NHL Calder Trophy Watch 2013: Week One

By Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood)

There is something captivating about tuning into a nightly hockey game and watching your favourite players skate, mesmerizing fans with their unworldly talents. In hockey, players spanning up to four decades compete amongst each other on the same two-hundred by eighty-five foot rink. Players with decades of NHL experience like Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur and Martin St. Louis skate against tomorrow’s stars in Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Dougie Hamilton and Cory Conacher. It is this latter group of future NHL stars that creates excitement as fans and even NHL management place their highest expectations on these talented young stars to carry on their teams’ legacy of success as the future faces of their franchises.

As the hockey calendar turns over each season (in this year’s case, much later than expected), our eyes turn to these exuberant youthful faces as they challenge their peers in their endeavor to become the NHL’s top rookie and receive the annual Calder Memorial Trophy. Since the NHL lockout of 2004-05 when there was no Calder Trophy winner awarded, every recipient of the annual rookie of the year accolade has been 21-years-old or younger. Last year’s winner, Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche, won the award as a 19-year-old skater right out of the previous summer’s draft when he was selected second overall. As stated in the National Hockey League rulebook, a player is eligible for the annual Calder Trophy if he meets the following requirements,

–        Player must have not played any more than 25 games previously in any single season,

–        Player must have not played in more than six games in two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league, or

–        Player must be 25 years or younger by September 15th of the season in question.

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, January 27th):

1st Star: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues (6GP-4G-8P)

2nd Star: Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins (4GP-0G-3P)

3rd Star: Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers (5GP-2G-7P)

In the Spotlight: Vladimir Tarasenko

Blues’ fans have eagerly awaited the arrival of their top prospect forward in Vladimir Tarasenko to don the noted jersey and skate alongside the Berglunds, Oshies and Pietrangelos in St. Louis. With news of the lockout ending, Tarasenko quickly confirmed that he would venture his way to North America and make his National Hockey League debut. On January 19th, 2013, Tarasenko left a lasting impression on the NHL community as the dynamic forward scored St. Louis’ first goal of the season just over six minutes into the first period against the Detroit Red Wings.  He tallied two goals and registered five shots on net in his first game earning a unanimous first star selection. The 2010 first round selection (16th overall) answered the bell equally as well in his second contest as he one upped his debut performance, as he found the game sheet three times picking up another goal and two assists for three points en route to his second consecutive first star selection . After six games, Tarasenko leads all rookie skaters with four goals tallying eight points and is the frontrunner favourite for the Calder Trophy.

Rookie Statistics: 6GP-4G-4A-8P

On Pace: 48GP-32G-32A-64P

Vladimir Tarasenko 1st career NHL goal

Cory Conacher, C (Tampa Bay Lightning)

The reigning AHL MVP, Cory Conacher earned his spot in Tampa Bay’s top-six and has skated with each of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis at one point or another. Conacher, 23, was riding a four-game point streak totalling seven points up until Sunday night when he was held without a point for the first time in five games.  Not bad for a rookie. Look for Conacher to continue his offensive production and challenge for the Calder Trophy as long as his spot in the top-six is secure.

Rookie Statistics:  5GP-2G-5A-7P

On Pace: 48GP-19G-48A-67P

Justin Schultz, D (Edmonton Oilers)

After tearing up the American Hockey League during the lockout, Schultz has carried his momentum into his first NHL season and sits third among all rookie skaters and first among first-year defensemen with two goals and five points through four games. Teaming up with young Oilers’ stars in Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and fellow rookie Nail Yakupov on one of the NHL’s most exciting powerplays will certainly help Schultz’ case to become the first Calder winning defenseman since Buffalo’s Tyler Myers accomplished it in 2010.

Rookie Statistics: 4GP-2G-3A-5P

On Pace: 48GP-24G-36A-60P

Dougie Hamilton, D (Boston Bruins)

After a mediocre World Junior Hockey Championship showing in Ufa, Dougie Hamilton has put those bad memories behind him and joined the big bad Bruins. Early in his four-game apprenticeship with the Bruins, Hamilton has played significant minutes including a season-high 23:27 minutes alongside Captain Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-5-inch Hamilton has looked like a seasoned veteran competing with poise while adding a solid defensive presence in the lineup. The Bruins have moderate rookie expectations for their former 9th overall pick in 2011, but Hamilton has shown an ability to learn quickly and has already picked up three assists on the young season.

Rookie Statistics:  4GP-0G-3A-3P

On Pace:  48GP-0G-36A-36P

Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW (Montreal Canadiens)

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien have seen enough of their 3rd overall pick last season to officially announce that Alex Galchenyuk would be remaining with Montreal for the remainder of the season. Galchenyuk, who is coming off a two-assist effort in his last game, has presented himself as a true professional through his first four games. Eager to learn and improve, Galchenyuk has found some good chemistry on Montreal’s third line with Brandon Prust and fellow-rookie Brendan Gallagher (who will also remain with the big club). After watching Galchenyuk in two-plus seasons in Sarnia, be sure to keep close track of this prospect as he has a knack for adapting quickly and could/should force himself into the top-six before we know it. The City of Montreal and its fans adore Galchenyuk, but I have a good feeling that by season’s end they could be campaigning for a Galchenyuk statue outside the Bell Centre after he posts a Calder Trophy-worthy rookie performance.

