Aaron Ekblad, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Stone voted Calder Trophy finalists

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 11: Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the New Jersey Devils at the BB&T Center on April 11, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers, Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames and Mark Stone of the Ottawa are the three finalists for the 2014-15 Calder Memorial Trophy which is “given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition,” the National Hockey League announced on Thursday.

All finalists are definitely deserving in different ways, and you could make a case for all of them.

The glaring omission here is Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, who seemed like the slam dunk winner of this award for most of the season, until he fell off down the stretch. From March 4 until March 28, Forsberg had just four points and one goal. Meanwhile, Gaudreau had 16 points in March and four in four games in April. Stone had 35 points in his final 31 games played. Ekblad continued his solid man-child type play all season, crunching upwards of 20 minutes as an 18/19-year-old. The issue is whether the voting populous of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association awarded Ekblad for just being uncommonly good at such a young age, or if he was indeed a better rookie than at least Forsberg and John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars – another snub not getting near the attention of Forsberg at least in the early social media outrage. Oh well, there were just a lot of good options this year.

Anyway, here are your finalists and why they deserve this award...

Why Aaron Ekblad Deserves The Calder

From the NHL:

Ekblad, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, set club records for goals (12), assists (27) and points (39) by a rookie defenseman. His 39 points were two shy of the NHL record for an 18-year-old defenseman (at the start of the season), set by Bobby Orr in 1966-67 (13-28—41). Ekblad led the Panthers in plus-minus (+12) and was on the ice for 88 Florida goals scored, the most of any player on the roster. The Windsor, Ont., native is aiming to become the second Panthers player to capture the Calder in three years, following Jonathan Huberdeau's win in 2013.

So you’re comparing Ekblad to Bobby Orr? Give him the Calder, just due to proximity of reference. You can’t judge defense the same as forward. But whether Ekblad was 18, or 22, he was an excellent rookie for the Panthers this season. His 21:48 of ice-time per-game was most amongst rookies who played over 80 games. Also, Ekblad’s shot attempts differential was a plus-184, second to Forsberg.

Why Johnny Gaudreau Deserves The Calder

From the NHL:

A fourth-round selection (104th overall) by the Flames in the 2011 NHL Draft, Gaudreau recorded 24-40—64 to finish in a tie in points with Stone atop the rookie scoring list. He ranked first among all rookies in assists (40) and power-play goals (eight), and topped rookie forwards in average ice time per game (17:43). The 21-year-old Salem, N.J., native recorded his first career hat trick on Dec. 22, becoming the youngest Flames player to do so since Dec. 28, 1987 (Joe Nieuwendyk). Gaudreau is vying to become the first Flames player to earn Calder Trophy honors since Sergei Makarov in 1990.

Um, why did the NHL not include Gaudreau’s desire to light his stick on fire during the All-Star skills competition? Gaudreau was a major reason why the Flames made the playoffs. After captain Mark Giordano went down in early March, Gaudreau turned into a point-per-game player for Calgary. Even though his advanced stats, like the rest of Calgary, were not great with a minus-152 SAT differential. The Flames kept winning and he kept scoring.

Why Mark Stone Deserves The Calder?

From the NHL:

Stone, a sixth-round selection (178th overall) by Ottawa in 2010, recorded 26-38—64 to finish first in the rookie scoring race. That featured 14-21—35 dating to Feb. 10 (31 GP), including a rookie club record nine-game point streak to end the season (8-5—13). Stone capped his performance with two goals in the season finale to help the team complete its successful playoff drive. He also led all rookies in plus-minus (+21) and shared first in the League in takeaways (98). The 22-year-old Winnipeg native would become the second player in franchise history to win the Calder, joining Daniel Alfredsson in 1996.

This would be mostly based on Stone’s epic run at the end of the regular season. With the exception of Erik Karlsson, he was probably Ottawa’s top offensive player. Plus, being the highest-scoring rookie in the NHL counts for a lot when it comes to the Calder.

Who Wins The Calder?

Stone

He plays in an Eastern Canadian market with greater visibility than the other two. He went on an incredible run at the end of the season to win the rookie scoring title. The Senators probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without his end-of-season play. Plus, there are probably some voters who saw his name on the top of the scoresheet and picked him automatically because of this fact. He will definitely be deserving if he wins it, but also a lot plays in his favor.

Our Top Choice

Ekblad

Defensemen have to be judged differently in awards where they compete against forwards. His numbers aren’t as sexy as Stone’s or Gaudreau’s, but he was just solid for Florida all season long. He played big minutes, had really good puck possession numbers, and put up points and goals. Ekblad wasn’t just good for an 18-year-old. He was the best player of the three. Again, all three are deserving, but Ekblad, to us, was the best rookie this year.  

- - - - - - -

Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY