What do Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Martin Brodeur, Bobby Orr, Dany Heatley, Patrick Kane and Peter Forsberg all have in common?
They all won the Calder Memorial Trophy (at some point) for being "most proficient in [their] first year of competition in the National Hockey League."
Simply put, they were the Rookie of the Year.
The majority of players who have won this award have went on to have excellent careers in the NHL, so many people take this award as a sign of great things to come. However, it's no guarantee, as some players have their best year when they're rookies, and never seem to be the same again (Andrew Raycroft, for example).
With the end of this season slowly approaching, I've decided to cover a few players who deserve consideration for the Calder, and who I think will win it in the end.
Bobby Ryan, RW (Anahiem Ducks)
Selected second overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (right behind Sidney Crosby), Bobby Ryan played a few seasons in the AHL before finally cracking the Ducks line-up. So far this season, he has played 40 games, and has 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists).
At 6'2", and a 208 lbs., Ryan is a strong forward with great skating and puck-handling abilities. He also gained the attention of many with a beautiful hat-trick goal against the Los Angeles Kings earlier this season, becoming the first Anahiem rookie in franchise history to due so.
Ryan definitely has earned the chance to win the Calder this season.
Drew Doughty, D (Los Angeles Kings)
Drafted second overall by the Kings early last summer, Doughty was the number one ranked defenseman entering the 2008 Draft. He has become one of the Kings' top defenseman, and averages over twenty minutes of ice-time for the team (23:47, to be exact).
In 54 games this year, Doughty has scored four goals, while adding 14 assists. He is considered one of the league's top young players, and is another possibility for this season's "Rookie of the Year".
Steve Mason, G (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Mason's recent success for the Blue Jackets may come as a surprise to many, as it seemed to happen so suddenly. He was selected in the third round by the Jackets in 2006, 69th overall. He has established himself as the team's number-one goalie, taking the job from Pascal Leclaire.
In 37 games this year, he has a record of 21-12-3, a GAA of 2.05, a save percentage of .925, and seven shutouts. Not only are these stats incredible for a rookie goaltender, they are incredible for any goaltender, as he leads the NHL in shutouts and G.A.A.
Columbus sits at eighth in the Western Conference, which is good enough for the last playoff spot. However, the race is close, so Mason and his team must win every game they can in order to see the franchise's first playoff berth.
If Mason continues his solid play, the Jackets should be able to make the playoffs. Mason without a doubt deserves to be seen as a candidate for the Calder Trophy.
Steven Stamkos, C (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Stamkos was highly touted entering this season, as he was selected first overall by the Lightning this past year. His number are less than stellar, as he has just 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games.
He scored his first NHL hat trick last night versus the Chicago Blackhawks last night, becoming the second youngest player in NHL history to score a natural hat trick; the Lightning lost 5-3. Although it's highly unlikely, Stamkos also has a slight chance of winning the Calder.
My final pick for this year's Calder Memorial Trophy winner is easily Steve Mason. Goaltending is the most important position in hockey, and Mason has proved himself to be a reliable goalie at a very young age. I see Bobby Ryan as the best rookie skater, but don't believe his numbers match up to Mason's.
No matter who wins the Calder at the end of this year, I see a bright future for everyone of these young players, and believe they will all continue to make an impact to their teams in the future.