The Calder Trophy is awarded annually to the league’s top rookie. To be eligible, a player must be 25 years old or younger as of September 15th, and can not have played more than 25 in any single preceding season, nor in six or more games in the two directly preceding seasons. This criterion explains why a player such as Brett McLean of Chicago is eligible, but Marek Zidlicky of Nashville and Jason Spezza of Ottawa are not. Below are Hockey’s Future’s top 10 Calder favorites at this point in the season.
- Marc-Andre Fleury – Goaltender, 6’2″ 172 lbs, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Jason King – Right Wing, 6’0″ 194 lbs, Vancouver Canucks
- Joni Pitkanen – Defense, 6’3″ 202 lbs, Philadelphia Flyers
- Eric Staal – Center, 6’3″ 182 lbs, Carolina Hurricanes
- Andrew Raycroft – Goaltender, 6’0″ 168 lbs, Boston Bruins
- Patrice Bergeron – Center, 6’0’’ 178 lbs, Boston Bruins
- Trent Hunter – Right Wing, 6’3″ 191 lbs, New York Islanders
- Brett McLean – Center, 5’10″ 177 lbs, Chicago Blackhawks
- Konstantin Koltsov – Left Wing, 6’0″ 187 lbs, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Dan Hamhuis – Defense, 6’0″ 196 lbs, Nashville Predators
The first overall pick in last June’s 2003 Entry Draft, Fleury has been nothing short of remarkable on a dreadful Pittsburgh team. Fleury is performing at a level not seen from an 18-year-old goalie since Tom Barrasso in 1983-84. Fleury may not have the stamina to play a full season with a heavy workload, but he is without much doubt in the NHL to stay. His numbers have suffered in the last couple of games, but even through Sunday, his 2.57 GAA and .927 save percentage don’t give enough credit to his play.
King is a classic late bloomer, who did not even receive a regular shift in the QMJHL until he was 19 years old. With decent size, strong skating abilities and a nose for the net, the 22-year-old from Newfoundland not only leads all rookies with eight goals, but is also tied for sixth in the NHL in that category. Playing alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin, King has ignited the twins, and given the Canucks a legitimate second scoring line.
The Flyers couldn’t ask for much more from Joni Pitkanen early on in his freshman campaign. Pitkanen has become a fixture in the top 5 on the blueline for the Flyers playing on average 18 minutes a night. The Finnish freshman leads all Flyers defensemen in scoring with two goals and six assists. Pitkanen has become most valuable on the powerplay where he uses he great skating ability and uncanny vision from the point to run the Flyers attack with the man advantage.
Selected second overall to Fleury in the June Entry Draft, Staal was not expected to make the Hurricanes because of his slight build. Staal tore it up in the preseason, and has started to put up the points on a line with Josef Vasicek and Jeff O’Neill. His ten points through Sunday tie him for the rookie lead, and Staal’s upside is impressive. Like Fleury, Staal will not be going back to junior this season.
After toiling in the minors for a couple of seasons Raycroft is playing, and playing well, with the Boston Bruins. He has been splitting time with Felix Potvin so far this season and after eight games has put up far better numbers in every statistical category. His four wins are nice, but a 1.73 goal against average and .941 save percentage have him getting a lot of Calder consideration early on in the season.
And with the 45th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft the Boston Bruins selected…the rookie of the year. He may not be the Calder winner yet but Patrice Bergeron is definitely making noise with the Boston Bruins as an 18-year-old. Bergeron has ten points in 14 games and looks to be along for the long haul with the Bruins this year who owe their scouting staff a well-deserved pat on the back.
After being known as a minor league player with magical hands for a couple of years, big Trent Hunter is now a full time member of the New York Islanders. Hunter is doing what he does best…scoring goals. He has struck six times in his first eight games this year yet some people may still be asking Trent who? That question will soon be answered as Hunter has the potential to be a 25-goal rookie this season.
The top rookie on the Blackhawks roster this season is Tuomo Ruutu, right? Wrong. Brett Mclean is the rookie making a difference in Chi-town this season. Through the first 12 games of the season Mclean has chipped in nicely with 3 goals and 6 helpers and is more importantly his plus 6 rating is tops among Blackhawks. The situation was perfect for McLean as the Blackhawks opened their doors to rookies this season and so far he is the only one to make himself at home.
Speed, speed and more speed is what personifies Koltsov. The slick Belarusian has earned a spot on a line with the presently injured Mario Lemieux this season. On top of speed, Koltsov has a good shot and plays well in his own end, but his goal scoring upside may be limited. While Koltsov may not play all season with Lemieux, he will continue to earn ice time if he keeps up his current play.
A former CHL Defenseman of the Year and Canadian World Junior Championship team captain, Dan Hamhuis already has a polished resume. He made the Predators roster out of training camp this season, and now leads all rookies in ice time. Hamhuis provides good offense, solid defense, a penchant for open ice hits and loads of leadership and intangibles.