Top 10 Candidates for the Calder Memorial Trophy 2010-2011
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Every year, hundreds of predictions are made throughout the year as to which of the NHL's young, blossoming rookies will be rewarded with the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year.
So begins the race for who will have their name next to such greats as Bobby Orr (1967), Ray Bourque (1980), Mario Lemieux (1985), Luc Robitaille (1987), Teemu Selanne (1993), Dany Heatley (2002), Alexander Ovechkin (2006), Evgeni Malkin (2007) and most recently Tyler Myers (2010).
Here's my list of the top ten in the running for the title. Some rookies who just missed the cut include New Jersey's Matt Taormina, Carolina's Jeff Skinner and the New York Islander's Nino Niederreiter.
10. Cam Fowler: Anaheim Ducks
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No. 10 on the list is Anaheim defender Cam Fowler. At the young age of 18, Fowler's fate in the NHL is soon to be determined as he has already played six games. After ten games, if Fowler remains on the Ducks' main roster, he will be on his first year of the entry-level contract, while if Anaheim opts to send him down, he cannot return to the NHL this year.
After only six games played, the young blue liner has a total of three points and two penalty minutes, and has seen plenty of penalty-kill time cursing him with a -1 ranking.
Fowler is currently recovering from a broken nose, bruised face and stiff neck after nearly scoring on a coast-to-coast play and being driven into the boards by Coyotes captain Shane Doan. However, Fowler still has helped in Anaheim's attempt to rebuild a defense without Scott Niedermayer. Fowler has been one of the most consistent players on the Anaheim squad, playing over 20 minutes of ice time in the first five of his six game appearances, the final one cut short by his injury.
Fowler's impressive start to the 2010-2011 year has landed him at No. 10. However if he continues to grow, mature and break into the Anaheim club, he could potentially jump up a few notches.
9. Tyler Seguin: Boston Bruins
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Tyler Seguin, the second 18-year-old on our list, also was picked up in the 2010 entry draft earlier this summer. Seguin, like Fowler, has only played in six games thus far, but Seguin hasn't been plagued with injuries. Instead his team has only played a total of six games this season since they started their season overseas in Europe.
Seguin has tallied three points in the six Bruins' games, and hopes to continue his streak of impressive awards, after being named as the Ontario Hockey League's highest scorer, most outstanding player and the Canadian Hockey League's top eligible prospect for the NHL.
Some have compared Seguin's playing style to that of Steve Yzerman with the same desire and hunger coupled with a skill set beyond his age. Even if Seguin doesn't make it to the top three Calder Trophy finalists, the young center is definitely one to watch grow in the upcoming years.
8. P.K. Subban: Montreal Canadiens
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Our eighth overall pick for Rookie of the Year this far into the season is P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens.
In eight games played with the Habs, Subban has assisted on four goals, has an impressive plus-three rating and six penalty minutes, four of which came from Montreal's contest with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 21-year-old, who was born and raised in Toronto, is also the third rookie defenseman to tally three assists in one game, which happened during Game 3 against the Flyers in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
Subban still qualifies as a rookie despite the fact he played two regular season games with the Habs last year, and appeared in 14 playoff games. This year, as long as he's a regular on the blue line, Subban can definitely break into the league in a big way.
7. Jonathan Bernier: Los Angeles Kings
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The Los Angeles Kings house our next rookie, Jonathan Bernier, who is the current backup for the No. 1 King goalie, Jonathan Quick.
Even though the 22-year-old Bernier has only gotten the nod for two games between the pipes, splitting the games for a 1-1-0 record, he is still a solid backup to Quick when needed. Jonathan Bernier faced 61 shots in those two games and allowed only five goals against.
Bernier has a 2.50 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage, promising numbers for a rookie. If he continues to grow and improve, he could give Jonathan Quick a run at the number one goalie job. And if Bernier takes over as No. 1, or even splits the games close to 50-50 with Quick, he could find himself in the top three rookies this season.
6. Derek Stepan: New York Rangers
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Derek Stepan jump-started his season in a rather unexpected way, scoring not only his first goal, but his first hat trick in his NHL debut against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 9.
