The Chase for NHL Rookie of the Year
Coming into this NHL season, John Tavares and Victor Hedman were drawing most of the attention in the rookies department.
Those two, the first two draft picks of 2009, along with "The Monster" Jonas Gustavsson who was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs to compete with Vesa Toskala between the pipes, were the most likely candidates to earn the Calder trophy.
So now that the season is driving through its final stretch, there's no surprise that a goalie, a forward, and a defensemen are amongst the discussions for the Rookie of the Year—but it's not those three.
We'll start with Howard from Detroit.
The Red Wings have clawed their way back into the playoffs as they currently sit in the eighth spot, one point ahead of the Calgary Flames. If they do hold on, and make the playoffs like they have for the past 18 years, Howard would be one of the main reasons.
Since he was drafted in the second round in 2003 from the University of Maine, Howard has spent most of his time manning the pipes of Grand Rapids of the AHL. He has made some spot starts for the Red Wings over the years, but this was his first true test carrying the load of an NHL franchise. Thus far, he hasn't disappointed.
Howard is 27-15-8 and has started every game for the Wings since Jan. 29. Since Dec. 3, Howard has only been on the bench for five contests.
He currently ranks fourth in SV% and sixth in GAA of all goalies in the NHL.
He's a little old for rookies, but at 25, he's the normal age for a goaltender to emerge as a starter.
If Howard does win the award, it would be the first time since 1951 that goalies have won the title in back-to-back years, when Jack Gelineau and Terry Sawchuck took the honors. Columbus' Steve Mason won last year.
Ironically, the last three Red Wings to win the Calder trophy have all been goalies.
Next up is Colorado's Matt Duchene.
Many had Duchene slated as the best player in the 2009 draft, even though he was selected third overall behind Tavares and Hedman respectively.
I knew he was going to be good, but not this good.
At only 19 years old, Duchene has made the jump from juniors to the NHL almost seamlessly. Only 70 games into his NHL career, Duchene is already drawing comparisons to NHL greats Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman by analysts.
His vision on the ice is far above average and he possesses the play-making abilities of a seasoned vet. He is currently second on the Avalanche in goals and third in points.
As far as rookies are concerned, Duchene leads all his colleauges in scoring with 23 goals and 49 points. He also averages just over 17 minutes a game. Not bad for a first-year player coming straight out of juniors.
The last two Avalanche to win the trophy also played center. Some guys named Chris Drury and Peter Forsberg, ever heard of 'em?
Finally, we have Tyler Myers.
Jonas Gustavsson might be nicknamed "The Monster," but Myers is a beast.
When the Sabres took Myers 12th overall in 2008, Lindy Ruff and Co. knew that Myers would be a huge part of their blueline corps—just not this quickly.
Myers and his 6'8", 222-pound frame have taken the NHL by storm.
Through 68 games, Myers has emerged as the Sabres' clear-cut No. 1 defensmen, logging almost 24 minutes and 28 shifts per game.
Myers leads all rookie defensemen in scoring, with 36 points. The next closest is Michael Del Zotto with 29.
Having Myers patrol the blueline for more than a third of the game is a major reason why the Sabres sit atop Northeast division and third in the Eastern Conference.
Defensemen that win the Calder trophy come few and far between—only two have won the trophy in the past 20 years—the last being Barrett Jackman in 2003.
Could Myers be the third? We'll find out on June 23 when the NHL hosts their awards ceremony from Las Vegas.
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