San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl wasn't running away with the Calder Trophy before a knee injury derailed his season, but he was unquestionably ahead the of the pack.
The 20-year-old Czech sensation leads all rookies with 15 goals and 25 points in 35 games. But a knee-to-knee collision with Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings has him reportedly out at least a month and will cost him a chance to play at the Sochi Olympics. Hertl will have surgery next week, when his timetable should become clearer.
Should Hertl return after the Olympics, he would miss a total of 24 games. It wouldn't disqualify him from winning the Calder, but it will hurt his chances greatly. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers dealt with a similar set of circumstances during the 2011-12 season when he missed 20 games due to shoulder injuries. Gabriel Landeskog won the award by amassing 52 points in 82 games, although Nugent-Hopkins had the same amount of points in 20 fewer contests.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association rewarded Landeskog's durability, and they could take the same tack this season.
So with Hertl out of commission, the race of the Calder has become much tighter. Here are the candidates who can take advantage of the situation over the rest of the season.