|It’s time again for Hockey’s Future to answer the question “If the Calder Trophy were awarded today,|
based on what you have seen so far this season, who would your Top 10 Rookie Finalists be?” We’ve recruited several of
HF’s finest to take part this month and totaling up their votes, here is this month’s version of ‘Handicapping the Field’:
|Dany Heatley-Atlanta’s Brendan Shanahan in training wheels narrowly staves off a challenge from his teammates|
(see below) to hold onto to the #1 spot for a second month running. Nothing about his game is improving in leaps and bounds
but his overall game is rising bit by bit with every match played.
|Ilya Kovalchuk-That offensive explosion everyone knew was coming has finally gone boom. Kovalchuk has|
been nothing short of spectacular at times in turning seasoned NHL netminders into but shadows of their normal selves. The
Russian could very well be an Alexander Mogilny in Sergei Fedorov’s body and that’s a scary proposition.
|Kristian Huselius-A slump through parts of November and December knocked some of the luster off of his early|
season fireworks but there are signs of a revival in the works for the Florida portsider. It looks like he’s survived the initial
purge of new coach Mike Keenan. If he stays on the first line with His Pavelness, look out.
|Mark Bell-Still holding steady on the periphery of the top three, Bell’s two way play and his contributions away|
from the puck more than the points he puts on the board are responsible for his lofty ranking in the rookie class. Still he’s facing
a big challenge from Erik Cole (see below) and will have to do more to hold him off.
|Erik Cole-This month’s big winner, Cole has become a fixture on Carolina’s second line behind only Jeff O’Neill|
among left wings. He leads all rookies in hits by a large margin and is one of only a handful that has a positive
giveaway/takeaway ratio. Cole is well on his way to becoming a power-winger in a lineup that needs one.
|Krys Kolanos-Holding steady at the sixth slot in the race but looks to have hit a bit of a wall in December.|
Probably needs to make it over that hump to keep his position in the Top 10 long term. With the Coyotes just having dealt for
Sebastein Bordeleau maybe some pressure from below is the motivation he needs.
|Dan Blackburn-You’ve got to hand it to the Ranger goaltender. The NHL is now half a season old and he’s had|
many a chance to fold and many a reason to ranging from a gawdawful defense, to the distractions playing on a team in
Manhattan, to Theo Fluery’s badboy act, to Eric Lindros’ recent concussion but hasn’t.
|Mike Ribiero-The highest of the December debut’s, it looks like it’s third time lucky for the Habs rookie. After|
two abbreviated trials with the big club the ‘French Gretzky’ looks to be here to stay. So far he has demonstrated great puck
sense and moves to die for. There are some though that still question his toughness. He still needs to provide an answer to that
|Radim Vrbata-The other new guy this month, Vrbata burst onto the scene with some incredible numbers over the|
first two weeks in the big show but has gradually come down to earth and seen his ice time cut back. He has gone from a sure
challenger for the Calder Trophy to a rook with a learning curve. With the recent call-up of Vaclav Nedorost, his minutes, such
as they are these days, are no longer guaranteed.
|Rostislav Klesla-With both Jeff Jillson and Justin Kurtz being dispatched to the minors, Klesla seems alone at the|
top of the pack among rookie defensemen. However, with the plethora of impressive forwards in this years crop, he’s not had
an easy time getting any recognition. He has picked up his overall game since last month but he has to keep improving or he
may find himself without a spot in the field.
Others Receiving Votes (position last month in parenthesis):Martin Erat (9), Kris Beech (-),
Radek Martinek (-), Nick Boynton (-), Pavel Datsyuk (-), Jussi Markannen (-)