November 20, 2008
The Calder Trophy race this season is rather fascinating, in the sense that the crop of rookies are making such an impact early in the season. After getting drafted this summer, Luke Schenn (20:55) and Drew Doughty (22:48) are averaging more time on ice than Pavel Kubina (20:21) and Sean O'Donnell (21:33). Amazing.
The Hockey News bugged about 25 writers who are affiliated with the publication for their rookie of the year Top 5 lists. Here are the top three vote-getters:
After spending most of last season with Syracuse of the American League, the sixth overall pick in 2006 is leading all rooks with 19 points in 18 games. The 21-year-old center garnered 14 of 25 first place votes.
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings - 161 points
The Kings are flush with talented young blueliners, but Doughty is the ace. His skating and puck-moving ability is obvious, but he's also a team-leading plus-6 to go along with his pair of goals and six points.
The Hawks have made a number of crafty moves both on and off the ice in returning the team to contention, but grabbing Versteeg, second in rookie scoring, from the Bruins for Brandon Bochenski in '07 is perhaps the shrewdest.
Damn right. That trade is looking like one of the steals of the decade. Well, at least through 18 games.
Seriously, if you're going to choose five rookies, would Stamkos even come close to surpassing guys like Mikhail Grabovski of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Alex Goligoski of the Pittsburgh Penguins or even Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers of the Edmonton Oilers?
Maybe the Stamkos voters were projecting what the Calder field will look like at season's end. With that in mind, we ask: Is there any way either Brassard or Doughty don't end up winning this award?
Brassard is beginning to earn some glowing reviews in the MSM, including Wes Goldstein's recent column for Sportsline:
... Brassard was forced to share some of the newcomer spotlight at camp in Columbus because other prized rookies Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filitov were around.
"I think it was good for all of us to be there together," Brassard said. "It took some of the pressure off each of us."
Obviously, since Brassard adapted well enough to become the NHL rookie of the month for October. He outscored all first-year players in the opening month, and currently leads the Blue Jackets with 19 points, while currently riding a five-game point streak. In fact Brassard has only been kept off the scoring sheet in three games so far.
Moreover, Brassard has become the quarterback of the team's power play, and after starting the season on the second line between Voracek and Jason Chimera, he has been moved up to the anchor the Blue Jackets top line.
If I were a betting man, however, I'd wager on Doughty winning the Calder for three reasons:
1. He represents this amazing moment in the NHL where teenage players have been able to step in and make a difference for their teams.
2. As good as Brassard is, it's still going to be a challenge to keep up the offensive pace he's established, even playing up with Rick Nash. At this point last season, Patrick Kane had 22 points in his Calder-winning campaign. Doughty, meanwhile, hasn't even scratched the surface of his offensive potential this season; plus, his criteria for the trophy aren't strictly numbers-based.
3. If you believe in these types of things, then a defenseman is "due" for the Calder. And there's a very good chance Doughty could be at the top of a very, very good rookie class for blueliners.
4. The inspirational weight loss from the summer, catering to the "Biggest Loser" crowd. Nah, let's keep it at three reasons.
Or Stamkos could flourish under Rick Tocchet, make a stunning statistic comeback and win the Calder based on that impressive turnaround. That's gotta be where those five points in the voting came from, right?