This is a wide-open season for the Calder Memorial Trophy, an award given to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie at season’s end.
Top 2008 pick Steve Stamkos didn’t record a point until his eighth NHL game and didn’t score a goal until his ninth game. Kyle Turris, a pre-season favorite, has also had a slower start than expected.
Below are the results of a poll of Hockey’s Future staff, who ranked favorites for the award.
As has been the case historically, it is a slightly older rookie who leads the pack.
1. Derick Brassard, C (CBJ)
6’1, 190 lbs. DOB: Sept. 22, 1987
Acquired: 1st round, 6th overall in 2006
After a much-needed year of seasoning in the minors and two points in 17 games with Columbus last season, Brassard has burst onto the NHL scene in style, trotting along at a point-per-game pace through 12 games this season. At just 21 years of age, the Hull, Que. native is showing signs of becoming a bona fide No. 1 centerman. He’s currently tied for the lead on his team in plus/minus with a plus-four rating and leads Columbus in scoring, despite ranking 16th on the team in average ice time at just under 14 minutes a game.
2. Jakub Voracek, RW (CBJ)
6’1, 205 lbs. DOB: Aug. 15, 1989
Acquired: 1st round, 7th overall in 2007
Unlike his linemate Brassard, it’s become evident that Voracek didn’t need a year of seasoning in the minors. Instead, the Kladno, Czech Republic native made the jump to the bigs from Halifax of the QMJHL as a 19-year-old. The transition so far has been smooth: 10 points through 13 games has him tied for second both on his team and in overall rookie scoring. The fact Columbus has two rookies leading the team offensively right now bodes very well for the Jackets’ future.
3. Drew Doughty, D (LA)
6’1, 203 lbs. DOB: Dec. 8, 1989
Acquired: 1st round, 2nd overall in 2008
There was little doubt that Doughty could step in and make an impact right away with the Los Angeles Kings. He’s only reached the score sheet with one goal so far, but Doughty has shown all the makings of a future No. 1 defenseman just one month into his career. He currently leads all rookies in ice time at nearly 22 minutes per game and sits tied for second among first-year players with a plus-five rating.
4. Luca Sbisa, D (PHI)
6’2, 190 lbs. DOB: Jan. 30, 1990
Acquired: 1st round, 19th overall in 2008
Sbisa has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers one month into the season. He wasn’t really counted on to make the NHL club out of training camp, but the 18-year-old stepped up in a big way. He’s currently seeing top-four minutes on the Flyers’ blueline, leads rookie defenders in scoring with six assists and sits tied for the defenseman scoring lead in Philadelphia.
5. Kris Versteeg, RW (CHI)
5’10, 180 lbs. DOB: May 13, 1986
Acquired: Trade with Boston on Feb. 3, 2007
Versteeg put up solid, but not outstanding numbers in four years in the WHL, but somehow became a near point-per-game scorer in the AHL. At any rate, Versteeg bided his time in the minors and the hard work is paying off now with a hot start with the Blackhawks. He’s got 10 points through 12 games to go with a plus-six rating – best among rookies – and nearly 18 minutes in ice time per game – best among rookie forwards. He’s playing top-six minutes in Chicago and giving the coaching staff no reason to change that.
6. Luke Schenn, D (TOR)
6’2, 216 lbs. DOB: Nov. 2, 1989
Acquired: 1st round, 5th overall in 2008
Whether to keep Schenn with the Leafs or send him back to junior was a hotly-contested debate as training camp ended and again as the nine-game threshold came and went, but ultimately the young Saskatchewan native showed more than enough defensive prowess to solidify his spot on a crowded Toronto blueline. Schenn’s two points and minus-three rating through 13 games don’t do justice to what he brings to the Leafs, namely his stabilizing defense-first approach and hard-nosed game. Among rookies, he currently sits second in hits and first in blocked shots. He also ranks second in ice time among rookies and on the Maple Leafs.
7. Fabian Brunnstrom, LW (DAL)
6’2, 203 lbs. DOB: Feb. 6, 1985
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on May 8, 2008
The bidding war that went on for the rights to Brunnstrom’s services last summer is well documented. Dallas won and it’s safe to say co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson were smiling after the slick Swede’s first game. Brunnstrom became the third player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his first NHL game, this after being a healthy scratch in the Stars’ first two regular season games. But since his big first game, he hasn’t followed it up strongly. After four goals and five points in his first four games, he totaled one goal and a minus-seven rating in his next six.
8. Oscar Moller, C (LA)
5’11, 180 lbs. DOB: Jan. 22, 1989
Acquired: 2nd round, 52nd overall in 2008
Moller has been nothing short of a pleasant surprise so far this season for the Kings. To date, he has four goals – three on the power play – and six points while averaging 14 and a half minutes of ice in 11 games. On the downside, the center was winning just one-third of his faceoffs. However, his four power-play points are tied with Sbisa for the rookie lead to date.
9. Alex Goligoski, D (PIT)
5’11, 180 lbs. DOB: July 30, 1985
Acquired: 2nd round, 61st overall in 2004
Goligoski really blossomed during the 2008 Calder Cup playoffs where he notched 28 points in 23 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. When Pittsburgh’s best two offensive defensemen – Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney – went down to injury, the window of opportunity was pried wide open for the young blueliner. He has performed well so far, with three goals and an assist through 11 games while leading all rookies in power play ice time per game.
10. Jannik Hansen, RW (VAN)
6’1, 201 lbs. DOB: Mar. 15, 1986
Acquired: 9th round, 287th overall in 2004
Hansen has been a valuable part of a Vancouver squad that quickly silenced critics who suggested the team wouldn’t be able to score. Hansen has only managed 16 shots through 11 games, but has contributed three goals and seven points offensively while ranking 10th among forwards on his team in average ice time. Not bad for the fifth-to-last pick in the 2004 draft.