NHL 2011 Fearless Award Predictions, Part 1 of 5: Calder Memorial Trophy
The NHL season is just under a quarter of the way finished, with the majority of the teams across the league having played 18 games. I thought it would be a good time to do a little preview as to who we will see bringing home the hardware at the NHL's annual awards gala in June. This is part one of a five part series I will put out over the next week or two. Today's award is the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the player deemed most proficient in his first year of competition. I will present the three finalists and finally uncover my predicted winner.
Finalist: Philadelphia Flyers Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky is the best rookie you've never heard of, actually he's the best player you've never heard of. He also has the hardest to pronounce name, almost as hard as to figure out where the Flyers picked up the 22-year old wonder-kid. Bobrovsky played last season for Mettalurg Novotkuznesk of the KHL and was signed as an undrafted free agent in the summer. The kid is near the top of every major goaltending statistical category; 10 Wins (3rd), 9.32 sv % (5th) 2.08 GAA (7th). No one may know where the Flyers picked up this kid, but they sure are not complaining. He has been an absolute stud. He has great lateral movement, puck tracking abilities and is incredibly agile/athletic.
Finalist: Carolina Hurricanes Forward Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner is easily the most talented rookie playing in the NHL (yes better than Hall & Seguin). In 10-15 years people will be wondering how he slid all the way down to 7th pick in the 2010 draft. The kid's got tremendous speed, a great shot and can dangle through traffic like few people in the league. He leads all rookie in every major offensive statistical category; 6 Goals (1st), 9 Assists (1st), 15 Points (1st). Skinner is also a very mature hockey mind for someone just 18 years of age, the Canes really lucked out on this kid. He is going to be a mega star.
Finalist: Montreal Canadiens Defenseman P.K Subban
Subban's is quite possibly the most entertaining rookie in the league right now. His offensive flare and joyful personality are something that are fairly rare in the big business that is the NHL. Not only is he good for a laugh but his talent levels are ridiculously high, as well as his potential for growth. Subban played remarkably well at the beginning of the season in Andrei Markov's absent and regularly played more minutes than any player on either team. Under coach Jacques Martin's tutelage Subban has evolved into a very well rounded defenseman, with a defensive side that now matches his offensive output. The kid has enough speed to compensate for his mistakes and knows what to do with the puck on his stick. He leads all rookie-defenseman in shots with 48 and sits second in assists with 7 behind Washington's John Carlson. The fact that Subban is able to put up such high numbers playing for a defensive minded team makes him an invaluable asset at such a young age to the Canadiens.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
The Winner is of course Bobrovsky. Simply because it is nearly unheard of for rookie goaltenders to come in and have such a tremendous impact immediately on their team. Goalies usually play no more than 25 games in their first full season at the NHL level as their teams try to spoon feed them the speed of the game at such an elite level. His stats don't lie, the kid is a top ten goaltender at the age of 22 as an undrafted free agent. Should he continue on his torrid pace he will be a lock for the Calder cup and may even have a shot at the Vezina.