Young Guns: The Calder Memorial Watch

Joel FuceContributor IDecember 17, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 25:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche skates during the game against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center on November 25, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Young players typically have a difficult time holding a strong level of performance over an entire season. This year, however, we have seen a few young stars shine bright and have the looks of enduring to the playoffs. There have also been a few young players who have shown signs that if given the chance, they will bloom in the coming months.

Here lie the top prospects for this years Calder Memorial Trophy, as well as a couple of dark horses in the race.

1. John Tavares - Center - New York Islanders

Being drafted number one overall to a team that is in a rebuilding phase brings high expectations. John Tavares has taken the task and hit the ground running, posting a 15 goals and 12 assists in 33 games, to lead the team with 27 points. Moreover, the young center is showing that nothing short of the playoffs will do, while sitting at two points out after play on Wednesday.

2. Matt Duchene - Center - Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche needed all the help it could get coming into this season, and Matt Duchene has provided time and time again. Posting 9 goals, 11 assists, and 20 points already this year has the young center looking like the real deal. The -9 rating will take a bit of work, but two-way play comes with experience. Look for Duchene to continue scoring big for Colorado on the way to the Olympic Break.

3. Tyler Myers - Defense - Buffalo Sabers

The Buffalo Sabers have been referred to as the elite team in the league several times this season. A great deal of their success is Ryan Miller's spectacular goal tending. Miller's glory, however, starts with Tyler Myers' great defensive play. The young defense-man has shown great defensive capability boasting a +9 rating, with 18 points to boot. Expect Myers to continue to get lots of ice time and his skills to sharpen throughout the season.

4. Michael Del Zotto - Defense - New York Rangers

He wears the number 4 in memory of his idol Bobby Orr, though he is too young to have ever watched the great defense-man play. He is old enough, however, to play in the NHL and put up strong numbers for the struggling New York Rangers. Del Zotto, at 20 points is among the top scorers for the Rangers, and his average time on ice of over 19 minutes is among the best of all rookies in the NHL.

5. Tuukka Rask - Goal Tender - Boston Bruins

Though he is not the starter for the Bruins, Rask is putting up the numbers to have a shot at it. Playing behind a struggling Tim Thomas could show more playing time for Rask in the coming months, which means he will be able to build on his already impressive 9-2-2 start on the season. Tuukka also boasts an amazing 1.97 goals against average. It doesn't hurt practicing with last year's Vezina Trophy winner either.

The following candidates are in the hunt, and with a bit more playing time show the potential to make a come from behind win of the Calder Memorial.

Evander Kane - Center - Atlanta Thrashers

Evander Kane has among the lowest average ice time on the Thrashers' roster. He does, however, boast a strong +7 rating and 14 points. Some more time on ice and Kane will be able to show his raw scoring abilities and climb the Calder ladder.

Matt Moulson - Left Wing - New York Islanders

Matt Moulson not only barely qualifies for the award, but he is also line-mates with the current front runner. Winning the award would be a tricky feat for Moulson, however nobody can deny the chemistry he shows with Tavares. Expect the points to keep coming from Moulson, and expect him to continue to climb in the standings.

Jimmy Howard - Goal Tender - Detroit Red Wings

Of the candidates listed, Jimmy Howard has been in the AHL the longest. He has been called up due to the expiration of his minor's contract, and has been given a big chance with equal starts to Chis Osgood. Though the Wings have been struggling with injuries, Howard has remained steady with a record of 10-6-1, and a respectable 2.40 goals against average. More playing time is in the future for Howard with a struggling Osgood. Look for the wins to pile up as star players work their way off the IR.

Jeff Deslauriers - Goal Tender - Edmonton Oilers

This Frenchmen has gotten his fair share of starts due to a unpublicized back injury of starter Nikolai Khabibulin. Deslauriers has shown the ability to play at a level of consistency desperately needed by the Oilers. With a record of 8-5-2, it looks as though he may be getting more starts coming into the Olympic Break.