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NHL Awards Tracker: Ranking the Leading Candidates for the Calder Trophy

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IOctober 12, 2016

NHL Awards Tracker: Ranking the Leading Candidates for the Calder Trophy

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    The NHL hands out the Calder Trophy to the league's top rookie each year, but who are the front-runners to take home the award this year?

    Chicago Blackhawks left winger Brandon Saad and Montreal Canadiens winger Brandon Gallagher are front-runners to win the NHL's Calder Trophy, but other candidates could provide stiff competition. The truncated season gave these rookies a golden opportunity, and the listed candidates rose to the challenge. Here are the leading candidates for the NHL's Calder Trophy.

     

    Stats listed are courtesy of Behind The Net and NHL.com.

Honorable Mentions

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    There are many talented rookies who have had solid seasons, but only a few are in serious contention for the Calder Trophy.

    Here are the players that have had solid seasons but just miss the cut.

     

    Forwards

    Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Killorn is a 23-year-old center with the Tampa Bay Lightning who made his NHL debut this season after being drafted 77th overall in 2007.

    Killorn has had a solid year to date as a secondary contributor with the Lightning. He has seven goals and 11 assists for 18 total points.

     

    Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators

    Zibanejad has had a good season on an Ottawa Senators team that was impacted by injuries. He became the team's No. 2 pivot when Kyle Turris took over for an injured Jason Spezza. Along with linemate Jakob Silfverberg, Zibanejad has had a solid rookie season.

     

    Defensemen

    Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings

    Muzzin stepped into an enhanced role with the team when Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene were sidelined with injuries early in the season. He took the opportunity in front of him, and to date he's had a solid offensive season as a rookie.

     

    Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins

    Dougie Hamilton is an exciting rookie prospect for the Bruins, and as the season has continued he has become a quality blueliner. His offensive game is continually getting better, and the best is yet to come for the former Niagara IceDog.

No. 10 Patrick Wiercioch, Ottawa Senators

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    Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch has had a great rookie season with the Ottawa Senators, and he has the makings of a solid second-pairing defenseman. Wiercioch is a sizable defenseman at 6'5" and 205 pounds, and he has contributed some limited offense thus far for the Senators.

    In 37 games, Wiercioch has four goals and 13 assists for 17 points. Erik Karlsson's injury could have really impacted the Senators' blue line in a negative way, but Wiercioch's play has helped lessen that loss. Karlsson's relative corsi was 20.2 on the season, and in his absence Wiercioch has led with a relative corsi of 13.6.

    Relative corsi is an advanced stat—for more information check out Behind The Net. Also here is another place to get more information on advanced stats.

    Nonetheless, Wiercioch has had a pretty solid season for the Senators, and they will look for him to step up his game as his career continues.

No. 9 Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

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    Vladimir Tarasenko was off to an amazing start, but a concussion really threw him off track. Had Tarasenko remained injury-free, there was a chance that he would have walked away with the Calder Trophy. Tarasenko is a 6'0", 219-pound forward who is very strong on the puck, and he has the chance to become a dominant power forward.

    Tarasenko has not regained form since the concussion, but he has still been an effective player for the St. Louis Blues. He only averages 13:39 a game under head coach Ken Hitchcock, but he has shown that he has the potential to become an impact player.

No. 8 Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens

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    Alex Galchenyuk has lived up to his hype thus far in 2013, and he is a player with a bright future. His history with the Sarnia Sting showed that Galchenyuk would be successful, and so far that has rung true in 2013. 

    Team Goals Assists Points Games Year 
    Sarnia Sting 31 52 83 68 2010-11
    Sarnia Sting 0 0 0 2 2011-12
    Sarnia Sting 27 34 61 33 2012-13

    Galchenyuk was also a valuable member of Team USA at the IIHF World U20 Championship, and he took home a gold medal for his efforts.

    With the Canadiens, Galchenyuk has been good, but he hasn't been as good as teammate Brendan Gallagher. There is a chance Galchenyuk could improve his stock before the year ends, but right now he isn't among the favorites.

No. 7 Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

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    Nail Yakupov has had a solid season to date with the Edmonton Oilers, but it isn't quite on par with the production recent No. 1 overall picks have had in their first years in the NHL. Here is a look at how the most recent No. 1 draft selections have performed in their rookie seasons.

    Player Goals Assists Points Games Draft Year 
    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 18 34 52 62 2011
    Taylor Hall 22 20 42 65 2010
    John Tavares 24 30 54 82 2009

    In the case of Nugent-Hopkins and Hall, injures cut their seasons short, so they were on pace to have even higher point totals. In an 82-game season, Nugent-Hopkins was on pace for 69 points, and Hall was on pace for 54 points.

    Yakupov currently has 10 goals, 13 assists and 23 points, and those numbers extrapolated over an 82-game season would give Yakupov a 46-point campaign.

    Yakupov's projected first season would place him last among the last four No. 1 overall picks in terms of point projection over an 82-game season, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    As the year has progressed, Yakupov has looked more comfortable. He should have an amazing sophomore season.

No. 6 Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers

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    Justin Schultz was a hot commodity during NHL free agency in 2012, and it was even dubbed the Schultz Sweepstakes by members of the media. When it was all over, the Edmonton Oilers were very happy that the University of Wisconsin rearguard came to Alberta, and he has had an impressive season to date.

