NHL's Calder Race Too Close to Call

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IMarch 13, 2012

NHL's Calder Race Too Close to Call

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    The race for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's top rookie, remains a very close one.

    Last week, we discussed the top three candidates for the award, but since then, a fourth player has become a bigger part of the discussion.

    With roughly 15 games to play in the regular season, the race remains wide open. Any one of these four players has a chance to win the Calder with a strong finish to their rookie campaigns.

Adam Henrique

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    Henrique leads all rookies in assists (31) and points (46). Playing on a line with two of the top players in the NHL in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise certainly helps, but at no time has Henrique looked like he didn't belong playing on New Jersey's top line.

    Scouts think that the Brantford, Ontario native has even more offensive upside. Presently, he is averaging less than two shots on goal per game, a number which should only increase as he gains experience at the NHL level.

    Henrique plays well in all three zones, a must in the Devils' defense-first system.  He presently is a plus-11 on the season and is one of his club's best penalty-killing forwards.

Gabriel Landeskog

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    The 19-year-old Swede leads all rookies with 19 goals scored and is an impressive plus-20 on the season. He has been very active for the Avalanche, taking 235 shots on goal, an average of 3.3 shots per game. 

    Landeskog is not afraid to play a physical game, either. At 6'1", 204 pounds, he has good size for such a young player and has been credited with 190 hits. On three occasions, the Stockholm native has been credited with seven hits in a game.

    The sky is the limit for Landeskog, and he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Chris Drury, the last Avalanche player to win the Calder Trophy.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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    Nugent-Hopkins was considered the favorite to win the Calder this year as soon as the Edmonton Oilers drafted him with the first overall pick in last summer's NHL entry draft.

    With 41 points in 49 games, Nugent-Hopkins is the closest of any rookie to average a point-per-game. He was clearly leading the race for rookie of the year before a pair of injuries forced him to miss almost all of January and a good chunk of February.

    The injuries may be a result of Nugent-Hopkins' small stature. The 18-year-old is listed at 6'0", 170 pounds and may not be ready to take the physical pounding of an 82-game NHL season.

    "The Nudge" has a penchant for big games and has already registered a hat trick and a five-assist game as a rookie. Despite the injuries, he remains in the thick of the Calder race. If he finishes strong, he can still win the award.

Matt Read

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    The Flyers' Matt Read is tied with Gabriel Landeskog for the rookie goal lead with 19. 

    Read got off to a strong start and has been a steady player all season despite hitting a bit of a "rookie wall" in February. Reed is a plus-12 and has pitched in with nine points on the power play. He has also killed penalties for the Flyers and has scored a shorthanded goal as well.

    Unlike the other three competitors for the Calder, Read has not seen a lot of time on the Flyers' first line.  He does not usually play with Claude Giroux or Jaromir Jagr but sees extensive time on the second or even third units.

    At 25, Read is a bit older than most rookies. He was not drafted by any NHL team and joined the Flyers after a successful college career at Bemidji State.

    A strong finish will keep Read in the Calder discussion after a February slump left him just outside of most people's final three.