It has been a season to remember for the freshman class of 2005-06. Thanks in no small part to the
lockout, the NHL was dotted with a bumper crop of rookies making key contributions to their clubs. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find
a team that didn’t have at least one rookie filling a regular role at season’s end. A number of these players are well on their way to being the future stars of the NHL.
Hockey’s Future offers its favorites in the 2006 Calder Trophy race, based on voting amongst a committee of staff members.
1. Alexander Ovechkin, LW – Washington Capitals
What can be said about Alexander Ovechkin’s season that hasn’t already been repeated twice? His 52 goals placed him third in all-time rookie goal scoring, just a single goal behind Mike Bossy. That also tied him for third in the league for the goal-scoring crown. His 106 points placed him third in all-time rookie scoring, just three points behind Peter Stastny. They also put him third in the league in scoring. He’s only the second player to ever score 50 goals and 100 points in their first season, the first being Teemu Selanne. He had a hand in over
46 percent of Washington’s scoring this season. He was a respectable +2 on a team that was -70 as a whole. He led the Capitals with 172 hits, which also placed him second amongst rookies. And then, of course, there’s the unforgettable over-the-head, around-the-back goal he scored against the Phoenix Coyotes.
2. Sidney Crosby, C – Pittsburgh Penguins
Prior to the beginning of the NHL season, it was fair to say the Sidney Crosby was the favorite for the Calder
Trophy by most pundits. Crosby finished second in a poll of HF staff by the slimmest of margins. Second in rookie scoring, Crosby also broke the century mark with 102 points, including 39 goals in 81 games. He wore an ‘A’ on his sweater for the second half of the season,
thrust into a leadership role at the age of 18. With 22 points in his last 10 games of the season, he almost was able to catch Ovechkin for the rookie scoring race. He finished sixth in scoring, and was the youngest player to ever score 100 points in the NHL. He was also the first rookie to ever put up 100 points and serve 100 penalty minutes, with the spotlight he has played in giving him more
than his fair share of attention from the opposition to fight through.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, G – New York Rangers
With two Swedish Elite League titles and a handful of best goalkeeper and most valuable player awards on his resume already, it should be no surprise that Henrik Lundqvist was able to step into the Rangers lineup and help take
the team to the playoffs for the first time in nine years. He finished the season with 30 wins, a 2.24 GAA, which was good for fifth in the league and a .922
save percentage, which was the fourth-best in the league. He also posted two shutouts, not bad for a player who didn’t even begin the season as his team’s starting netminder. Although his brief playoff appearance left much to be desired, Lundqvist has added a bit of stability to what has been a very tumultuous situation between the pipes for the Rangers over the past few years.
4. Dion Phaneuf, D – Calgary Flames
After becoming a household name in Canada as a member of two World Junior Championships teams (winning a gold medal and a silver medal respectively), Dion Phaneuf brought his hard-hitting style to the NHL and did not disappoint. In practically all aspects of the game, he was nothing short of dominant. His 20 goals was the second most by a defensemen, while his 49 points placed him 14th in defensive scoring.
Sixteen of those goals were on the power play, leading all blueliners. His physical game also made the jump to the NHL without much difficulty; he was tied for fifth in the league, and second amongst defensemen with 203 hits. Phaneuf won praise around the league for his ability to step into the Flames lineup and not only contribute, but excel in his rookie season.
5. Andrej Meszaros, D – Ottawa Senators
Though not as heralded as Phaneuf, Andrej Meszaros enjoyed a similarly solid season, surpassing most expectations for the 20-year-old coming into the league. He was the epitome of poise at both ends of the ice, finishing second to
Phaneuf in rookie blue line scoring with 10 goals and 39 points. He also led all rookies with a +34. Meszaros really proved his meddle near the end of the season when Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Chris Phillips, three of the Senators’ top defensemen all missed time for a variety of reasons. Meszaros acquitted himself well, receiving a large quantity of those quality minutes, including playing an impressive 37:47 during an overtime loss to Buffalo.
6. Brad Boyes, C/RW – Boston Bruins
Brad Boyes had been a member of three NHL organizations by the time he played his second game in the big leagues. However,
he looks like he’s found a permanent home with the Boston Bruins. In 82 games, Boyes scored 26 goals and had 69 points to place second on Boston in scoring and third in the league in rookie scoring. Like a number of Boston’s young forwards, he benefited from the opportunity provided when the Bruins traded Joe Thornton to the Sharks and were forced to look to their other players to help carry the offensive load. Boyes proved he was up to the challenge, contributing on both ends of the ice, including leading the team in plus/minus. This feat is even more impressive when you consider that the Bruins as a team were -30. An offensive talent in the OHL, Boyes is showing that those skills have by no means diminished
in the NHL.
7. Marek Svatos, RW – Colorado Avalanche
At the mid-season point, two expected names were at the top of the rookie scoring race, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. However, just
underneath them was Marek Svatos, a 23-year-old Slovakian. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury in early March
ended his season. He finished tied for the team lead in goals with 32 and had a total of 50 points. Avalanche fans have been waiting for Svatos to arrive in Denver ever since he gave notice in the 2004 NHL playoffs when he played a regular shift with Colorado and finished with six points in 11 games. A sniper, Svatos was a huge part of Colorado’s
power play prior to his injury, contributing 22 points with the man advantage.
8. Petr Prucha, LW – New York Rangers
Prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, few outside of the New York had ever heard of Petr Prucha, and even a number of those Ranger faithful were unsure who he was. An
eighth rough pick by the Blueshirts in 2002, Prucha was a sharp-shooting member of the Rangers Czech contingent. It seemed that every shot the 23-year-old took had a way of finding itself in the back of the net and indeed, his
23.1 percent shooting percentage led all rookies who played the majority of the season, as well as second in the league. He finished the season with 30 goals and 47 points in 68 games, slowed only by a knee injury in February.
9. Jussi Jokinen, LW – Dallas Stars
The shootout was one of the more notable rule changes made prior to the beginning of the 2005-06 NHL season and it was the vessel that Jussi Jokinen used to make a name for himself. Jokinen led the league by having a
76.9 percent success rate during the shootout, scoring 10 out of 13 chances, helping Dallas lead the league with 12 shootout wins.
In regulation, Jokinen was no slouch either. He finished fourth in rookie scoring with 55 points including 17 goals in 81 games and had eight
10. Ryan Miller, G – Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller has emerged as the victor of the three-headed beast that was the Buffalo Sabres goaltending situation. After cutting his teeth in the AHL for three
seasons with just intermittent time in the NHL, Miller established himself as Buffalo’s starting goaltender. He won 30 of his 48 games and had a GAA of 2.60, good enough for third amongst rookie netminders and his .914 save percentage placed him second among the first-time goaltenders. His strong play has continued into the postseason, where he has backstopped the Sabres to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Other rookies receiving votes
Jeff Carter, C – Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan Getzlaf, C – Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Chris Higgins, C – Montreal Canadiens
Brent Seabrook, D – Chicago Blackhawks
Thomas Vanek, LW – Buffalo Sabres
15% off any single item at Shop.NHL.com
Kevin Forbes and Aaron Vickers contributed to this article.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without
permission of the editorial staff.