Leading Candidates for the NHL's Calder Trophy
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NHL rookies have had a profound impact on several teams as they hit the midway point of the 2013 campaign. Tampa Bay, Edmonton, St. Louis, Ottawa, Montreal, Florida and Boston have all had rookies make significant contributions at both ends of the ice.
In no particular order, here are the five players that would receive the most consideration for the Calder Trophy, if the season ended tomorrow.
Cory Conacher has been a surprise to many fans and leads NHL rookie scoring with 20 points heading into the second half of the season. While Tampa Bay has been wildly inconsistent, their scoring has been in the top tier of the league for most of the season.
If Conacher continues to contribute at the offensive end and maintains his relatively strong plus/minus rating, he is likely to be a Calder Trophy finalist this summer.
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One rookie who has not surprised NHL observers is Justin Schultz. The B.C.-born defenseman was dominant at the AHL level for the Oklahoma City Barons this past fall and winter, and despite some recent challenges on the team's extended road trip, he's been excellent for the Oilers.
He has been their de facto number one rearguard and has consistently logged over 22 minutes per game. One of the most sought after free agents in recent memory, he has not disappointed. Schultz may just win the 2013 AHL and NHL rookie of the year awards.
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Jonathan Huberdeau has been one of the Florida Panthers' better players so far in 2013. He is currently second in rookie scoring in the league and has displayed sniper qualities in several games. While Florida has struggled, Huberdeau has been a bright spot for the Panthers.
With the season-ending injury to Stephen Weiss, Huberdeau will play a lot of minutes in the final half of the year. Don’t be surprised if he ends up winning the rookie scoring race.
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Vladimir Tarasenko, if the season were to end tomorrow, would have to be considered for the Calder. He had the best start of all NHL rookies this year before suffering a head injury following a hit versus the Colorado Avalanche on February 20.
The 2010 first-round pick had displayed some high-end puck skills and tremendous speed in earning 12 points in his first 17 games. All hockey fans want to see him healthy and on the ice again soon. All injuries pose challenges for returning athletes but Blues’ fans especially will want to see Tarasenko pick up where he had left off in late February.
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The Boston Bruins’ youngest defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, has had a tremendous start to his rookie campaign. Granted, it is easier to begin your career on a juggernaut like the Bruins these past few years, but Hamilton would have fit well on any roster in the league.
His intelligence, toughness, and superior skating have likely earned him a spot on the long list for the Canadian Olympic team in 2014. Hamilton is composed at both ends of the rink and has fit in exceptionally well at the NHL level.