Calder Trophy candidates 2008-09

By HF Staff

With NHL rosters taking form for 2008-09, it’s now possible to determine the leading candidates for the Calder Memorial Trophy — otherwise known as rookie of the year.

While Steve Stamkos’ arrival in Tampa has received the most hype, history has shown that it’s usually not a newly-drafted player who wins the award. Last year, Patrick Kane was actually unusual having won it straight out of junior. Typically, the winner has some minor league or international pro experience.   

Is the Calder profile changing in the post-lockout era? Two of the three winners in this period were drafted the previous summer (Kane and Alexander Ovechkin).  Hockey is a young man’s game now — does that make the Calder winner an even younger man?  That’s a question time will sort out.

Positionally, the award does favor forwards. Not only is defense harder to step into as a rookie, it’s very hard for a defenseman to attract attention with lower point totals. Only two blueliners won in the last 15 years awarded, Bryan Berard and Barret Jackman. Defensemen won just 13% of the time in that period, despite making up 33% of a six-man unit. Forwards won 67% of the time, while making up 50% of the group.  Last year all three finalists were forwards — Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, and Kane. Goaltenders are a bit over-represented at 20% to 17%.  Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Nabokov and Andrew Raycroft all won the award among active goaltenders.

Circumstances play a big role as well. Rookies who get an immediate opportunity for top-line minutes have the advantage in the race.  That’s more likely to happen on a team that isn’t as deep in scoring.

Below are the top expected rookies on teams projected to be out of the playoffs this year:
NY Islanders: Kyle Okposo
Los Angeles: Brian Boyle, Ted Purcell, Erik Ersberg
Columbus: Jakub Voracek, Derick Brassard
Carolina: Brandon Sutter
St. Louis: T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund
Florida: Shawn Matthias
Phoenix: Kyle Turris, Kevin Porter
Nashville: Patric Hornqvist

Kyle Okposo (NYI) got on the fast track to the NHL last year, leaving the University of Minnesota mid-year and then playing in the AHL for 35 games and the NHL for nine. Kyle Turris (PHO) will have competition on his own team, with Kevin Porter coming off a 63-point season with the University of Michigan. Claude Giroux made his NHL debut at the end of last season, but may not see enough top minutes for Philadelphia to put him into contention. 

Nikita Filatov is a popular name due to him being embroiled in controversy, but he didn’t have enough Super League experience last year to make him a likely candidate even if he does end up with the Blue Jackets. Nikolai Kulemin (TOR) put up 33 points in 57 games in the Russian Super league last year, down from his high in 2006-07. Another Russian, Alexander Nikulin, will likely suit up for Ottawa, having played two NHL games last year.

Goaltender Brian Elliott is expected to make the jump this season. Los Angeles’ Erik Ersberg is another goaltender in the mix –- the 26-year-old played 14 NHL games last season, posting a .927 save percentage.  Detroit’s Jimmy Howard could emerge if one of Chris Osgood or Ty Conklin were injured.

The Fabian Brunnstrom hype machine was in full force this summer, but he’s unlikely to put up big numbers in the NHL for Dallas. Another older European making the jump is Janne Pesonen.  The 26-year-old has been signed by Pittsburgh after a 78-point season in 56 games in the Finnish league.

In Tampa, Stamkos will have to share power play time with veterans like Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Recchi. Patric Hornqvist will likely make the move over with Nashville and he could surprise. Chicago’s Jack Skille will try to keep the award in town.  He had five points in 16 NHL games last year.

If a defenseman does challenge, a likely candidate would be Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski.  He put up 28 points in the AHL playoffs last season, having played in three NHL games during the regular season.

Those who have had some exposure to the NHL already, but are under 25 games per the rules, have a leg up on the competition.  Bobby Ryan of Anaheim has almost the maximum experience, with 23 games played last year.  He may not see enough top six minutes for the Ducks to produce enough to win the prize, however. Derick Brassard had some good point totals in junior and the AHL, but the fact that he only put up two points in 17 NHL games last year is concerning.

With all of that examined, here are the 15 leading candidates, in alphabetical order.

Leading candidates for the 2008-09 Calder Trophy

Player Pos Age on Sept 15 Team NHL gp Prev team
Brian Boyle F 23 LA 8 Manchester (AHL)
Brian Elliott G 23 OTT 1 Binghamton (AHL)
Erik Ersberg G 26 LA 14 Manchester (AHL)
Claude Giroux W 20 PHI 2 Gatineau (QMJHL)
Alex Goligoski D 23 PIT 3 WBS (AHL)
Patric Hornqvist W 21 NAS 0 Djurgardens (SEL)
Nikolai Kulemin W 22 TOR 0 Magnitogorsk (RSL)
Shawn Matthias C 20 FLA 4 Belleville (OHL)
Kyle Okposo W 20 NYI 9 Bridgeport (AHL)
T.J. Oshie C 19 STL 0 UND (NCAA)
Kevin Porter C 22 PHO 0 Univ. of Mich (NCAA)
Bobby Ryan  W 21 ANA 23 Portland (AHL)
Steven Stamkos C 18 TB 0 Sarnia (OHL)
Kyle Turris C 19 PHO 3 Univ. of Wisc (NCAA)
Jakub Voracek W 19 CLB 0 Halifax (QMJHL)

Too old to qualify: Petr Ledin (30 years old), Garrett Stafford (28).
Players with too many games to qualify: Ryan O’Byrne (33 games), T.J. Hensick (31) Roman Polak (25), Mikhail Grabovski (27), Enver Lisin (30), David Koci (27).
Barely maintaining their eligibility: Steve Wagner (24 games), Bobby Ryan (23) Ryan Parent (22), Cody Bass (21).

Past Winners

Year Player Pos. Age Team Team finish
1992–93  Selanne, Teemu RW  23 WIN 22nd
1993–94  Brodeur, Martin G  21 NJ 2nd
1994–95  Forsberg, Peter C  21 QUE 2nd
1995–96  Alfredsson, Daniel RW  22 OTT 26th
1996–97  Berard, Bryan D  19 NYI 22nd
1997–98  Samsonov, Sergei LW  18 BOS 8th
1998–99  Drury, Chris C  22 COL 4th
1999–00  Gomez, Scott C  19 NJ 4th
2000–01  Nabokov, Evgeni G  25 SJ 11th
2001–02  Heatley, Dany RW  20 ATL 30th
2002–03  Jackman, Barret D  21 STL 8th
2003–04  Raycroft, Andrew G  23 BOS 4th
2004–05  No winner (lockout)         
2005–06  Ovechkin, Alexander LW  19 WAS 27th
2006–07  Malkin, Evgeni C  20 PIT 10th
2007–08  Kane, Patrick RW  19 CHI 20th

Eligibility rules:
1. 26 years old or younger by September 15 of their rookie season.

2. A player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.