Hockey's Future polled their staff to find out who their choice was for the 2012 Calder Trophy. It was a tight race between Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog and Edmonton center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with Landeskog eventually taking the honor.
The primary reason for selecting Landeskog over Nugent-Hopkins was durability. Landeskog managed to appear in all 82 games in the NHL regular season, while Nugent-Hopkins appeared in only 62.
Landeskog had an excellent rookie season as the big physical winger showed why many hockey people thought he was the most NHL-ready draft choice in the 2011 NHL Entry draft. He scored 22 goals (second amongst rookies, first on his team), six goals on the power play (second for rookies) along with 30 assists (third for rookies) and a plus-20 rating (second for rookies and 1st on his team) while taking 270 shots (first by far) as well as dishing out 219 hits in 82 NHL games. The versatile rookie forward played on his team's power play and penalty killing units for the whole 2011-12 season.
The thickly built winger saw his playing time increase the last three months of the season to over 19 minutes per game. His drive to the oppositions net with the puck was exceptional and seemed to fuel his teammates to play harder down the stretch in the playoff race. His performance was so stellar that it left Avalanche fans wondering, what would his numbers have been if he had played with Matt Duchene as his centerman for the entire 2011-12 season?
Nugent-Hopkins showed wonderful offensive vision and playmaking skills not seen in Edmonton for a very long time. The talented centerman would miss 20 games from various injuries but still managed to tie Gabriel Landeskog with 52 points, the most amongst all NHL rookies. He scored 18 goals (fourth) along with 34 assists (second) and a minus-two rating while playing over 18 minutes per game in just 62 NHL games.
The Oilers center played better defensively than expected for a less physically matured 18-year-old rookie, by using solid stick work and good positioning to defend in his own zone. When the offensively skilled centerman fully matures, gains more muscle mass, and adjust to the NHL level there is little doubt that he will amongst the top NHL stars provided any major injuries are avoided.
Henrique finished third in points by only one point, scoring 16 goals along with 35 assists and a plus-eight rating while taking only seven penalty minutes (one fighting major) in 74 NHL games. The two-way centerman played a good portion of the season on the Devils' top-two forward lines with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk while taking important face-offs for his team and leading all rookie centerman with a 48.8 faceoff win percentage.
The Burford, Ontario native was used for almost 18 minutes per game while playing on both of the specialty team units but he really excelled on the penalty kill and scored four shorthanded goals (tops among rookies). The 22-year-old rookie might have won the 2012 Calder trophy had it not been for the two sensational 18-year-old rookies, Landeskog and Nugent-Hopkins.
Read had a Cinderella season for the Flyers when he made the team out of training camp and managed to play over 17 minutes a game while seeing time all season long on both of the specialty teams units. The 25-year old rookie scored 24 goals (first for rookies) along with 23 assists and a plus-13 rating while registering only 12 penalty minutes in 79 NHL games.
The versatile forward played all three forward positions for the Flyers while replacing keys players like, Daniel Briere and James van Riemsdyk who were out with injuries. Read contributed four power play goals, two shorthanded goals along with six game winning goals for the 2011-12 NHL regular season. The speedy forward also showed he could stand up to the rigors of an 82-game NHL schedule.
Hagelin was the fastest skating rookie in the NHL which allowed him to be a good complement with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the Rangers' top forward line. The Swedish-born rookie slowly gained the confidence of his coach over the second half of the season and found himself used in key game situations for the Rangers.
The speedy winger has been knocked for his size and defensive game but as the season progressed, his improvement on the defense side showed with a season ending plus-21 rating as well as two shorthanded goals in 64 NHL games. He scored 14 goals (two game winning goals) along with 24 assists with more than half of his total points coming in the second half of the season when his ice-time increased to over 15 minutes per game.
Despite the Toronto Maple Leafs' disastrous finish, Gardiner emerged as the team's puck moving offensive threat from their defense corps. The quick skating rookie was given the green light to operate more offensively by his coach in January and the defenseman responded with 21 points in the last 39 NHL games.
Gardiner was playing over 21 minutes per game while spending time on the teams' power play and penalty killing units. Considering the Leafs terrible defensive struggles, the offensive defenseman finished the year with a respectable minus-two rating in 75 NHL games.
Couturier was asked by the Flyer's coach to play on the fourth line, kill penalties, play on the power play when needed, replace the top line centerman at times, and shutdown the opposition's best offensive players. The big rookie centerman did everything that was asked of him very well and still managed to score 13 goals along with 14 assists and a plus-18 rating while playing just over 14 minutes per game in 77 NHL games.
Couturier played in key situations late in the game over the second half of the season and saw his ice-time increase to over 16 minutes per game. The two-way centerman was so defensively responsible that the team used him for last minute defensive zone face-offs in tight games. He helped the team by scoring four game winning goals along with two shorthanded tallies and winning 47 percent of his face-offs.
In a shocking trade, Hodgson was sent to the Buffalo Sabres for Zach Kassian on the NHL trade deadline day and the rookie found himself as his new team's the number two centerman. Hodgson's offensive numbers declined after leaving Vancouver even though his ice-time had increased to over 17 minutes per game and he was now playing with better caliber linemates.
He managed finished with 19 goals (3rd for rookies) along with 22 assist and a plus-one rating while being the only NHL rookie to play 83 games this season. The rookie center helped the Sabres make a playoff drive down the stretch with some timely goals but would fall just short of making the NHL playoffs. Hodgson should put up better numbers next year as he adjusts to his new surroundings and teammates.
Faulk showed that he can handle big minutes in all situations as the Hurricanes' coaches played the solid defenseman over 22 minutes per game for the his entire season. The hard shooting blueliner was also given the chance to run Carolina's power play in the second half of the season. He responded by scoring three of his five power play goals along with seven assists.
Faulk will need to improve his defensive positioning while learning the right timing to take off offensively and reduce his high risk pinching at the oppositions' blue line. The rookie defenseman has such a solid hockey IQ and smooth skating skills that it's most likely the Hurricanes have found their number one defenseman for the future.
Voynov started to finally show his offensive puck moving and power play skills after being sent down to Manchester of the AHL earlier in the year and again for a conditioning stint in February. Under new Coach Sutter, the offensively talented defenseman produced big goals on the power play and improved his defensive game by the end of the regular season.
In his second return to the Kings' lineup, Voynov saw his offense pick up as his ice-time increased to over 19 minutes per game. He finished the 2011-12 season, scoring eight goals (tied for first amongst rookie defenseman) along with 12 assists and a solid plus-12 rating in only 54 NHL games.