Last week, the Edmonton Oilers were dealt another blow to an already disappointing season when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the team’s first overall pick from the 2011 draft, went down with a shoulder injury. He is out of the lineup indefinitely.
Nugent-Hopkins was having a stellar season by rookie standards. He was leading all first-year players with 35 points and was tied with Matt Read of the Philadelphia Flyers with 13 goals, the best among rookies. It looked like he would all but run away with this year’s Calder Trophy.
However, his injury changes things quite a bit, as this now paves the way for other rookies to step up and challenge him for the prize.
One of those rookies is center Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils.
Henrique has been producing close to the same pace as Nugent-Hopkins, who was tallying 0.92 points per game before he got hurt. Henrique has 32 points in 38 games despite missing three games for an average of 0.84 points per game. He has the potential to have 66 points this year, which is still a good total considering Nugent-Hopkins could have had 75 points if he had stayed healthy.
Henrique currently sits in fourth on the Devils in scoring and is tied for third on the team with 12 goals. In addition, he is second in the NHL with three shorthanded goals and three game-winning goals. Nugent-Hopkins is not in the top 10 in any NHL category that counts statistics among all players, so this is an advantage Henrique has.
Going into Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames, Henrique is coming off back-to-back multiple-point outings after going scoreless in his previous three games. He has had two or three points in eight games this year.
His contributions to the offense are appreciated on a Devils team that is sometimes lacking in offense. New Jersey is currently 20th in the NHL with 2.58 goals per game, which is an improvement from when they were ranked 27th with 2.28 goals scored per game at the quarter-mark of the season.
He is also part of the reason why the penalty kill is ranked first with a 91.2 percent success rate, which has helped the Devils score nine shorthanded goals.
Furthermore, the Devils are bouncing back after missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years in 2010-11. They currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 23-16-2 for 48 points. After losing to the Ottawa Senators in overtime and being blown out by the Boston Bruins, they’ve responded by beating two tough teams in the Florida Panthers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Henrique had a goal and an assist in both wins.
With Edmonton out of the playoff picture and their prized rookie out of the lineup, Nugent-Hopkins’ Calder Trophy chances have taken a hit. He certainly still has a chance at winning if he comes back on schedule and picks up where he left off, but will it be enough?
Both players will be a critical part of their teams’ futures and deserve recognition, but if Henrique can stay consistent and healthy, there is no reason for him not to become a part of Calder discussion if he’s not already.
This article also appears at The Hockey Writers.