Following a regular season in which we watched an outstanding crop of rookies contribute across the National Hockey League, the Hockey’s Future staff conducted its last Calder Poll.
Evgeni Malkin (PIT) was the unanimous No. 1 choice, while Paul Stastny (COL) rode a spirited second half to second spot. Anze Kopitar (LA) rounds out our Top 3. Once again, the Western Conference dominated our final Calder Poll for 2006-07 with seven players in our Top 10. Just two of the players are defenseman, none are goaltenders. Among the top seven, three pairs of teammates made our list. Two rookies in our final poll played in all 82 regular season games for their respective teams.
1. Evgeni Malkin, C (PIT)
6’4, 190 lbs. DOB: July 31, 1986
Acquired: 1st Round, 2nd Overall 2004
Malkin scored 33 goals and 52 assists in 78 games. A total of 16 goals came on the Pens power play while six were game winners. The Russian phenom averaged over 19 minutes per game. With 80 penalty minutes, Malkin proved he was prepared to mix it up when the need arose. He led all rookies in goal scoring, assists and total points. Malkin is the only rookie to average more than a point per game.
Malkin and the crew of youngsters in Pittsburgh contributed in a big way to a regular season record that saw the club finish 23 games above .500. An early playoff exit is but a small hiccup for a franchise with a very bright future on the ice. Given the expectations and preseason hype Malkin was required to contend with, he managed to deliver the best offensive season among the current crop of first-year players.
2. Paul Stastny, C (COL)
6′, 205 lbs. DOB: Dec. 27, 1985
Acquired: 2nd Round, 44th Overall 2005
The durable Stastny scored 28 goals and 50 assists while suiting up in all 82 games for the Avalanche. He scored 11 times on the power play, scored six game winners and averaged over 18 minutes per game.
His second half scoring outburst included a 20-game point-coring streak that ignited the Avs frantic run to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. He also scored a point in a record 15 consecutive road games. While the club fell short of a post-season berth, Stastny established himself as a reliable offensive contributor. Due in part to the extended scoring rampage, Stastny was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for February.
3. Anze Kopitar, C (LA)
6’4, 220 lbs. DOB: August 24, 1987
Acquired: 1st Round, 11th Overall, 2005
A popular rookie in the southern California market, Kopitar managed 20 goals and 41 assists in 72 games for the Kings. He scored seven power play goals and chipped in with a pair of shorthanded markers while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time.
Kopitar was quick out of the gate and led rookie scorers for much of the first half of the season. An upper body injury suffered in February combined with the Kings overall futility derailed the Slovenian’s aspirations to push Malkin for the Calder. Certain to be a building block of sorts in Los Angeles, Kopitar’s potential gives the Kings reason for optimism heading into next season.
4. Jordan Staal, C (PIT)
6’4, 220 lbs. DOB: Sept. 10, 1988
Acquired: 1st Round, 2nd Overall 2006
The youngest player in the NHL this past season, Staal scored 29 goals and 13 assists in 81 games for the rejuvenated Penguins. A reliable special teams contributor, scored four power-play goals and led the entire NHL with seven shorthanded goals, setting a new rookie record in the process. He also led the Pens with a ranking of plus-16 while playing just under 15 minutes per game. He finished second in rookie goal scoring to Malkin.
Staal’s stock rose significantly during the final six weeks of the regular season as the Pens built momentum heading into their brief playoff run. Many of his shorthanded goals were of the spectacular variety and he held up well under the rigors of his first NHL season.
5. Wojtek Wolski, LW (COL)
6’3, 202lbs. DOB: February 24, 1986
Acquired: 1st Round, 21st Overall 2004
Wolski collected 22 goals and 28 assists in 76 games. With seven power-play goals and a pair of game winners, Wolski played over 15 minutes per game.
While his quick offensive start to the season ultimately was overshadowed by Stastny’s second half scoring heroics, Wolski became a reliable pro. Along with Stastny, he provided the Avs with a healthy one-two punch among rookies and is poised to become an important part of the club’s rebuilding process.
6. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D (SJ)
6’1. 186 lbs. DOB: March 30, 1987
Acquired: 2nd Round, 35th Overall 2005
Vlasic played in 81 games for San Jose, scoring three goals and 23 assists. He logged a stellar average ice time total of 22:11 per game and proved to be a fearless shot blocker.
Perhaps the most telling statistic regarding Vlasic’s development is his paltry 18 penalty minutes, testimony to his ability to play the game at a high level within the constraints of the new standard of rules enforcement.
7. Matt Carle, D (SJ)
6′, 190 lbs. DOB: September 25, 1984
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 47th Overall, 2003
Carle scored 11 goals and 31 assists in 77 games for San Jose, which led all rookie defensemen. He scored eight power play goals and a game winner while playing over 18 minutes per game.
Carle has been a durable and consistent performer for the Sharks, who have a very deep pool of young talent in the lineup. With Carle, Vlasic and forward Ryane Clowe delivering productive rookie campaigns, San Jose looks deep and talented for the foreseeable future.
8. Dustin Penner, RW (ANA)
6’4, 240 lbs. DOB: September 28, 1982
Acquired: Signed as Free Agent, May 2004
Penner scored 29 goals and 16 assists in 82 games, with nine power play tallies and five game winners. His 45 points established a new franchise record for rookies. Penner averaged 14 minutes of ice time per game on a club deep with offensive skill. He tied with Staal for second spot in goals scoring among rookies.
9. Alexander Radulov, RW (NAS)
6’1, 190 lbs. DOB: July 5, 1986
Acquired: 1st Round, 15th Overall, 2004
With 18 goals and 19 assists in 64 games, Radulov provided the Predators with a glimpse of his offensive prowess. He scored five times on the power play and added four game winners while averaging 11:38 of ice time per game.
Certain to be a fixture in Nashville, Radulov spent the early part of the season in the American Hockey League until the Preds made room for him with the parent club. Timely scoring and high-end touch around the net are attributes Radulov is likely to continue developing as a pro. With maturity and familiarity with NHL opponents, the Russian product is destined for success in Nashville, provided there is room for him to flourish among the club’s deep group of forwards.
10. Travis Zajac, C (NJ)
6’2. 200 lbs. DOB: May 13, 1985
Acquired: 1st Round, 20th Overall 2004
Zajac scored 17 goals and 25 assists in 80 games for the Devils. A total of six goals came on the power play and he scored a pair of game winning goals. Zajac became a reliable two-way forward in New Jersey and played over 16 minutes per game.
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