Almost one month into the season and now that all 30 NHL teams have played at least nine games, it’s time to have a look at the potential Calder Trophy candidates for the 2011-12 season. While a few rookies were returned to their junior team or their European affiliate, such as Mika Zibanejad and Mark Scheifele.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: 11 games, 5 g and 6 a for 11 pts, +4 rating
Drafted first overall by the Oilers last June, RNH has clicked instantly with fellow youngsters Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The offensively gifted Nugent-Hopkins sees the ice well and has great offensive instincts for a 18 year-old rookie. Expect the 6’1”, 175-lbs to slow as the season advances because of his slightly-built frame.
Projections: 77 games, 32 g and 34 a for 66 pts, +7 rating
2. Luke Adam, Buffalo Sabres: 10 games, 3 g and 6 a for 9 pts, +0 rating
After winning the AHL of the Year Rookie Award with the Portland Pirates last season, Adam didn’t have anything else to prove in the minors. As a result, Adam was promoted to the big club in training camp and slotted between sniper Tomas Vanek and captain Jason Pominville with great success. With Derek Roy and Ville Leino struggling, the 21 year-old Adam will most likely remain in the Sabres’ top-six, providing him plenty of ice-time along the way.
Projections: 80 games, 22 g and 42 a for 64 pts, +2 rating
3. Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers: 11 games, 3 g and 4 a for 7 pts, +3 rating
Read, who has never been drafted, is a 25 year-old centre who came out of nowhere and made de Flyers out of training camp. Something that was made possible after the team traded both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the summer. Gifted with a good shot and a great ability to make offensive players, the speedster Read is a well-rounded player and will stick with the Flyers since he’s on a one-way deal.
Projections: 78 games, 20 g and 37 a for 57 pts, +10 rating
4. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: 11 games, 4 g and 3 a for 7 pts, +3 rating
Drafted second overall by the Avalanche last June, right behind Nugent-Hopkins, the 18 year-old Swede has made a big impact so far with a surprising Avalanche team. Landeskog is more a shooter than a playmaker as shown by his 43 shots on goal this year, second in the NHL only behind James Neal. Landeskog has acclimated well to North America, but he has yet to play an 82-game season so he will likely have tougher stretches ahead.
Projections: 76 games, 27 g and 26 a for 53 pts, +5 rating
5. Colin Greening, Ottawa Senators: 12 games, 4 g and 4 a for 8 pts, -5 rating
After getting a taste of the NHL in 2010-11, played 24 games with the Senators, notching six goals and seven assists for 13 points, the 25 year-old is not your typical rookie as he’s a late bloomer. However, with Ottawa’s flagrant lack of depth up front, Greening will get plenty of playing time in their top-six. Greening is currently playing with red-hot Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on the Senators’ top-line so he will get every opportunity to produce.
Projections: 81 games, 24 g and 27 a for 51 pts, -10 rating
6. Craig Smith, Nashville Predators: 11 games, 4 g and 5 a for 9 pts, +0 rating
Coming out of the university ranks, Smith was widely unknown before the season. With the lack of depth up front in Nashville, a good training camp propelled Smith in the Predators’ top-six to start the season and he hasn’t disappointed. The 22 year-old centre who has yet to play more than 58 games in a single season, will be hard pressed to continue producing for the low-scoring Predators.
Projections: 77 games, 22 g and 26 a for 48 pts, +2 rating
7. Roman Horak, Calgary Flames: 7 games, 2 g and 3 a for 5 pts, +3 rating
Despite a poor training game, Horak was stayed with the big club after being acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Tim Erixon. Horak, who is currently playing on the Flames’ third line with Lee Stempniak and Rene Bourque, Widely unknown in fantasy circles, Horak scored 78 points in 64 games last season for the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL.
Projections: 75 games, 21 g and 24 a for 45 pts, +1 rating
Honorable mentions: Sean Couturier (Flyers), Ryan Johansen (Blue Jackets), Rafael Diaz (Canadiens), Jake Gardiner (Maple Leafs), David Rundblad (Senators), Marc-Andre Gragnani (Sabres)
Note: early season favorite Braydon Schenn is out with a broken foot and will miss four-to-six weeks of play ruling him out of the Calder race.
Fred is a freelance sports write and translator, as well as a featured Montreal Canadiens blogger on http://hockeyindependent.com/blog/ and a baseball columnist on http://www.dobberbaseball.com/. Fred also joined www.habsaddict.com in time for the 2011-12 season.
About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish. http://twitter.com/FredPoulin98 www.traductions-quebec.com