Ranking the Top 10 Contenders for the 2014-15 Calder Trophy

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistMay 8, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 Contenders for the 2014-15 Calder Trophy

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    The NHL draft is nearly two months away, and teams will be stocking up on new talent when they meet at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia June 27-28. Next season, very few of the players taken in the upcoming draft should be expected to have a major impact on the Calder race. There is no Nathan MacKinnon available in 2014.

    The Calder Trophy winner for 2014-15 is likely already in the NHL pipeline. Opportunity married to experience will give these players an edge on the top picks in the 2014 entry draft.

    Here are the top 10 candidates for the 2014-15 Calder Trophy.

10. Oscar Klefbom, D, Edmonton Oilers

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    His 2013-14 Season: Oscar Klefbom went 1-9-10 in 48 games with the Oklahoma City Barons (AHL). He also played 17 games with the Edmonton Oilers.

    His Scouting Report: Klefbom has a nice range of skills, including mobility and strong defensive acumen. He can move the puck smartly and showed well in those late-season NHL games.

    His Future: The Oilers will try to keep him on the farm at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, but chances are that he makes the big club. Oilers fans can look forward to a strong, intelligent shutdown defender who could stand out in the crowd.

9. Alexander Khokhlachev, C, Boston Bruins

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    His 2013-14 Season: Alexander Khokhlachev went 21-36-57 in 65 games for the Providence Bruins (AHL).

    His Scouting Report: Khokhlachev is a terrific, young offensive prospect. The Boston Bruins are bringing him along at a slower pace. Kirk Luedeke from New England Hockey Journal describes the situation:

    Top-six NHL scoring forward with 30-plus goal upside who can play center or wing. “Koko” is a fan favorite for his highlight reel-caliber skills, but he has yet to consistently demonstrate the work ethic and tenacity that the Bruins value.

    His Future: He showed more consistency this season and is now 20 with a full AHL season behind him. The Bruins have more than enough brawn on the wings, and Khokhlachev may find a window of opportunity with the Bruins in 2013-14. 


8. Griffin Reinhart, D, New York Islanders

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    His 2013-14 Season: Griffin Reinhart went 4-17-21 in 44 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL). He is currently having an impact in the playoffs (3-8-11 in 18 games).

    His Scouting Report: Griffin Reinhart is a man among boys in the WHL at this point. He's progressed physically since Corey Pronman described him as a complete player before the 2012 draft.

    His Future: The New York Islanders have a lot of young defensive options, but it's hard to imagine a more NHL-ready player. He displays a wide range of skills and could get playing time in all three disciplines. Griffin Reinhart could win the Calder Trophy in 2014-15.



7. John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks

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    His 2013-14 Season: John Gibson posted a 2.34/.919 split in 45 games with the Norfolk Admirals (AHL).

    His Scouting Report: Gibson has been building a solid resume for years. He delivered in the USHL and OHL as an amateur and has been impressive in the AHL and NHL in his first pro season.

    His Future: The Anaheim Ducks are a very good team with a ambiguous goaltending situation. Jonas Hiller is headed to free agency, Viktor Fasth was traded to Edmonton and Frederik Andersen has been inconsistent in the playoffs. Gibson may be able to step in and start for the Ducks in 2014-15. 


6. Johnny Gaudreau, C, Calgary Flames

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    His 2013-14 Season: Johnny Gaudreau scored went 36-44-80 in 40 games with Boston College (NCAA).

    His Scouting Report: Gaudreau is an insane offensive force at the college level. He's also a small player and is going to have to deal with men who are 60 pounds heavier on a regular basis. 

    His Future: The Calgary Flames play a physical style and should be able to put Gaudreau in a position to succeed. The club employed teenager Sean Monahan this past season, and he thrived for them. The bottom line is this: Johnny Gaudreau impacts the game offensively. If he can stay healthy, he should be a candidate for the Calder Trophy.

5. Derrick Pouliot, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    His 2013-14 Season: Derrick Pouliot went 17-53-70 in 58 games with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL).

    His Scouting Report: Pouliot is a top puck-moving defenseman who enjoyed an impact season in junior. He's an outstanding skater and can pass with authority. Although he'll arrive after fellow 2012 Pittsburgh Penguins draftee Olli Maatta, there's a very good chance he'll end up having the better career. 

    His Future: The Penguins are a veteran team built to push toward Stanley Cup victories. It's unusual for an experienced team to break in young defensemen with regularity, but Pouliot has earned it. His offensive ability could earn him the Calder Trophy. 

4. Curtis Lazar, C, Ottawa Senators

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    His 2013-14 Season: Curtis Lazar went 41-35-76 in 58 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL). Lazar scored a big goal on Wednesday night, as the Oil Kings evened their series with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL Final.

    His Scouting Report: Lazar is a quality two-way center who can also play the wing. The Hockey News describes him as a player who owns plenty of character and plays bigger than his size. 

    His Future: The Ottawa Senators have an outstanding prospect in Lazar, and there's every chance he'll play in the NHL next season. Given his ability to help offensively and his work ethic, he's a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy. 

3. Teuvo Teravainen, C, Chicago Blackhawks

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    His 2013-14 Season: Teuvo Teravainen went 9-35-44 in 49 games with Jokerit Helsinki (SM-Liiga).

    His Scouting Report: In a clear case of the rich getting richer, Teravainen is an exceptionally skilled forward. His totals from this season came in the top Finnish league, meaning he was close to a point per game in a league that employs pro hockey players. 

    His Future: The Chicago Blackhawks are so deep that there's a good chance Teravainen plays in the minors next season. If he gets a regular shift, he'll be in the mix for the Rookie of the Year award.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals

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    His 2013-14 Season: Evgeny Kuznetsov went 8-13-21 in 31 games with Chelyabinsk Traktor (KHL). He also made his NHL debut with the Washington Capitals (3-6-9 in 17 games).

    His Scouting Report: Kuznetsov possesses across-the-board offensive skills. His Elite Prospects bio tells us about this strong playmaker who has all kinds of creativity.

    His Future: The Washington Capitals are at a crossroads and will be looking to do a makeover this summer. Kuznetsov's arrival is timely, and since he is still eligible for the Calder Trophy, he could win it with a strong season.

1. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    His 2013-14 Season: Jonathan Drouin went 29-79-108 in 36 games with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL).

    His Scouting Report: Drouin is an elite-level offensive talent who many felt could make the step to the NHL this past season. That list included the experts at EA Sports, as reported by Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy. Drouin punished junior goalies for the snub, and he'll bring his skills to the NHL in the fall. 

    His Future: The Tampa Bay Lightning traded away a future Hall of Fame winger in Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline. They may welcome one this fall in Drouin. He's ideally situated to make a strong push for the Calder Trophy, so opportunity will be knocking for him.