January 10, 2011
The rookie race for the Calder Trophy has been fascinating all season, primarily because the frontrunners for the prize aren't exactly the preseason favorites. It's been like watching a Battle Royal for the belt in which the two biggest stars in the ring went over the top rope in the first minute.
No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall(notes) of the Edmonton Oilers is in the mix: Seven points in his last 10 games, Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun sees him as stalking the field and on pace for a 25-goal, 50-point rookies season that "would compare favourably with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos(notes) and his 23-23-46 season two years ago, or John Tavares(notes) and his 24-30-54 point season for the New York Islanders last year."
Neither of whom won the Calder, of course. Can Hall?
Couture is a 21-year-old who played 25 games (5-4-9) last year with the Sharks, plus another 15 games in the playoffs. One more regular-season game and he wouldn't be eligible as a rookie this season.
How can a guy with 25 regular-season games and 15 playoff games be considered a rookie? Most hockey people tend to view playoff game experience as being worth two or three games of regular-season experience.
But Jones concedes that "eligible is eligible," so it's up to the voters to determine whether Hall's "true" freshman performance at 19 is given more weight than Couture's 15 postseason appearances.
Of course, this debate could be academic for two reasons: First, because Skinner is on pace for 64 points and 28 goals, which doesn't rank with the offensive players post-lockout that have won the Calder but would give him the points lead among rookies. If Couture could hit 35 goals, it would be the highest Calder-winner total since Alex Ovechkin(notes) in 2006 and second-highest of the last 16 years.
Second, because the goaltenders eligible for the away may eclipse the forwards:
Couture's potential 35 goals vs. Skinner's potential 64 points vs. the numbers put up by goalies like Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers and Corey Crawford(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks? Throw in the defensemen like Cam Fowler(notes) of the Anaheim Ducks, Kevin Shattenkirk(notes) of the Colorado Avalanche and John Carlson(notes) of the Washington Capitals, and this thing could still be anyone's award.