What a rollercoaster of a ride the 2009 Calder Trophy competition has been. More than a few rookies have had their names mentioned as the season has progressed. All of the experts who chose Steven Stamkos and Mikkel Boedker were sorely mistaken.
The journey has been great, and there's still over a month until the conclusion. Here's how the race has gone.
Oct. 15, 2008 — Fabian Brunnstrom makes large impact
He was a hot commodity and his debut was highly anticipated. Brunnstrom didn't disappoint, as he scored three goals and became the third player in NHL history to do so in his first game. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to keep those numbers coming.
Oct. 28, 2008 — Steven Stamkos registers first NHL point
It took eight games, but Stamkos finally produced the first point of his National Hockey League career in Toronto. The former Sarnia Sting property would get plenty of attention in the match that followed in Buffalo by piling up three points (two goals, one assist). Many would believe that he would continue his scoring ways for the year after a rough start.
Nov. 5, 2008 — Derick Brassard stays hot
The 21-year-old scored his fifth goal of the season, and now had 12 points in as many contests through the first month of action for Columbus. Brassard would eventually be rewarded by seeing time on the first line with Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius. His production would continue for the Blue Jackets.
Nov. 5, 2008 — A young goaltender gets his chance
That same night, the Blue Jackets called up Steve Mason to start in his first NHL game. Although he allowed four goals against the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus would get the victory and Mason would go on to win three straight. There was much more to come in the future.
Nov. 6, 2008 — Wheeling and dealing
As if the Boston Bruins didn't have enough weapons at their disposal. Blake Wheeler would score his first career hat-trick to cement himself into the Calder fold. At 6-foot-5, he's a big man with steady hands. Take a look at how he made the St. Louis Blues look like a group of pylons.
Nov. 16, 2008 — The 134th pick in 2004 scores first shorty
Drafted by the Boston Bruins, Kris Versteeg may have been the least expected player to contend for the Calder Trophy of 2009. However, on this night, the native of Lethbridge would score twice, including his first shorthanded marker. It would be his 15th point in 16 games, and he currently stands as the leader in points among rookie forwards.
Nov. 19, 2008 — Bobby Ryan has arrived
Ryan would score two goals and hand out one assist in just his second game of the season. He was called up to replace the injured Teemu Selanne, and the Ducks finally saw the potential that made him the No. 2 pick after Sidney Crosby. Ryan has averaged the highest point per game rate this year, and although he started late, is a heavy contender for the Calder.
Nov. 27, 2008 — Mikhail Grabovski has tremendous month
Toronto may have been struggling, but Grabovski certainly wasn't. He finished the month of November with a point-per-game ratio, and scored most of his goals during that time.
Dec. 10, 2008 — St. Louis receives much needed offensive boost
Paul Kariya and Andy McDonald were out of action. Brad Boyes couldn't be the only offensive force for the Blues. In came Patrik Berglund, who managed 19 points in 22 games. The Swede's consistency has dropped a little, but he's still having a fine year.
Dec. 18th, 2008 — Brassard injures shoulder
Sadly, Brassard's Calder dream would end on this night against the Dallas Stars. After scoring an early goal, he would fight and separate his shoulder. The immediate assumption was season-ending surgery.
Dec. 22, 2008 — Goligoski the man in Pittsburgh?
Alex Goligoski was the defenseman who stepped it up with the absence of Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar. A rookie taking over on the blue line. How about that? He scored two goals in Buffalo and added an assist, giving him seven points in five games. Goligoski was a major contender for the Calder until Michel Therrien insisted on scratching him in favor of Kris Letang. Perhaps that's why he was fired.
Dec. 23, 2008 — James Neal leads the onslaught
Why does every rookie seem to take his frustrations out on the Maple Leafs? Dallas embarassed Toronto with eight goals, three of which came from James Neal. Only Ryan has more goals in the rookie class, and Neal has done wonders for a Stars' team decimated with injuries.
Dec. 31, 2008 — Make it three in a row
Columbus began starting Mason on a regular basis, even in back-to-back situations. Fatigue didn't seem to affect him, and on the night before the New Year he would register his third consecutive shutout. Mason became the first goaltender to eye the Calder Trophy this year.
Jan. 8, 2009 — Ryan makes history
If anyone wasn't convinced with Ryan's game, this was a night were he stole the show. He became the first Anaheim rookie to record a hat-trick, and it was the fastest by any player in the franchise's history. It included this ridiculous spin-o-rama goal.
Jan. 28, 2009 — Teemu Selanne returns
Selanne's return would mean less even-strength and power-play time for Bobby Ryan. Since, he has just seven points in 13 games. Nothing to be upset about, as he's still second in points behind Versteeg, but I'm sure Ryan would have preferred Selanne to stay out of the picture a little longer.
Feb. 17, 2009 — Natural hat-trick for Stamkos
Rick Tocchet took a different approach with the rookie when he took over the Lightning bench. He decided to bench the kid and allow him to get in better condition. It seems to have worked because Stamkos is scoring more regularly than he ever was under Barry Melrose. The Calder may be out of his reach, but he's getting something which he didn't have before. Respect.
Feb. 26, 2009 — The great eight
Not Alexander Ovechkin. Instead, Mason took his season total of shutouts to a league-leading eight. Add to that a .920 save percentage, 2.14 goals against average, and the fact that Columbus is sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference today. Steve Mason is undoubtedly the favourite to win this year's Calder Trophy as it stands.
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