Hockey’s Future Calder Poll – December 2008

By HF Staff

There was a surprising amount of movement from top to bottom in the Hockey’s Future staff Calder poll in the past month, as not a single player held down the same position they did in November’s poll and four new names cracked the top 10.

1. Drew Doughty, D (LA)
6’1, 203 lbs. DOB: Dec. 8, 1989
Acquired: 1st round, second overall in 2008

In this season’s crop of rookie defensemen, Doughty is simply a man among boys. The Los Angeles Kings aren’t shy about admitting their first pick in 2008 has been arguably their best player this season, even though he just turned 19. He leads the next closest rookie in ice time by almost three minutes, logs more minutes than anyone on his team and is counted on as the Kings’ power play quarterback.

2. Kris Versteeg, RW (CHI)
5’10, 180 lbs. DOB: May 13, 1986
Acquired: Trade with Boston on Feb. 3, 2007

Versteeg is quickly removing any doubt pundits had about his hot start being a fluke. Two months into the season, Versteeg has maintained a near point-per-game pace and is slowly taking on more responsibility in Chicago. He currently leads all rookies in points and leads all rookie forwards in ice time.

3. Derick Brassard, C (CBJ)

6’1, 190 lbs. DOB: Sept. 22, 1987
Acquired: 1st round, 6th overall in 2006

The leading vote getter in the November Calder poll has slipped to third, but the decline has more to do with the elevated play of the two players who surpassed him than it does his own production. Brassard still sits second in rookie scoring with 20 points in 25 games and is tied for the lead on the Blue Jackets in plus/minus with an impressive +8.

4. Steve Mason, G (CBJ)
6’3, 186 lbs. DOB: May 29, 1988
Acquired: 3rd round, 69th overall in 2006

The Jackets seem to have an embarrassment of young, talented riches in their lineup these days. Last month, Brassard and Jakub Voracek were 1-2 in our Calder poll and now Mason has arrived on the scene. Canada’s World Junior hero in 2008 is the main man between the pipes in Columbus right now, at least temporarily. His 2.17 goals-against average is 10th in the NHL.

5. Patrik Berglund, C (STL)
6’4, 187 lbs. DOB: June 2, 1988
Acquired: 1st round, 25th overall in 2006

Paul Kariya was openly excited about playing alongside Berglund coming out of training camp and now it’s not hard to tell why. The big Swede has quietly, but firmly entrenched himself among the legitimate Calder Trophy candidates after scoring 16 points in his first 20 games. He has far and away the best plus-minus rating on the Blues at +11.

6. Blake Wheeler, RW (BOS)

6’5, 205 lbs. DOB: Aug. 31, 1986
Acquired: 1st round, 5th overall in 2004

It was widely expected Wheeler would need at least part of a season in the AHL to get accustomed to the pro game after three seasons at the University of Minnesota, but the hulking American has quickly proven he’s in the big league to stay. Wheeler isn’t overly physical for his size, but he uses his strength effectively to get space on the ice, proven by his nine goals and 15 points through 26 games. In early December, Wheeler’s +16 rating was best among rookies and on his team.

7. Mikhail Grabovski, C (TOR)

5’11, 179 lbs. DOB: Jan. 31, 1984
Acquired: Trade with Montreal on July 3, 2008

Grabovski’s start in Toronto was beginning to look awfully familiar to his days in Montreal – the talent was there, but he just couldn’t put it together. He didn’t score in his first seven games and he had just two points through his first 11 games, but suddenly things clicked and the Germany-born Belarussian went on the tear many expected he would sooner or later. Grabovski notched 16 points in his next 14 games, silencing critics. His 10 goals lead NHL rookies.

8. Jakub Voracek, RW (CBJ)

6’1, 205 lbs. DOB: Aug. 15, 1989
Acquired: 1st round, 7th overall in 2007

The former Halifax Moosehead got off to sizzling-hot start this season, but in an opposite-to-Grabovski sort of way, Voracek has been cold as of late. He hasn’t registered a point in four straight games and had just one goal and one assist in his past 13 games. Luckily, the young Czech had a solid enough start to keep him in Calder contention for the time being.

9. Luke Schenn, D (TOR)
6’2, 216 lbs. DOB: Nov. 2, 1989
Acquired: 1st round, 5th overall in 2008

Schenn kept up his all-out, defense-first approach and a physical element. Through 27 games, Schenn’s total offensive output was just two assists, but he was still logging top-four minutes on the Leafs and was still ranked second in rookie ice time. Before going down with a lower body injury in December, Schenn was leading all rookie skaters in hits and blocked shots.

10. Alex Goligoski, D (PIT)

5’11, 180 lbs. DOB: July 30, 1985
Acquired: 2nd round, 61st overall in 2004

At the beginning of the season, Goligoski was handed the unenviable responsibility of replacing the offensive presence of Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney on the blueline. A tall task for a 23-year-old rookie, but he has come through for the Penguins so far. Through 25 games, he had four goals and seven assists – including five power play points – and led all rookies in average power play ice time at four minutes, 33 seconds per game.

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