st round draft selection after coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup. The surprise comes from the fact that due to the Ilya Kovalchuk signing, the Devils were penalized and have to choose to forfeit one of their first round draft picks over the next few years. There were many who felt that last year’s strong finish made it an easy decision to forfeit that pick but instead, Lou Lamoriello and his staff elected to draft Stefan Matteau, a big burly forward with strong bloodlines. After that decision, it should come as no surprise that the Devils have kept Matteau in New Jersey for the season. Last week, Matteau was moved up to play on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac on the Devils’ top line and the 29th overall selection was able to cash in recording one goal and an assist in three games.
#CalderWatch – In the Spotlight: Petr Mrazek, G (Detroit Red Wings)
If the name ‘Petr Mrazek’ sounds familiar then it is likely because you heard about his sensational performance back at the 2012 U20 World Junior Championships, where he took home top tournament goaltender honours en route to a Czech Republic bronze medal. More recently, Petr Mrazek has been a standout puckstopper for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and is coming off AHL Player of the Week honours. After nine straight starts, Jimmy Howard was given the night off and the Red Wings recalled Mrazek to make his NHL debut. In an impressive performance stopping 26 shots, Mrazek picked up the win while posting All-Star numbers (1.00 GAA, .969 SV%). Mrazek is a promising goaltender prospect and has the skillset to become the Red Wings’ starter down the road and his debut performance certainly did not hurt his case.
Rookie Statistics: 1GS-1W, 1.00 GAA, .969 SV%
#CalderWatch Quick Hits
Simon Despres, D (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Skating on the third pairing with Dylan Reese, rookie Simon Despres has been quite productive for the Penguins. His ice time has increased with each passing game and last week Despres picked up his second goal of the season and added an assist. Despres, 21m is a young puck moving defenseman with great pro size (6’4”, 205) who should develop into a good complementary offensive rearguard on a talent Pittsburgh roster.
Rookie Statistics: 11GP-2G-3A-5P
On Pace: 46G-8A-21P
Leland Irving, G (Calgary Flames)
Irving became the first Flames goaltender to play in back-to-back games since Roman Turek after the Flames lost ironman crease warrior Miikka Kiprusoff to injury. Irving picked up one win in the past week and provided the Flames with a chance to win in each contest. Late Monday, Calgary claimed veteran goaltender Joey MacDonald off of waivers from Detroit, likely relegating the promising Irving to backup duties.
Rookie Statistics: 4GP-3GS, 1-1-1, 2.62 GAA, .900 SV%
Nail Yakupov, RW (Edmonton Oilers)
Yakky picked up a pair of ‘apples’ (assists) in four games for Edmonton but it was not enough as the Oilers posted a disappointing 1-1-2-0 record last week. Nail Yakupov has been skating with veteran Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner (for the most part) this season forming the Oilers’ most dangerous and consistent line.
Rookie Statistics: 12GP-5G-3A-8P
On Pace: 20G-12A-32P
#CalderWatch – Players to Watch
Brenden Dillon, D (Dallas Stars)
The undrafted Brenden Dillon is quickly becoming a favorite of Dallas Stars Coach Glen Gulutzan picking up valuable minutes. The 21-year-old is a big physical defenseman with serviceable offensive skills. In fact, Dillon has been playing alongside Stephane Robidas at both even strength and on the powerplay. Dillon will likely never light up the scoresheet with points but he is a gritty defender that can chip in in all areas of the ice and be trusted in all situations.
Chris Kreider, LW (New York Rangers)
A player with great feet and an ideal size (6’3”), Kreider struggled to start the season going pointless in three games as he witnessed his icetime dwindle before injuring his ankle. Last week, Kreider returned from injury and made his presence felt picking up a goal in his first game back. His consistency has deviated this season and he needs to continue to show that he can play big minutes in order to become a productive winger this season. He is currently lining up with fellow rookie J.T. Miller and Ryan Callahan on the Rangers’ third line but has not worked his way onto the ultra-competitive powerplay units yet.
Vladimir Tarasenko, LW (St. Louis Blues)
After a tremendous NHL debut, Tarasenko is currently in the middle of a five game pointless streak where he has posted a miserable minus-7 rating and seen his icetime drop dramatically. It is gutcheck time for the first year North American pro as the St. Louis Blues will rely on Tarasenko’s scoring ability.
Birthday Shoutout: Alex Galchenyuk turns 19-years old on Tuesday, February 12th and will suit up versus fellow Sarnia Sting alum Steven Stamkos and his Tampa Bay Lightning.
Be sure to follow @RossyYoungblood on twitter to track all relevant hockey prospects.