2014-15 Calder Poll: Predators’ Forsberg is top NHL rookie for November

By Tony Piscotta
Filip Forsberg - Nashville Predators

Photo: Nashville Predators rookie forward Flip Forsberg scored nine of his 12 goals in the month of November (courtesy of Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire)

 

For the second straight month, two players dominated the Hockey’s Future Calder Trophy monthly poll for the 2014-15 season. But this month’s top rookies – Filip Forsberg of Nashville and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau – are not the same two rookies who were nearly unanimous choices for the first and second spots in our November poll.

 

Last month’s leaders slid down the list, with New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson just missing the top 10 while Los Angeles Kings‘ left wing Tanner Pearson was part of a three-way tie for the fourth spot.

 

Aaron Ekblad moved into the spot as the poll’s top defenseman — moving up two spots to third behind Forsberg and Gaudreau.

 

Four players — including the first two goalies of the season — make their debuts in this month’s poll while Severson, Toronto defenseman Stuart Percy (now in the AHL with the Marlies), San Jose defenseman Mirco Mueller, and Carolina left wing Chris Terry slipped out of the top 10.

 

Surprising Winnipeg Jets‘ rookie goalie Michael Hutchinson and the St. Louis BluesJake Allen both moved ahead of Anaheim’s John Gibson, who just missed the list last month, and are in the seventh and 10th spots respectively.

 

Calgary’s Markus Granlund was the highest debuting player, tied with Pearson and Washington’s Andre Burakovsky for the fourth spot. Former Union College forward Josh Jooris, another Flames’ rookie, just missed the top 10. The other player making his debut in the top 10 is Dallas defenseman John Klingberg, who was in the ninth spot.

 

(#) – indicates spot in October poll; (N) – not in last month’s poll.

 

Hockey’s Future Calder Poll for November, 2014

 

1. (4) Filip Forsberg, LW, Nashville Predators

Acquired from Washington in 2013 trade

 

Forsberg was a unanimous pick as the top rookie according to the Hockey’s Future staff, and for good reason. Skating on the Predators’ top line with veterans Mike Ribiero and James Neal, the Swedish forward’s play has been as big a reason as any for Nashville’s surprising start.

 

The leading scorer among all rookies with 12 goals and 15 assists with a +23 rating in 26 games, the 20-year-old continues to impress on a nightly basis. Little was expected of Nashville this season, but under new head coach Peter Laviolette, the Predators continue to be one of the league’s top teams and are in a battle with St. Louis and Chicago for the top spot in the Central Division.

 

Forsberg scored nine goals with six assists and was +9 with four penalty minutes in 13 games in November, averaging 17:50 minutes of ice time.

 

2. (10) Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames

Drafted in the fourth round (104th overall) in 2011

 

As with the Predators, not much was expected of Calgary in the 2014-15 season. But with the infusion of several young forwards, defenseman Mark Giordano‘s emergence as the team’s leading scorer, and the outstanding goaltending of veterans Karri Ramo and Jonas Hillier, the Flames remain in striking distance of Anaheim and equally surprising Vancouver for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

 

Playing on a line with veteran Jiri Hudler and fellow rookie Jooris much of the time, Gaudreau has dispelled any concerns that he was not big enough to succeed at the NHL level and continues to display the offensive instincts that won him the Hobey Baker Award at Boston College last season. Second only to Forsberg among rookie scorers, he has also been a key part of the Flames’ power play with two goals and five assists so far this season.

 

In 13 games in November, Gaudreau scored two goals with nine assists and was +3, averaging 17:04 minutes of ice time.

 

3. (5) Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers

Drafted in the first round (1st overall) in 2014

 

The 18-year-old has moved right into the lineup for Florida and is currently tied with center Nick Bjugstad for the team lead in points. After struggling out of the gate, the Panthers have shown steady improvement, placing themselves in the middle of the competition for a playoff spot.

 

Ekblad is currently third among rookies with 18 points on five goals and 13 assists. Only Severson and Klingberg, the latter of whom has played 13 fewer games, have averaged more ice time than Ekblad (21:47 minutes per game) among first-year players.

 

In 13 games in November, Ekblad was +1 with his first two NHL goals and seven assists and had two penalty minutes while averaging 21:49 minutes of ice time per game.

 

4. (1) (tie) Tanner Pearson, LW, Los Angeles Kings

Drafted in the first round (1st overall) in 2014

 

Few expected Pearson to score at the same torrid pace with which he opened the season, and that has been the case. The 22-year-old, who skated in 25 regular season games for Los Angeles a year ago, was expected to be more of a sound two-way player who is reliable in all three zones of the ice while being more of a support player. That has been his role this season with the defending Stanley Cup champions.

 

While his 10 goals, seven of which came in the season’s opening month, still trail only Forsberg (12) among rookies, he scored just two goals with one assist in 13 games in November and was +2 while seeing significantly less ice time (12:46) than many of the other first-year players.

 

Pearson’s role for the Kings’ is a valuable one and cannot be understated. But in terms of Calder Trophy consideration he is not likely to have the offensive numbers which attract voters. As they did a year ago, the Kings are hovering around the fringes of the playoff race but it would not surprise if they once again made a push for the Cup if they earn a playoff spot.

 

4. (3) (tie) Andre Burakovsky, C, Washington Capitals

Drafted in the first round (23rd overall) in 2013

 

Like Pearson, Burakovsky has cooled a bit after getting off to a fast start. He has seen less ice time on a Washington team that has had fits and starts under new coach Barry Trotz, looking very strong on some nights and struggling to score goals on others.