    Schultz's offensive abilities are something that the Oilers' blue line has been lacking for some time, but he is still a solid all-around defenseman. Take a look at Schultz's projected numbers over an 82-game season using his averages from this year compared to defenders on the Oilers' blue line in 2011-12.

    Player Goals Assists Points Games Year 
    Justin Schultz 12 28 40 82 2012-13
    Jeff Petry 2 23 25 73 2011-12
    Ryan Whitney 3 17 20 51 2011-12

    Right now, Schultz has a stat line of six goals, 14 assists and 20 points through 41 games, and if you double that production you get the above estimate.

    Schultz has been playing 21:27 minutes a game, and he has had a big role with the Oilers this year. As Schultz matures and develops his all-around game, he will become a key piece on the Oilers' blue line in the coming seasons.

    Although he has had impressive numbers, he hasn't been the best rookie defenseman, and that hurts his Calder chances.

No. 5 Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild

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    Statistics often play a big role when voters file their ballots for the Calder Trophy, and while Jonas Brodin may not have the offensive cachet Justin Schultz has, Brodin has been one of the league's top defenders in 2013.

    Although Jake Muzzin of the Los Angeles Kings and Patrick Wiercioch of the Ottawa Senators have had solid offensive years, they haven't played the important minutes against opposing first lines like Brodin has with the Wild.

    Muzzin is averaging only 17:59 a game and Wiercioch averages 15:38 a game.

    Wild beat writer Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is right in his assertion that Brodin has established himself as a mobile shutdown defender, and therefore he should be a top Calder candidate.

    The primary role of a defenseman is to defend, and Brodin has done that exceptionally well as a rookie. Brodin has a modest nine points to his name, but he is logging major minutes for a youngster.

    His 23:03 is the most among rookies and is in line with defenders like Mark Streit, Dan Boyle and P.K. Subban.

    Defensemen usually don't hit their prime years until they are in their 20s, but Brodin is making a name for himself as a 19-year-old, and for that reason he should be a Calder Trophy favorite.

No. 4 Cory Conacher. Ottawa Senators

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    Cory Conacher was once considered a front-runner to win the Calder Trophy, but he slowed down after a very hot start.

    The Ottawa Senators winger started his year with the Tampa Bay Lightning and was sent packing at the trade deadline. Conacher is still among the leaders in rookie scoring, but his production over the last few weeks has been abysmal.

    Here is a breakdown of Conacher's production.

    Month Goals Assists Points Games
    January 3 6 9 6
    February 4 5 9 14
    March 2 4 6 14
    April 1 0 1 6

    Although he has solid numbers, most of his production came in the beginning of the season, and since then he hasn't been as dominant. Conacher is still a solid player, but there are others who will have a better shot at winning the Calder.

No. 3 Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers have had a dreadful season full of injuries, but Jonathan Huberdeau is a bright spot for a team in transition.

    Huberdeau is a versatile player who can skate at center or on the wing, and he has given the team's lineup a much-needed offensive punch.

    The 6'1", 177-pound forward leads rookies with 27 points and is averaging 16:11 minutes a game. Although his plus-minus rating isn't favorable, his relative corsi rating of 6.8 puts him sixth on the team.

    While Huberdeau has been spectacular for Florida, he hasn't been the best all-around rookie. He is a player who has the skill set to dazzle for the Panthers in the upcoming years, but there is a pair of rookies who have been slightly better.

No. 2 Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Brandon Saad has been one of the NHL's most complete rookies this season. Saad has been able to score, play two-way hockey and thrive with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.

    This season, Saad has been a solid offensive player, has been effective on special teams and has been an effective penalty killer. To date he has nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points, and he is averaging 16:20 minutes a night.

    While it may be easy to say that Saad is thriving because he is playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, shouldn't it say something that he has been good enough to skate with two premier players?

    How many rookies can you list off-hand that play the power play, kill penalties and are on the team's first line? The list is probably very short, and it would include Saad.

    The Blackhawks are one of the top teams in the NHL. It speaks volumes that the team has trusted Saad enough in prime situations. The Blackhawks' trust has paid off, and Saad is going to be a Calder Trophy candidate because of it.

No. 1 Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

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    Brendan Gallagher is one of the top rookies this season, and his odds at taking home the award are very good.

    Here is a close look at how he stacks up against other rookies, including his teammate Alex Galchenyuk.

    Player Goals Assists Points Games PPG
    Brendan Gallagher 12 11 23 37 0.62
    Jonathan Huberdeau 13 14 27 41 0.66
    Brandon Saad 9 15 24 41 0.59
    Alex Galchenyuk 6 15 21 41 0.51

    Gallagher has appeared in fewer games than the other top rookies listed, his points-per-game average is higher than all but Huberdeau and he has been pretty even in his production of goals and assists.

    There are even more stats that show how Gallagher has been a solid player overall in 2013, and if you like advanced stats, check out this chart. For a refresher on advanced stats, Blue Seat Blogs has a great breakdown here.

     

    Player On-Ice Corsi Relative Corsi
    Brendan Gallagher 16.29 14.5
    Jonathan Huberdeau 3.39 6.8
    Brandon Saad 13.87 8.9
    Alex Galchenyuk -3.1 2.48

     

    Gallagher has has a solid season as one of league's most complete rookies, and for that reason he should win the Calder Trophy.

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