NHL Calder Watch 2013: Week Two
The NHL’s return to the ice after a lengthy lockout has been more painless than anticipated as fans have graciously welcomed back hockey with open arms.. The early season feel-good storylines are occurring as frequently as the annoying “closing-the-hand-on-the-puck-in-the-defensive-zone” penalty calls and many of these standout performances are coming from the NHL’s freshman class as they mold themselves into their new roles.
In the first edition of “CalderWatch 2013”, St. Louis Blues’ forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Bruins’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Oilers’ Justin Schultz walked away with first, second and third star honours of the week, respectively. Looking ahead, the second edition of Calder Watch includes the Rookie of the Month for January and much anticipated updates on the rookie crop as they continue to learn the ins and outs of playing in the NHL.
In a normal 82-game season, NHL teams would usually be making important decisions on their junior-aged prospects as teams approach the 9-game mark. Due to the NHL lockout and adjusted 5-game rule for junior prospects, most teams have already decided on which players would stay – those including notable players in Alex Galchenyuk, Dougie Hamilton, and Mikhail Grigorenko. As these rookies settle into their NHL positions, it will be interesting to follow how coaches and teams utilize these young stars as they journey deeper and deeper into their first NHL season.
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
Rookie of the Month – January 2013 (ending Thursday, January 31st, 2013)
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (St. Louis Blues) – Eyes are immediately peeled to rookie sensation, Vladimir Tarasenko, as he steps onto the ice instantaneously dazzling fans with his dynamic offensive skills. Is Tarasenko riding high on adrenaline from playing in his first NHL campaign or is he a true offensive star? That is the question after eight games. In my opinion, we are witnessing the emergence of the next true NHL star…potentially superstar. Tarasenko’s rare ability to create offense using elite skating skills and advanced one-on-one moves makes him a true weapon for the St. Louis Blues and he has already become the team’s biggest offensive threat. Through seven January games, Vladimir Tarasenko notched five goals and nine points edging out fellow rookie competitor Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay Lightning) for Player of the Month honours.
#CalderWatch 3 Stars of the Week
(ending Sunday, February 3rd)
Cory Conacher – small but effective (Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)
1st Star: Cory Conacher, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (8GP-5G-12P)
In three games last week, Conacher, 23, launched himself to the top of the rookie scoring race tallying three goals and two assists for five points, finishing with a healthy plus-3 rating. Conacher has been skating mainly with Vincent Lecavalier (who looks rejuvenated this season) and the pair
has shown good chemistry. Lecavalier, the Lightning’s captain, was injured in Saturday’s game and if he misses time, it will be interesting to see how Conacher answers the challenge in his linemate’s absence.
2nd Star: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal Canadiens (8GP-1G-7P)
Galchenyuk’s play has been nothing short of amazing as his ice time and responsibilities continue to rise on a fresh-faced Montreal Canadiens team. The 2012 3rd overall pick, Galchenyuk, picked up his third 3-point game in the past five contests as his team defeated the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. The chemistry that Galchenyuk has formed with fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher is exciting as the two draw from each other’s’ energy and skilled games. As the season continues to unfold, Coach Michel Therrien will be forced to play Galchenyuk more often and in more situations and that will increase his Calder stock dramatically.
3rd Star: Paul Postma, D, Winnipeg Jets (8GP-1G-5P)
Paul Postma is a 23-year-old rookie defenseman who has served his time in the American Hockey League and his professional experience showed last week after picking up his first career goal and another three points in a trio of weekly games. Postma played over 21 minutes in his fifth game this season and has been instrumental on Winnipeg’s second powerplay unit. Playing behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, Postma will be in tough to continue his offensive pace but he is certainly a player to watch, especially if an injury strikes one of the Jets’ top two defensemen.
In the Spotlight: Brendan Gallagher
The lesser-known rookie forward, Brendan Gallagher is quickly making a name for himself in “Habs Nation”. Despite playing limited minutes (averaging 11:26 minutes per game), Gallagher has been very productive on a line with Alex Galchenyuk. The small speedy winger has shown a knack for creating scoring chances with his feet and his quick release has shown some good scoring promise. While it would be unlikely for Gallagher to continue his current pace, the rookie forward certainly has his coach’s confidence after Therrien announced early on that Gallagher would remain with the big club, even though he is playing under a two-way contract that allows for free movement between the NHL and AHL.
Rookie Statistics: 7GP-3G-2A-5P
On Pace: 20G-13A-33P
#CalderWatch – Injury Notes
The Red Wings will lose rookie defenseman Brendan Smith for the next two weeks after injuring his shoulder on Saturday night versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Smith, 23, is a prospect with a big offensive upside and has been instrumental in Detroit’s transition game, even though the rookie rearguard has only one assist through eight games.
Calgary Flames forward, Sven Baertschi, was placed on injured reserve and is considered week-to-week with a hip flexor injury. Baertschi is pointless in four games this season and will likely not be rushed back into the lineup.
#CalderWatch – Quick Hits
Emerson Etem, RW (Anaheim Ducks)
Emerson Etem has yet to play over nine minutes in his first three games (averaging 7:43 minutes-per-game) but his energy is being felt throughout the lineup. In the few minutes Etem has earned, the 2010 1st round pick has shown the elite speed he has become known for creating offensive opportunities for his Anaheim Ducks teammates with his quick feet. Etem picked up a pair of assists in Saturday’s game versus the Ducks’ divisional rivals, Los Angeles Kings, and his early success should earn him more ice time. Etem is a sniper by trait and the Ducks are hopeful that he can eventually replace the ageless Teemu Selanne in that department.
