Hockey’s Future Calder Poll, October 2007

By HF Staff

Below are the top 10 Calder Trophy candidates as voted by Hockey’s Future staff. 

Jonathan Toews, C

Chicago Blackhawks
(1st Round, 2006)

A smooth and powerful skater, Toews checks in at 6’2, 195 pounds, which is plenty big enough to handle the physical rigors on the NHL. A proven scorer in the NCAA and at the international junior level, Toews leads a crop of youngsters being looked upon to breathe excitement and consistency into a hockey market tired of a losing team.

A broken finger kept Toews out of the first two regular season games. Projected as a second line centre at the outset, he will see ice time on the power play and penalty-killing units. If Toews, a Winnipeg, Manitoba native, can become an efficient offensive producer and maintain his durability, his presence should serve to elevate the performance of other young prospects in Chicago, like Patrick Kane, Jack Skille and Cam Barker.

Nicklas Backstrom, C

Washington Capitals
(1st Round, 2006)

While comparisons to Peter Forsberg are commonplace in his native Sweden, Backstrom will require time and patience to establish himself as a premiere talent in the NHL. A top-end playmaker in the Swedish Elite League, the 19-year-old captured rookie of the year honors after the 2005-06 season.

Any impact Backstrom has offensively this season can potentially take some of the pressure off Alexander Ovechkin. With the likes of Alexander Semin and Michael Nylander in Washington, Backstrom should have some room to develop and contribute in all situations. At 6′, 185 pounds, he will not dominate physically, but he will have to prove he can handle the grueling NHL schedule.     

Erik Johnson, D

St. Louis Blues
(1st round, 2006)

A building block on the blueline in St. Louis, Johnson’s opportunity to have an immediate impact will have to wait, due to a fracture in his right foot. Johnson is the only player ever drafted first overall (2006) by the Blues. In two games this season, he scored once and added an assist.

At 6’4, 215 pounds, the 19-year-old Johnson will develop with the help of veterans Jay McKee, Eric Brewer and former Calder Trophy winner Barrett Jackman. He’ll definitely be a top-six guy and will be given the chance to earn plenty of minutes. The Bloomington, Minnesota spent the summer training in Los Angeles with fellow Calder candidates Toews and Jack Johnson.

Peter Mueller, C

Phoenix Coyotes
(1st Round, 2007)

Mueller, 19, arrives in Phoenix with loads of offensive skill, developed during two busy seasons split between the WHL and Hockey USA programs. At 6’2, 205 pounds, he is physically capable and will have to continue to improve on an already quick release.

The Coyotes will require a scoring by committee approach and Mueller, among others, will have to respond if the team has any notion of earning a playoff berth. Otherwise, the organization can at least look forward to another high pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Jack Johnson, D

Los Angeles Kings
(1st Round, 2006)

The Kings managed to wrestle Johnson from the Carolina, a feat that one day might haunt the ‘Canes. In L.A., he’ll benefit from help from veteran Rob Blake.

The pressure is on Johnson as the club is touting him as NHL ready. At 6’1, 200 pounds, he has the size to defend effectively. How quickly he becomes accustomed to the speed of play will have a huge bearing on his ice time, confidence and production.

Martin Hanzal, C

Phoenix Coyotes
(1st Round, 2005)

Another rookie who flourished in the WHL, Hanzal arrived in Phoenix amid less fanfare than Mueller and immediately established himself as an offensive talent. On a club that will have to lean on its rookies to contribute scoring, Hanzal should have plenty of opportunities to develop quickly.

The native of Pisek in the Czech Republic, Hanzal is huge at 6’5 and 210 pounds. If he can handle the rough going early on, he should build confidence in his game and could potentially to put up Dustin Penner-type numbers this season.

Carey Price, G

Montreal Canadiens
(1st Round, 2005)

Price arrived in Montreal with a lengthy resume of success in junior, international hockey and the AHL. With a healthy Cristobal Huet the only player standing in his way, Price is likely to see quality minutes this season.

A technically sound goaltender, Price is committed to playing is angles and focused on being an efficient positional goaltender. He understands the importance of doing the homework required to identify opposition tendencies. With time will come experience and maturity that will enable him to develop as a professional. He experienced an inordinate amount of Canadian media scrutiny this past January after his outstanding performance at the 2007 WJC. Fortunately, this probably served as an important crash course in "media frenzy", something he is certain to be subjected to in Montreal.

Patrick Kane, RW

Chicago Blackhawks
(1st Round, 2007)

A proven scorer in the CHL, Kane was adamant at the NHL Entry Draft that his goal was to immediately earn a spot on the Hawks opening day roster. So far, he has lived up to his prediction.

The Hawks are deep in young prospects and Kane will have an opportunity to develop among some of the best young talent the NHL will see in the coming decade. A crafty playmaker with a quick release, Kane has the ability to score from any angle. Like all gifted offensive players, he has great anticipation and a knack for finding open ice. If he can cope with the physical rigors on the ice and the demands off the ice, he has an opportunity to distinguish himself among a deep crop of talented NHL rookies.

Sam Gagner, C

Edmonton Oilers
(1st Round, 2007)

Gagner’s efforts in Edmonton thus far has served to breathe some life into a franchise that can benefit from some youthful exuberance. An outstanding performance during the Super Series against the Russians elevated Gagner’s profile and perhaps forced the Oilers to give the Oakville, Ontario a longer look when he arrived for training camp.

Gagner brings to the rink an uncanny knack for finding open ice. His speed and anticipation should help him deal with heavy traffic and the NHL’s physical challenges. The son of former NHLer Dave Gagner, he is also viewed as an effective team leader.

Andrew Cogliano, C

Edmonton Oilers
(1st Round, 2005)

Cogliano has likely found a home with the Oilers after a career to date that has included prominent roles in international junior play and the NCAA. Recognized for his skating ability, primarily his acceleration and speed, the native of Woodbridge, Ontario seems to have earned the confidence of the Oilers’ brass.

After leaving the University of Michigan prior to graduation, he was destined for a spot in the AHL, as the Oilers have finally secured the Springfield Falcons to enhance development of their prospects. However, Cogliano and a crew of youngsters have earned the opportunity to play in the NHL this season. Desperately in need of consistent offensive production, the organization seems content to finally give its high-end prospects a chance to learn on the job.

Other notables
Marc Staal (NYR), Bryan Little (ATL), Milan Lucic (BOS), Kris Russell (CBJ), Brett Sterling (ATL), Bobby Ryan (ANA), Dustin Boyd (CGY), Derick Brassard (CBJ), Jonathan Bernier (LA), David Krejci (BOS), James Sheppard (MIN).

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