Stepan has appeared in seven games with the Rangers, and has racked up five points, the first three goals, and two assists later on, as well as a plus-three rating and two penalty minutes. He has registered one game-winning goal and 17 shots on goal.
Stepan is currently tied for the team lead in goals, points, and plus/minus rating and is ranked fourth among rookies with five points.
Derek Stepan is only the fourth rookie in NHL history to tally a hat trick in his NHL debut game, landing him in our sixth slot.
5. Mark Letestu: Pittsburgh Penguins
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Mark Letestu, at age 25, is the oldest rookie to make it onto the top ten list. However the sharp-shooter center deserves his fifth-overall seat.
Letestu currently leads the league's rookies with seven points from four goals and three assists in nine games played. He is also tied for the best plus/minus ranking with a plus-four rating. Mark Letestu has an impressive two power-play goals and two game-winning goals.
A team like the Penguins, which has big guns like Crosby and Malkin, is looking for more depth. And Letestu has found a comfortable place on their bench. I don't expect him to be going to any minor league teams for this season.
Expect Letestu to slow down a little bit. However he will still be one of the rookies with the impressive numbers, meaning if he continues on the path he's on right now, he could very well change positions on this top ten list.
4. John Carlson: Washington Captials
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John Carlson of the Washington Capitals has also had an impressive start to his rookie year. At the age of 20, the defender has played in all of Washington's eight games, and tallied an impressive six points, five of which were assists.
Carlson is a big defensive force. Standing 6'3'' and weighing in at 208 pounds, the young blue-liner knows how to keep pucks away from his goalie, with an impressive 17 blocked shots, ranking him second on the team.
In only eight games played this year, Carlson has managed to match last season's point total which included all 22 of his games played.
With Washington having a surprisingly young blue line roster, Carlson fits right in and is hoping to learn from veteran defenders such as Washington alternate captain, Top Poti.
However, it is his impressive defensive play and the offensive numbers he has posted that landed him in our fourth place.
3. Tyler Ennis: Buffalo Sabres
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Buffalo Sabre Tyler Ennis has had an impressive start to the season and proved himself a strong player last year, landing him in the third spot of the countdown.
Tyler Ennis appeared in 10 regular season games with Buffalo last year collecting nine points. And he played in another six playoff games tallying another four points.
This year, the 21-year-old left winger has played in ten games and racked up seven points, with a plus-five rating, making him a valuable asset to the Sabres forwards.
Ennis was previously named the MVP of the AHL All-Star game earlier this year and was given the title of the 2009-2010 AHL Rookie of the Year.
If Tyler Ennis continues to perform how he has been this season, I expect him to make it into the Calder Trophy Finalists, and have a solid shot at winning the title of Rookie of the Year in the NHL, too.
2. Jordan Eberle: Edmonton Oilers
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Jordan Eberle, 20, has appeared in all six of the Edmonton Oilers games this season and has scored two goals and two assists.
On a team that is struggling to get out of the Western Conference's No.15 spot, Eberle has been a slight breath of fresh air, the young right wing tallying more points than penalty minutes and seeing plenty of time on the penalty kill.
Eberle has tallied an impressive two short-handed goals for the Oilers. And for Edmonton, these offensive numbers rank him in the top four in points, goals and assists.
I'm expecting to see Eberle join the regular roster and see plenty of play time, keeping up his stats and performance, making him a solid candidate for the Calder Trophy Finalists.
1. Michal Neuvirth: Washington Capitals
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The No. 1 pick I have for rookies thus far is Michal Neuvirth of the Washington Capitals.
Neuvirth has started in between the pipes eight times for the Capitals, since Varlamov has been recovering from an injury. And the 22-year-old Neuvirth has posted an impressive 5-2-0 record.
Michal Neuvirth has faced 197 shots and only allowed 16 goals for a 2.53 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
He is currently holding the longest winning-streak in the NHL and appeared in all eight of the Caps games, making him the youngest Washington goalie to start a season opener since the 1996-1997 season.
Michal Neuvirth has had an impressive run, and if he splits time with Varlamov, or takes the No. 1 spot, then he has a strong chance of making it into the Calder Trophy Finals, if not walking away with the trophy.