Calder Trophy candidates for 2009-10

By Ian Altenbaugh

With 2009-10 NHL rosters mostly in place, it is time to look at the leading candidates for the league’s rookie of the year award, the Calder Memorial Trophy.

The most recent recipient, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason, was a real dark horse going into the 2008-09 season as the Blue Jackets at the time seemed to be set in net with Pascal Leclaire. However, after injuries struck Leclaire in late October and the team’s other backups proved ineffective, the way for Mason was paved.

A growing trend since the lockout year of 2004-05 has been the number of players who have made an impact in the NHL only months after being drafted. Last year, 2008-draftees Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Mikkel Boedker, Joshua Bailey, and Viktor Tikhonov all played over half of the season for their respective organizations. Five others had cups of coffee. That being said, it remains rare that a draftee from the previous summer wins the trophy.

The past has shown that forwards have the positional advantage over defensemen and goaltenders in winning the award. Since the lockout, Mason is the only non-forward to receive the award, the other winners being Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Kane. Over the past 10 seasons, the award has gone to three goalies, six forwards, and one defenseman.

Circumstance is also a major factor in determining a player’s success in his rookie campaign. Typically, it is because a rebuilding team lacks sufficient NHL-caliber depth, or it is because the team has been ravaged by injuries that a rookie is able to come in and play top minutes.

With that in mind, here are the top rookies on teams projected to be out of the playoffs this season:

Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene, Ryan Stoa
Los Angeles Kings: Thomas Hickey
New York Islanders: John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonas Gustavsson, Tyler Bozak
Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane
Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman
Buffalo Sabres: Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Tyler Myers

Forwards Nikita Filatov, Cody Hodgson, and Ville Leino are all penciled in to start the 2009-10 season in the NHL on teams projected to make the playoffs.

The first four picks of the 2008 draft, Tavares, Hedman, Duchene, and Kane have all been locked up to entry-level deals and all are foregone conclusions to start the season in the NHL. Tavares possesses the highest pedigree of the prospects but is also surrounded by the weakest supporting cast. Regardless, none of these players are expected to make the individual impact that players such as Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane did as 18-year-olds.

Gustavsson was one of the big free-agent pickups of the summer. A 24-year-old goaltender from Sweden, He was highly sought-after by many NHL organizations only to finally settle on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs starter remains Vesa Toskala, but if he flounders, Gustavsson will be given a legitimate shot at the job. 

Capitals rookie goaltender Semyon Varlamov secured his 2009-10 starting role in a dynamic playoff performance in the spring that eventually ended against the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Rookies with some previous NHL experience also possess an advantage in the Calder race. Nathan Gerbe, an undersized forward in the Sabres organization had a 10-game cup of coffee last season. Filatov appeared in eight games last season for the Blue Jackets and so did Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Hurricanes forward Zack Boychuk made a two-game appearance while Flames forward Mikael Backlund and Sabres forward Tim Kennedy each appeared in one game. Varlamov and Leino had the biggest NHL auditions, with both making an impact in their team’s respective playoff runs.

With that all in mind, here are 15 leading candidates in alphabetical order.

Leading candidates for the 2009-10 Calder Trophy

 

Player

Pos

Age on Sept 15

Team

NHL gp

  Prev team

Mikael Backlund

F

20

CGY

1

Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Zach Boychuk

F

19

CAR

1

Albany River Rats (AHL)

Matt Duchene

C

18

COL

0

Brampton Battalion (OHL)

Nikita Filatov

W

19

CLB

8

Syracuse Crunch (AHL)

Nathan Gerbe

F

22

BUF

10

Portland Pirates (AHL)

Jonas Gustavsson

G

24

TOR

0

Farjestads BK Karlstad (SEL)

Thomas Hickey

D

20

LA

0

Manchester Monarchs (AHL)

Cody Hodgson

C

19

VAN

0

Brampton Batallion (OHL)

Tim Kennedy

LW

22

BUF

1

Portland Pirates (AHL)

Ville Leino

LW

25

DET

13

Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

Tyler Myers

D

19

BUF

0

Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Alex Pietrangelo

D

19

STL

8

Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

Ryan Stoa

F

22

COL

0

U. of Minnesota (NCAA)

John Tavares

C

18

NYI

0

London Knights (OHL)

Semyon Varlamov

G

21

WAS

6

Hershey Bears (AHL)

Past Winners

Year

Player

Pos.

Age

Team

Team finish

1998–99 

Drury, Chris

22

COL

4th

1999–00 

Gomez, Scott

19

NJ

4th

2000–01 

Nabokov, Evgeni

25

SJ

11th

2001–02 

Heatley, Dany

RW 

20

ATL

30th

2002–03 

Jackman, Barret

21

STL

8th

2003–04 

Raycroft, Andrew

23

BOS

4th

2004–05 

No winner (lockout) 

 

 

 

 

2005–06 

Ovechkin, Alexander

LW 

19

WAS

27th

2006–07 

Malkin, Evgeni

20

PIT

10th

2007–08 

Kane, Patrick

RW 

19

CHI

20th

2009–09 

Mason, Steve

21

CLB

16th

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.