Rookie Statistics: 3GP-0G-2A-2P
On Pace: 0G-29A-29P
Mikhail Grigorenko, C (Buffalo Sabres)
Last week witnessed Mikhail Grigorenko scoring his first career goal (versus Toronto on January 29th) and assist (versus Boston on January 31st) immediately after the Buffalo Sabres publicly announced that their 2012 1st round selection was going to remain with the Sabres for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
Rookie Statistics: 9GP-1G-1A-2P
On Pace: 5G-5A-10P
Marcus Foligno, LW (Buffalo Sabres)
Sabres winger Marcus Foligno, 21, has quietly entered into the Calder scoring race after grabbing one goal and four assists last week. Foligno plays one of the more mature two-way games of any rookie and because of that, the big burly forward should remain in contention all season long. He is already seeing 15+ minutes-per-game and his responsible versatile game will garner him plenty of ice-time to compete in the Calder race.
Rookie Statistics: 9GP-1G-4A-5P
On Pace: 5G-21A-26P
Nail Yakupov, RW (Edmonton Oilers)
If anything is for certain, it is that rookie Nail Yakupov will remain the centre of attention throughout his first year in the NHL. In fact, Yakupov’s exuberant personality and on-ice enthusiasm continues to draw criticism even after the young sniper toned down his goal celebrations. CBC television personality Don Cherry will likely never be content with Yakupov’s character but his infectious passion for scoring goals and more so winning, is goodfor the game of hockey. Yakupov’s unique personality, on and off the ice, is refreshing in a game that is traditionally filled with endless “nice-guy” scripted clichés. Yakupov scored goals in three of his four games last year and sits with five goals and six points on the season. With that goal scoring ability, it is safe to say we will witness many more enthusiastic, creative and passionate goal celebrations, whether you love it or hate it. Personally, I love it.
Rookie Statistics: 8GP-5G-1A-6P
On Pace: 30G-6A-36P
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW (Florida Panthers)
Panthers’ forward Huberdeau ended a five-game pointless streak, after opening the season with a 3-point night, as he picked up points in back-to-back weekend games. With five points on the season, Huberdeau’s production is likely only going to increase as the freshman forward is one of the few rookies averaging over 15-minutes per game as well as significant powerplay minutes.
Rookie Statistics: 8GP-2G-3A-5P
On Pace: 12G-18A-30P
Jonas Brodin, D (Minnesota Wild)
Mentioned in last week’s opening edition as a “Player to Watch”, Brodin skated with the big boys in all of Minnesota’s three games last week tallying one assist and earning 20+ minutes in each contest. Brodin is a player that will continue to rise and rise quickly. Mark my words, Brodin is a defenseman with franchise potential and I do not think we will have to wait long to see him reach that status. The NHL’s youngest rookie skater might not produce big numbers offensively this season or next but he might be as valuable to the Minnesota Wild as much as any other rookie player this season.
Rookie Statistics: 5GP-0G-2A-2P
On Pace: 0G-18A-18P
Jakob Silfverberg, RW (Ottawa Senators)
It was a more promising week for rookie Jakob Silfverberg when he scored his second goal of the season after going pointless in his previous half-dozen games. With Jason Spezza out of the lineup with a back injury, Ottawa will be looking to their young talent to pick up the slack and Silfverberg needs to step up to the challenge after a relatively slow start to his North American professional career.
Rookie Statistics: 9GP-2G-0A-2P
On Pace: 11G-0A-11P
Mika Zibanejad, C (Ottawa Senators)
As mentioned in last week’s #CalderWatch, Mika Zibanejad was recalled to the Senators and immediately made his impact felt. Zibanejad, drafted 6th overall in 2011, picked up an assist in his season debut, scored his first goal of the season in his second game and has registered 12 shots in five games this season. Like the abovementioned Silfverberg, Zibanejad will have increased opportunities with Spezza out of the lineup and he’s certainly a Calder candidate to watch.
Rookie Statistics: 5GP-1G-1A-2P
On Pace: 11G-11A-22P
#CalderWatch – Players to Watch
Sami Vatanen, D (Anaheim Ducks)
An intriguing defenseman, Vatanen suited up in his first game on February 1st but did not find the gamesheet in 13:52 minutes of ice time. As a rookie defenseman, offensive expectations for Vatanen ought to be tempered but if newly appointed Assistant Coach Scott Neidermayer decides to let Vatanen loose then his offensive skills could surface quickly.
Stefan Matteau, C (New Jersey Devils)
Matteau has been scratched in consecutive games as the New Jersey Devils continue to debate whether or not to keep their 2012 1st round selection up for the year or not. Matteau has dressed in five games this season and has yet to register a point, averaging 8:28 minutes-per-game. (5GP-0G-0A-0P)
JT Miller, C/W (New York Rangers)
The New York Rangers have recalled their 1st round selection from the 2011 NHL draft in JT Miller. With Miller joining the blueshirts, he is the second player from Team USA’s gold medal winning 2013 World Junior team to play in the NHL this season, joining Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk.
Jordan Schroeder, C (Vancouver Canucks)
The 22nd pick in the 2009 NHL draft has taken a while to arrive and his stay is far from guaranteed but Jordan Schroeder has played well in all areas of the rink as he steps in for injured Canucks Ryan Kesler and David Booth. Specifically, Schroeder has been very good in the faceoff circle, traditionally an area of difficulty for most first-year players. In six games this season, Schroeder has one assist but has played 13+ minutes in each contest which shows that the coaching staff trusts this tenacious small forward.
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All statistics are current as of Sunday, February 3rd and courtesy of NHL.com