|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’:
|Ilya Kovalchuk-We were warned. Kovalchuk, the youngest player to suit up for the Olympic Hockey|
Tournament, is on pace to top 40 goals in his freshman campaign. Forget about the donut Curtis Joseph threw at him the night
before the All-Star break, the kid can flat out score. Ask Dan Blackburn.
|Dany Heatley-A very good rookie in his own right, he’d be the toast of Atlanta were it not for his more glitzy|
Russian teammate, which is too bad. When all is said and done, it might just be Heatley’s sound play without the puck that
allows Kovalchuk to work his magic with it.
|Kristian Huselius-Some are starting to wonder whether Huselius may have hit a wall in his rookie year. Offense|
and creativity are his calling cards so if he isn’t delivering on these, he isn’t delivering the goods. He’s still third in our poll, but he
has to get back on track soon or risk being overtaken by others.
|Pavel Datsyuk-January’s top debut, the Russian center finally has Scotty Bowman showing enough faith in him to|
play him with top end players, namely Brett Hull. Now that he has someone who can finish consistently on his wing his
playmaking skills are coming to the fore. Look for more from him in the stretch run as the Wings rest the big wheels.
|Erik Cole-If Erik Cole played in a cold weather city, he’d be celebrated as a throw back hockey player and|
hyped incessantly for the Calder Trophy. Alas, he plays for the Carolina Hurricanes and the media machine has had to work
overtime just to sell the game locally. They could do a heck of a lot worse that to use this kid as their poster boy.
|Mark Bell-It’s beginning to look like the injury to Steve Thomas is having serious reprecussions on the quality of|
the rookie portsider’s offensive game. Without Stumpy, neither Igor Korolev nor Bell have been able to do much in the way of
points, although the latter continues to be his normal agitating self. Still, this is a full blown slump.
|Krys Kolanos-Presently on the IR with a concussion, truth be told, he had been slowing down before that|
anyway. He does have the intangibles, and it is true that the Coyotes are deep in the middle, but when he gets back he does
have to do more.
|Dan Blackburn-This was not a January to remember for Dan Blackburn. He entered the month with a 2.91 GAA|
and a .914 save%. By the time he reached the end of it, he had played in 4 games and those numbers read 3.16 and .900. To
top that off, he started February off by getting lit up by Ilya Kovalchuk during All-Star Weekend on national television.
|Mike Ribeiro-He plays like he’s been here before, which should come as no surprise as he has. That said, while|
bodies have been falling around him left and right as is usually the case in Montreal, Ribeiro has kept on going. If the Habs do
make the playoffs, some small amount of credit should go to the rook who, at times, makes people stand up and spill their
|Rostislav Klesla-The shotblocks leader among the rookie class again sits at the 10th spot in our poll and is finally|
starting to come around offensively after being mentored by Dave King on how to play NHL defense since Day One. It’s a
good thing too, Nick Boynton is starting to put up impressive numbers and early season nemesis Jillson is back.
|Others Receiving Votes (position last month in parenthesis):Jeff Jillson, Martin Erat, Radim|
Vrbata (9), Kris Beech, Nick Boynton, Toby Petersen, Pascal Dupuis.