Rookie Statistics: 4GP-1G-2A-3P

On Pace: 48GP-12G-24A-36P

Jonathan Huberdeau, LW (Florida Panthers)

The 2011 3rd overall selection, Jonathan Huberdeau, came flying out of the gates scoring three points in his first game of the season. Since then, Huberdeau has went pointless and minus-2 but the Panthers remain confident in the first-year professional that he can produce offensively and plan to keep him for the entirety of the 2012-13 NHL season.

Rookie Statistics: 5GP-1G-2A-3P

On Pace:  48GP-9G-19A-28P

Nail Yakupov, RW (Edmonton Oilers)

As the top pick in last year’s draft, Nail Yakupov was well aware of the attention that would be directed to him entering his freshman year. Yakupov did not take long to make headlines after scoring his second goal of the season in the expiring seconds of the third period to tie the game with 4.7 seconds remaining against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Los Angeles Kings. Yakupov’s dramatic extravagant celebration (not foreign to those who watched him in junior hockey) drew criticisms of hockey traditionalists around the globe, warranted or not; however, the Edmonton Oilers should be thrilled with this dynamic rookie who cannot just score goals but also sell seats in their newly announced arena with his colourful personality.

Rookie Statistics: 4GP-2G-0A-2P

On Pace: 48GP-24G-0A-24P

Mikael Granlund, C (Minnesota Wild)

Drafted 9th overall in 2010, Mikael Granlund has finally arrived in Minnesota to join an offensively dangerous Wild squad. The rookie has tallied a goal and an assist averaging 15:17 minutes per game as he looks to get his feet wet at the NHL level. Granlund is a prospect who comes with high expectations and as he continues to adjust to the North American game, Minnesota will surely get more offensive contributions from this crafty forward.

Rookie Statistics: 5GP-1G-1A-2P

On Pace: 48GP-9G-9A-18P

#CALDERWATCH – More Players to Watch

Sven Baertschi, LW (Calgary Flames)

Pointless through four games, Swiss forward Sven Baertschi has looked dangerous but has failed to find the scoresheet early on. With Baertschi’s skill and work ethic, the points will eventually come and likely, come in bunches. (4GP-0G-0A-0P)

Jonas Brodin, D (Minnesota Wild)

Suited up in two games after returning from an injury, Jonas Brodin is an underrated defensive prospect with a strong puck transition game and he will surely add to his current one assist if he sticks in the lineup. (2GP-0G-1A-1P)

Emerson Etem, RW (Anaheim Ducks)

Recently recalled from the AHL, Etem’s professional success has been up-and-down but this kid can score goals and if placed on the right line, he could explode.

Brendan Gallagher, RW (Montreal Canadiens)

Gallagher was notified on Monday that will remain with the Canadiens this season, despite having a two-way contract, showing that Montreal has big plans for this small crafty winger. (4GP-1G-1A-2P)

Mikhail Grigorenko, C (Buffalo Sabres)

Grigorenko skated a season-high 17:10 minutes in Sunday’s game versus Washington but the big slick passing forward continues to look for his first career NHL point. Grigorenko has played his five games and the Sabres need to make a decision on whether he will stay up or be returned to Quebec in the QMJHL before he plays his sixth game. (5GP-0G-0A-0P)

Stefan Matteau, C (New Jersey Devils)

Surprisingly, the Devils opted to keep their first round selection at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft instead of forfeiting it and the franchise chose to draft big forward Stefan Matteau. Through four games, Matteau has averaged 8:21 minutes and has been tested on several lines. It is looking as through New Jersey will return Matteau to his QMJHL club but as the past has shown us, expect the unexpected with the Devils. (4GP-0G-0A-0P)

Rickard Rakell, RW (Anaheim Ducks)

Quietly remaining with the Anaheim Ducks is 2011 1st round forward Rickard Rakell. The skilled winger has been skating in the Ducks’ bottom-six and has not looked out of place. The Plymouth Whalers would welcome Rakell back with open arms but with only three NHL games played so far, Rakell has a few more games to impress the Anaheim coaching staff. (3GP-0G-0A-0P)

Jakob Silfverberg, RW (Ottawa Senators)

The Elitserien’s Most Valuable Player last season, has started slowly in his North American debut scoring just one goal but Silfverberg is a mature player with a strong two-way game and is capable of picking up steam quickly. (5GP-1G-0A-1P)

Brendan Smith, D (Detroit Red Wings)

The good news for Brendan Smith is that his time-on-ice is increasing with each passing game and the big rearguard is finding the net with more shots too meaning the points will soon follow. (5GP-0G-1A-1P)

Sami Vatanen, D (Anaheim Ducks)

The small offensive-minded defenseman has been recalled by the Anaheim Ducks and if he can crack the roster and hold his spot, there is certainly some opportunity to produce on a talented Ducks’ roster.

Mika Zibanejad, C (Ottawa Senators)

The Senators have recalled 2011 1st rounder Mika Zibanejad in case Daniel Alfredsson is unable to play Tuesday so there is potential for Zibanejad to make his season debut.

Returned to Junior:

Scott Laughton, C (Philadelphia Flyers)

After a brief five-game trial, Flyers’ 2012 1st round selection Scott Laughton was returned to his junior club (Oshawa Generals, OHL). Laughton played well in his NHL tasting but failed to register a point.

Mathew Dumba, D (Minnesota Wild)

Dumba was reassigned to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels even though he did not play a single game serving as a healthy scratch in four games. The Wild made a smart move with Dumba as this prospect will be more ready to crack the roster next season and at that point, he will have a chance to make a serious impact.

Be sure to follow @RossyYoungblood on twitter to track all relevant hockey prospects

2 Responses to NHL Calder Trophy Watch 2013: Week One

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