The Calder Trophy is awarded to the player who is considered to be the “most proficient” in his first year in the NHL. I will admit to being very confused by the definition of rookie, since some players are still rookies this year, even though they played some games last year. So I looked it up. To be considered an NHL rookie, “a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. The player must not be older than 26 years before September 15 of the season in which he is eligible”.
There are 14 previous Calder recipients who are still active in the NHL, and the longevity award goes to Teemu Selanne (who incidentally was my neighbour when I lived in Winnipeg), as the first to win the award among those players who are still active. Since its inception, the award has been presented to a forward 53 times, a defenseman 9 times, and a goalie 16 times. The teams who have had the most rookies honoured are the Toronto Maple Leafs (9 Calder recipients) , the New York Rangers, and the Boston Bruins (8 Calder recipients).
Since I really had no idea about the Calder, or most of the potential candidates, I thought I would do a little check in. I took a look at the current stats (the list is based on stats on the morning of Sunday, March 28, 2010 from the official NHL website), and based on that, I chose the top few forwards and defensemen based on points, and the top 2 goalies. Now, like I said, I didn’t know anything about any of this to begin with, so I’ll tell you a little bit about each player, and then how he’s doing this year. Look for my thoughts on who should be this years recipient at the end!
Matt Duchene – 19 years old
Colorado Avalanche (C), Drafted 2009 by COL (3rd overall)
Matt Duchene is from Haliburton (read “the middle of nowhere”), ON and was a star with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL before being drafted in 2009. He wears the number 9 in honour of Maurice Richard, a fact that made me like him even more. He currently leads all rookies in points, and is tied for 66th overall in scoring. He has played in every game for the Avalanche this season, averaging 17:40 minutes and 0.69 points per game and sports a respectable +5.
John Tavares – 19 years old
New York Islanders (LW), Drafted 2009 by NYI (1st overall)
John Tavares is from Mississauga, ON (a suburb of Toronto), and ripped up the OHL as a player with the Oshawa Generals. Tavares was admitted to the OHL at 15, a year early, under ‘exceptional player’ status. He garnered a lot of attention for his play at the international level, winning back to back medals as a member of Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. He is currently second overall in scoring for rookies. He has likewise played every game for the Islanders this season, averaging 17:45 minutes and 0.59 points per game, but sadly sits at -16 (possibly more a reflection of playing pretty big minutes for a team that has not fared well overall).
Niclas Bergfors – 23 years old
Niclas Bergfors is from Södertälje, Sweden, where he played for the Södertälje Sportsklubb Junior team. Bergfors played for Team Sweden at the WJHC in 2006 and 2007. He is one of the players who falls into the interesting “how is he still a rookie?” category, having played NHL games in both the 07-08 season (1 game with NJD), and the 08-09 season (8 games with the NJD). Since he hadn’t played more than 6 games in each of those 2 preceding seasons, he is still considered a rookie in this, his first full NHL season. Bergfors was traded from the NJD to the Thrashers midway through the season, but didn’t miss any games as a result of the trade. He is averaging 15:15 minutes and 0.55 points per game and sits at -5.
T.J. Galiardi – 21 years old
T.J. Galiardi hails from Calgary, AB, where he played in the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen prior to being drafted. To be honest, his junior career was mostly unremarkable until he hit the WHL, where he managed to put up almost a point per game. Galiardi played 11 games for Colorado last season, and has played in 62 games this season. He is playing 18:01 minutes and putting up 0.58 points per game. While he has fewer points than Bergfors, his points per game stat shows that offensively, they are putting up similar numbers. That being said, Galiardi sits at an impressive +11, suggesting he might have a bit more defensive upside than the other forwards on this list.