 

Still only 19, Burakovsky is a creative offensive player who will likely experience growing pains while learning to play at the NHL level. Long-term, his skill set should allow him to be a consistent scorer for years to come. He is currently tied for third among rookies with Pearson and Vancouver’s Linden Vey with 13 points (four goals, nine assists).

 

Burakovsky skated in 14 games for the Capitals in November, scoring two goals with three assists, and was -3, averaging 13:11 minutes of ice time.

 

4. (N) (tie) Markus Granlund, C, Calgary Flames

Drafted in the second round (45th overall) in 2011

 

Often overshadowed by his older brother Mikael of the Minnesota Wild — and by teammates Gaudreau and Jooris this season – the 21-year-old forward from Oulu, Finland has come into his own for the Flames.

 

Many fans in Calgary got their first glimpse of Granlund when he skated at the 2012 World Junior Championship on Finland’s top line with his brother Mikael and Detroit Red Wings‘ prospect Teemu Pulkkinen. More of a playmaker than a true scorer, Granlund has provided a spark to the Flames offense after being recalled from AHL affiliate Adirondack at the end of October. He has cooled a bit since his fast start, recording just one point in his last eight games, but his fast start attracted the attention of our staff.

 

In 13 games in November, Granlund scored three goals with five assists and was +1 with six penalty minutes, averaging 15:50 minutes of ice time.

 

7. (N) Michael Hutchinson, G, Winnipeg Jets

Drafted in the third round (77th overall) in 2008 by Boston

 

Fans in Manitoba got their first glimpse of the former Bruins prospect this past April when he won two of three starts — including his first career win, ironically coming against Boston. The 24-year-old is a big reason, along with veteran Ondrej Pavelec, that the offensively-challenged Jets are hanging around and competing for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. Winnipeg’s 69 goals scored in its first 29 games are eighth fewest in the league, one more than New Jersey, but the Jets are the seventh-best defensive team, yielding just 66 goals.

 

Pavelec has made the bulk of the starts for Winnipeg, sporting a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 22 games. But when called upon, Hutchinson has been more than merely a solid backup. In his first 10 appearances, Hutchinson is 6-1-2 with one shutout and has a 1.67 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. While numbers like that are almost impossible to maintain over the course of the season, he is certainly the leading Calder candidate (admittedly a longshot) among goalies.

 

In six games in November, including five starts, Hutchinson was 4-0-2, including a 33-save, 1-0 shutout at Chicago on November 3rd, and had a 1.22 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.

 

8. (9) Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Drafted in the first round (3rd overall) in 2013

 

Tampa Bay has a stable of talented young forwards and has scored a league-leading 101 goals in its first 29 games in racing out to the lead in the Atlantic Division. That depth has allowed Lightning second-year coach Jon Cooper the luxury of working the highly-touted Drouin into the lineup at a comfortable pace, but has also limited the opportunities for the former Halifax Mooseheads’ star.

 

A candidate to play for Canada at the 2015 World Juniors, though that seems unlikely, Drouin has scored one goal so far but has 10 assists in his first 20 games. He missed five games at the beginning of the season due to a finger injury and was a healthy scratch four times.

 

In 11 November games, Drouin had five assists and was an even plus/minus, averaging 11:56 minutes of ice time per game.

 

9. John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars

Drafted in the first round (25th overall) in 2011

 

Recalled by the Stars from AHL affiliate Texas on November 9th, the 22-year-old from Sweden has made an immediate impact at defense for a Dallas team that features the league’s top scorer in Tyler Seguin but at the same time has struggled to keep the puck out of its own net.

 

Paired with several partners, including fellow rookie and November call-up Jyrki Jokipakka, as veteran coach Lindy Ruff tries to find the right mix on the blueline for the Stars, Klingberg has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time with a team leading +6 rating in his first 14 NHL games.

 

In his first 10 games in November, Klingberg scored three goals with five assists and was +6 while averaging 23:02 minutes of ice time.

 

10. Jake Allen, G, St. Louis Blues

Drafted in the second round (38th overall) in 2009

 

Playing well as a backup to veteran Brian Elliott on one of the league’s top teams, Allen was suddenly pushed into the spotlight when Elliott went down with a lower-body injury at the end of November. St. Louis subsequently signed future Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, so how much action Allen sees before Elliott’s return remains to be seen.

 

Now in his fifth pro season, Allen appeared in 15 games with the Blues in 2012-13 and was one of the top goalies in the AHL last season for the Chicago Wolves. He started off well this season when called upon. In his first 13 games, Allen was 8-3-1 with two shutouts and had a 2.50 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.

 

Whether it was the pressure of having to be the starter, the addition of Brodeur or just a little slump, Allen struggled in his two most recent outings — allowing four goals in a loss to Chicago on December 3rd and then being pulled after allowing three goals in the first period three days later against the Islanders (with Brodeur taking over, the Blues eventually erased a 3-0 deficit to win 6-4 in that game).

 

The Fredericton, NB native made seven starts in November while appearing in eight games in all, and was 6-1-1 with one shutout while posting a 2.48 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

 

Others receiving votes (in order): Damon Severson, D, New Jersey Devils; Josh Jooris, C/W, Calgary Flames; Vincent Trocheck, C, Florida Panthers; Vladislav Namestnikov, C, Tampa Bay Lightning; Mike Hoffman, LW, Ottawa Senators; Mark Stone, RW, Ottawa Senators; Seth Griffith, C, Boston Bruins; Jiri Sekac, LW, Montreal Canadiens; Niklas Svedberg, G, Boston Bruins; Curtis Lazar, C, Ottawa Senators; Nikita Zadorov, D, Buffalo Sabres.

 

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