2015-16 Calder Poll: Same trio tops the January NHL rookie rankings

By Tony Piscotta

Nikolaj Ehlers - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Winnipeg Jets rookie forward Nikolaj Ehlers had a productive month of January which has left the Denmark native sitting ninth NHL rookie scoring with 24 points in 53 games (courtesy of Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

 

7. (5) Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues
Drafted in the third round (86th overall) in 2012

 

With top defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo in the St. Louis Blues’ lineup, Colton Parayko is not asked to play as large a role for his team as Gostisbehere is with the Flyers, but his impact in his first NHL season cannot be understated.

The 22-year-old from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks has been a solid two-way defender in his first pro season. Averaging over 19 minutes of ice time in 53 games, he has scored seven goals with 13 assists and is +17 with 20 penalty minutes.

Once again among the top teams in the Western Conference, St. Louis is chasing Dallas for second-placed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Parayko skated in 11 games in January and posted a +6 with three assists.

8. (9) Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted in the first round (first overall) in 2015

 

McDavid moved up one spot in this poll despite not playing a game in January. When he did finally return it became clear why he is still in the discussion.

While the Edmonton Oilers have struggled and are in danger of once again missing the playoffs, with a shot at the top overall draft pick for the fifth time in the last seven seasons, McDavid has been a bright spot. The Richmond Hill, Ontario native had points in three of his first four games upon his return.

The 19-year-old entered the league with high expectations after a dominant career for the OHL’s Erie Otters. While his -6 rating could be partly attributed to the Oilers’ lack of success, his offensive game and instincts have lived up to the advanced billing.

In his first 18 NHL games, McDavid has scored seven goals with 12 assists.

9. (NR) Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Winnipeg Jets
Drafted in the first round (ninth overall) in 2014

 

Playing out of the media spotlight in Winnipeg, the 19-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers has not gotten the attention of some of the other top rookies. But there are few players with his combination of skating, technical skills and offensive instincts. Despite his slender frame, he is not afraid to compete in small spaces and he can also play the point on the power play.

Ranked seventh in scoring amongst NHL rookies, Ehlers has frequently skated with veteran center Mathieu Perreault and has also spent time playing with Jets’ leading scorer Blake Wheeler. In his first 52 games this season, Ehlers has scored 12 goals with 12 assists and has an even plus/minus rating.

After struggling with just one assist in 12 games in December, Ehlers had a breakout month in January. In 12 games, he scored seven goals with three assists.

10. (T10) John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
Drafted in the second round (39th overall) in 2011

 

Now in his third pro season, John Gibson was rewarded with an All-Star selection after a strong first half of the season that included four shutouts.

Recalled at the end of November from the Anaheim Ducks‘ new AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, when starter Frederik Andersen was stricken with the flu, Gibson’s play made veteran Anton Khudobin expendable (Kudobin was placed on waivers on December 14th and was subsequently assigned to the Gulls).

Still considered a rookie despite appearing in 23 games last season, Gibson has matched that number this year and is currently 12-8-0-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Gibson also played well in the inaugural NHL All-Star tournament, making a late save to preserve the Pacific team’s 1-0 shutout win in the championship game.

Thanks to the combination of Andersen and Gibson, the Ducks have been one of the league’s toughest teams in terms of allowing goals against (123), trailing only Washington, Florida and Los Angeles in that category. As a result, Anaheim is currently fighting with San Jose for second in the Pacific Division despite scoring a league-low 115 goals.

Following back-to-back shutouts at the end of December, Gibson allowed 16 goals in seven games in January and was 4-3-0-0 with a .909 save percentage.

Others receiving votes (in voting order): Louis Domingue, G, Arizona Coyotes; Anthony Duclair, LW, Arizona Coyotes; Joonas Donskoi, RW, San Jose Sharks; Shea Theodore, D, Anaheim Ducks; Sam Bennett, C/W, Calgary Flames; Sam Reinhart, RW, Buffalo Sabres.

Calder Poll for December, 2015

Follow Tony Piscotta on Twitter via @Piscottas_Way

 

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