Tyler Myers – 20 years old
Tyler Myers was born in Houston, TX, but moved to Calgary, AB when he was 10 years old. He has represented both the US and Canada in international play, but when he was chosen to play for Team Canada at the U18 IIHF Championships, he became ineligible to represent the US in future international events. He played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, where his former coach dropped this gem of a quote: “The one thing with Tyler is that his size is something that you can’t teach. He’s very big”. He currently sits 3rd overall in scoring among rookies, averaging 0.58 points per game. He is playing big minutes for the Sabres, averaging 23:47 minutes per game (which, much to my surprise, is not the highest among rookies, as Jamie McBain of Carolina is averaging slightly more ice time). He is also sitting at +11, which is always a good sign for a defenseman.
Michael Del Zotto – 19 years old
Michael Del Zotto is from North York, ON (another Toronto suburb…) and played for the Oshawa Generals and the London Knights of the OHL. He wears #4 in honour of Bobby Orr. He was projected to be an offensive specialist and he leads all NYR defensemen in goals, assists, and points. In addition, he is currently performing very well as a member of the NYR power play unit. He’s averaging 19:16 minutes and putting up 0.47 points per game. One ugly stain on his record is his -23, which is obviously not a happy statistic for a defenseman.
Victor Hedman – 19 years old
Victor Hedman comes from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. He played for Modo in the Swedish Elite League and represented Sweden at the WJHC twice, winning two silver medals. He is a big, strong defenseman who skates like a much smaller player. Hedman has the same number of points as Demers, but has played a lot more games, averaging 21:13 minutes, 0.28 points per game, and has a -3 rating. Where I would put Hedman ahead of Demers is the impact he has for his team. He’s playing big minutes and having an impact, blocking shots, and chipping in a bit offensively.
Jimmy Howard – 25 years old
Jimmy Howard is from Syracuse, NY and played for the University of Maine before moving up to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. He’s been marking his time in the AHL for a few years, playing 5 games over the past 2 seasons for the Red Wings. He was brought up to the Red Wings this year to act as Osgood’s back up but has played his way into a starting role. Howard has started 55 games, posting a 32-15-9 record, with a 2.24 GAA, and .926% save percentage.
Tuukka Rask – 23 years old
Tuukka Rask is from Savonlinna, Finland and he played for Ilves in SM-liiga, before moving to the Providence Bruins. He has a very similar story to that of Howard. He played a few games for the Boston Bruins over the last two seasons before being officially brought up as the backup to Thomas this season. Rask has started 33 games, posting a 18-11-4 record, with a league leading GAA of 2.11, and is third overall in SV% at .927%.
I do want to give some honourable mentions to some rookies I’ve enjoyed watching this season, even if they didn’t make this list. First, Jamie Benn (LW, Dallas Stars) is close behind Galiardi in the points and has a lot of potential upside. There’s a good look at how he’s been doing over at Defending Big D. I’m also pretty excited about Erik Karlsson (D, Ottawa Senators). He’s not the biggest defenseman, but he skates very well and manages to play bigger. He’s been back and forth between the Binghamton Senators and the big game, and was sidelined by an injury just prior to the Olympic break, but he has definite potential.
So after all that, who should actually be considered in the running for the Calder? Well, Tyler Myers is definitely there, as is Matt Duchene. I would argue that both goalies should also be given a close look. At the end of the story, if I was deciding based on the stats right now, I would go with either Myers or Howard. Both have made huge impacts for their respective team and are posting impressive stats. (I gave Howard a slight edge over Rask because of the number of games he’s played, which is a heck of a lot for a rookie goalie. Rask is posting huge numbers this season, but in fewer starts).
I’m completely biased for goalies (hey, at least I admit it!), and I myself would go with Jimmy Howard. Where would the Red Wings be this season without the performance of their rookie goaltender? That being said, I think that Tyler Myers will win the Calder Memorial Trophy this year. Since a goalie won last year, it would be unusual to see another goalie win it, but you never know. It has happened once before, in 1949-50, and 1950-51.
Who do you think will be this years Calder Memorial Trophy recipient?