The 2005-06 NHL season is in full swing and rookies are having a major impact on the league after the first month of play. Salary cap restrictions and the impact of the lockout have combined to cause an influx of young talent into the NHL and almost every team has at least one rookie taking on regular minutes and playing a crucial role in the club’s success.
The new rules have enabled talented rookies to make an impact at every position, making the 2006 Calder Trophy race one of the most intriguing aspects of the season. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have both lived up to the preseason hype that surrounded them and should be the frontrunners the entire year. However, several other youngsters are making the most of playing time with NHL clubs and have made surprising contributions.
Hockey’s Future offers its favorites in the Calder race, based on voting amongst a committee of staff members.
1. Alexander Ovechkin, LW – Washington Capitals
Ovechkin has emerged as the Capitals’ primary offensive threat and he currently sits tied for sixth in NHL goal scoring with eight goals. The big Russian winger has already established himself as Washington’s franchise player and has excelled on the left side of a line with Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpern.
2. Sidney Crosby, C – Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh coach Ed Olczyk has done a lot of line juggling trying to garner some wins, but Crosby has performed well with each line he’s been assigned to. The natural playmaker has provided a consistent effort, scoring in all but one of his 12 games and has 13 assists, leaving him tied for third in the NHL.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, G – New York Rangers
The talented Swede continues to exceed expectations since being drafted out of the seventh round in 2000. Lundqvist has taken over the starting job for the Rangers and his play has helped the club win several close games, posting a miniscule 1.76 GAA and .938 save percentage over the month of October.
4. Mike Richards, C – Philadelphia Flyers
Richards came into the season the less touted next to teammate and fellow rookie Jeff Carter, but he has proven to be the more impressive freshman on the Flyers roster thus far, partially due to Carter’s health issues. Richards has developed great chemistry with Michal Handzus and Brian Savage on the second line and coach Ken Hitchcock is calling on him in all situations.
5. Jason Labarbera, G – Los Angeles Kings
Labarbera stepped in and put up incredible numbers after Mathieu Garon faltered early in Los Angeles. The big netminder has demonstrated excellent poise, allowing only seven goals in 11 games during the month of October, and he’s the main reason the Kings occupy the top spot in the Pacific division.
6. Marek Svatos, RW – Colorado Avalanche
Svatos has excelled for the Avalanche playing on a line with Pierre Turgeon and Andrew Brunette. He also displayed good chemistry with fellow rookie Wojtek Wolski before Wolski was sent back to junior. The undersized Slovak posted 11 points in 10 games in October despite averaging only 13 minutes per game.
7. Pavel Vorobiev, RW – Chicago Blackhawks
One of the most surprising performances of October came from Vorobiev. The speedy Kazak has shown flashes of brilliance playing on the Blackhawks’ top line with Tyler Arnason and Tuomo Ruutu. Vorobiev has also produced on the power play, employing a hard and accurate shot from the half-boards.
8. Dion Phaneuf, D – Calgary Flames
Paired with veteran Roman Hamrlik, Phaneuf has been a bright spot along the Calgary blue line. He has jumped into an expanded role because of Robyn’s Regehr’s injury and hasn’t disappointed. Phaneuf provides the Flames with strong physical play and reliable defensive coverage, averaging 23 minutes a game and seeing ice time in key situations.
9. Brent Seabrook, D – Chicago Blackhawks
Seabrook has been impressive, anchoring the Chicago defensive corps alongside Jaroslav Spacek. The big defenseman possesses excellent instincts and rarely makes mistakes moving the puck from his own end. Seabrook had seven points in 11 games during October and he’s a regular on special teams for Chicago.
10. Milan Michalek, W – San Jose Sharks
Michalek has moved past his health issues and become a reliable offensive forward for the Sharks. The Czech winger turned heads during the month of October, posting nine points in 12 games. Michalek has spent time on both of San Jose’s scoring lines, using his blinding speed and versatility to fit in well with the Sharks system.
Compiled by Ryan Garner. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.