Unplucked Sports is counting down the top performing players of the 2009-10 season. The home stretch of a great season provides an opportunity to look back at the difference makers for not only their team, but the balance of play in the league. Today, we take a look at contenders for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the leagues top rookie of the season.
Tyler Myers – The 19-year old Buffalo Sabres defenseman has enjoyed great success since being selected in the first round (12th overall) in the 2008 Entry Draft. Myers is unique in the sense that he’s a big guy (6’8”, 222lbs.) but a very smooth and composed skater.
He’s currently leading all Sabres defensemen in scoring with 10 goals and 32 assists, with a +/- differential of +2, good for second on the team behind Jason Pominville. He’s also eating up a ton of ice time each game, clocking over 22 minutes per game on average.
Jimmy Howard – Happy birthday to Howard, who turns 26 today and will appear in his 21st consecutive start for the Detroit Red Wings. I’ll avoid making any comparisons of Chris Osgood to the automotive industry in the city, but it’s safe to say the Wings have their goalie of the future.
Over 55 games this season, he’s posted a 30-15-9 record to go along with a 2.29 GAA and .924 SV%; astonishing numbers for most goalies, though particularly eye-popping for a rookie.
Matt Duchene – Colorado’s young center was drafted third overall in the 2009 draft and we knew from the beginning he would likely begin the season with the Avalanche. What we didn’t plan on was the 23 goals and 27 assists he’s put up in his first 73 NHL games.
Duchene is one of those few players who mostly live up to the hype surrounding him. Myers and Howard are a dominate, yet quite force behind their team’s success, whereas Duchene has been counted on early to provide some much needed offense to Colorado’s line up. The Ave’s turned things around mightily from last season and Duchene (along with the stellar play of backup-to-starting goaltender, Craig Anderson) is one of the main reasons why.
John Tavares – Selected as the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Tavares was easily the most talked about rookie heading into the current season. He’s put up a respectable 43 points over 74 games this season, but his +/- differential of -17 indicates he’s still developing his two-way game.
Perhaps his production can be blamed on the supporting cast around him. As Unplucked Sports contributor Patrick Baker pointed out yesterday, former Islanders captain Alexei Yashin is being paid the remainder of a ridiculous 10-year, $87.5 million contract. This monstrosity, along with the 12-year deal that constantly-injured Rick DiPietro leaves Iles GM Garth Snow a bit handcuffed in making any significant acquisitions.
Tavares may have recently turned a corner in his offensive production. He had racked up nine points over 37 games before a five-point night in Vancouver on March 16th. Unfortunately, it may be too little too late for his Calder aspirations.
I set out writing this article with Myers as the favorite to with the Rookie of the Year honors, but after researching Howards’ contribution, the Detroit netminder ever so slightly gets the winning vote.
Myers has the potential to win a Norris Trophy for best defenseman at some point in his young career, but Howard is the main reason Detroit will make the playoffs. He’s a little more seasoned of a player, but his talent is something the Wings management has coveted for a long time and it appears Howard’s time has come.
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