Hertl stands alone atop Calder Poll for November

By Tony Piscotta

Tomas Hertl - San Jose Sharks

Photo: San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl turned in another solid month in November to earn the top spot in HF’s ranking of the top NHL rookies (courtesy of Rocky Widner/Getty Image)

The Hockey's Future Calder Trophy poll for November reflected the depth of the 2013-14 rookie class as 22 players received votes from members of the staff. This month's Top 10 was impacted by several early season call-ups who have emerged while a handful of players who opened the season with a bang but then cooled off are no longer in this month's Top 10 (actually eleven since there was a tie for the 10th spot).

One of those players emerging was New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who looks like he may challenge San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl for the Calder Trophy if he keeps scoring at his current pace.

The Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Pirri and Los Angeles Kings call-up Tyler Toffoli have made big impressions since being re-called from Rockford and Manchester, respectively, and enter this month's list while New Jersey Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas has added some offense for the offensively-challenged Devils since joining the team from Albany, but just missed this month's Top 10.

Edmonton's Mark Arcobello, who was fifth in last month's poll, saw his production slip after a big October and was briefly sent to the AHL. He did not receive any votes this month. Forwards Alex Chiasson (7th in October) and Aleksander Barkov (8th) of Dallas and Florida, as well as Carolina defenseman Ryan Murphy (9th), also missed this month's list.

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba occupied the 10th spot in October but appeared in just three games in November due to injury. The 19-year-old is once again averaging over 20 minutes of ice time since returning to the lineup on November 25th and had a pair of assists in the Jets' 5-2 win over the Rangers on December 2nd.

Like Boston Bruins' defenseman Torey Krug, Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson was impressive at the end of last season, and has been a key factor in the Lightning's better-than-expected start this season. Both players appear in our poll for the first time this month.

1. Tomas Hertl, C, San Jose Sharks
Drafted 17th overall (1st round) in 2012

Hertl continues to skate on a line with Joe Thornton and also sees time on the Sharks' power-play. The 20-year-old from Prague, Czech Republic is the leading scorer among rookies. Veteran Brent Burns, who missed time with an injury, recently returned to the Sharks lineup, so Hertl looks set to remain in the Calder race all season playing with the two veterans.

Hertl finished the month with a goal and an assist while Burns had a hat trick in San Jose's 6-3 win over St. Louis on Nov. 29th.

In 13 games in November, Hertl scored five goals with five assists and was +2, averaging 16:23 minutes of ice time.

2. Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers
Drafted 19th overall (1st round) in 2009

Re-called from New York AHL affiliate Hartford on October 20th, the former Boston College star assumed a spot on the Rangers top line with Derek Stepan and Brad Richards and has been a key part of New York's turnaround. With veteran Rick Nash returning to the lineup in late November, Kreider has continued to flourish and looks set to challenge Hertl for the top spot.

Kreider capped off his big month with a hat trick against Vancouver and former Rangers' head coach John Tortorella on November 30th, a 5-2 win for New York.

He skated in 15 games in November, scoring 4 goals with 9 assists while finishing +9 and averaging 16:33 minutes of ice time.

3. Torey Krug, D, Boston Bruins
Signed as a free agent in April, 2012

After just missing the Top 10 in the October poll the undersized but highly-skilled 22-year-old enters the November poll in the third spot. Signed by the Bruins following his junior year at Michigan State in April of 2012, the former Spartan made a splash in last season's playoffs after being recalled from the AHL and has continued to put up points this season.

Krug's 16 points in 27 games trails only Hertl amongst rookies and he is the leading scorer amongst first-year defensemen. With the depth of the Boston defense corps, he is not playing top pair minutes like some of the other rookies such as Trouba and Nashville's Seth Jones, but his offensive exploits have gained notice from the HF staff.

In 15 games in November, Krug scored three goals with six assists and was +4, averaging 17:16 minutes of ice time.

4. Seth Jones, D, Nashville Predators
Drafted 4th overall (1st Round) in 2013

The first defenseman taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, Jones slips one spot in our poll from third to fourth, but his impact on the Predators cannot be questioned. The 19-year-old has been skating on Nashville's top defensive pairing with Shea Weber since the season started and continues to lead rookie defensemen in ice time (averaging over 21 minutes per game).

With Weber out of the lineup due to an injury recently, Jones saw almost 31 minutes of ice time in the Predators' 3-2 shootout loss to Philadelphia on November 30th. Jones' combination of size, skill and mobility are a rare commodity. While his -10 plus/minus is a concern, at least some of that can be attributed to Nashville's struggles as a team and lack of offense at times.

In 14 games in November, Jones scored one goal with two assists and was -10, averaging 22:33 minutes of ice time.

5. Nathan MacKinnon, RW/C, Colorado Avalanche
Drafted 1st overall (1st Round) in 2013

MacKinnon, like Jones, slips one spot this month due to the impressive exploits of Kreider and Krug. But the 18-year-old continues to prove capable of competing at the NHL level and is a big part of the turnaround in Colorado under first-year coach Patrick Roy.

After playing left wing for the Avalanche most of the year, the former Halifax Mooseheads star was skating in his traditional center spot in recent games. Expected to be out of the running for a playoff spot heding into this season, Colorado has instead won 19 of their first 26 games and currently has the NHL's sixth-best record.

MacKinnon scored four goals with five assists in 14 games in November and was +2, averaging 17:25 minutes of ice time, almost four minutes more than he averaged in October.

6. Brandon Pirri, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Drafted 59th overall (2nd round) in 2009

Re-called by Chicago in early October, Pirri averaged under 10 minutes of ice time in his first six games before a two-assist game against Minnesota on October 28th. After going without a point in the first three games of November he had four goals and two assists in the Blackhawks' next six games, including goals in three straight games from November 14th to November 17th.

While he was again seeing limited minutes at the end of November, the 22-year-old appears to have earned a spot with the defending Stanley Cup champions after being one of the top scorers for their AHL affiliate Rockford the past three seasons.

In 15 games in November, Pirri scored four goals with two assists and was +5 while averaging 13 minutes of ice time per game.

7. (tie) Sean Monahan, C, Calgary Flames
Drafted 6th overall (1st round) in 2013

Tied with Hertl for the top spot in HF's October poll after scoring six goals in his first eight games, the 19-year-old slides a bit in the November poll after failing to match that incredible offensive output. Still, his importance to the Flames cannot be discounted.

On a young team that has few true stars, Monahan is one of three rookie forwards seeing a significant amount of ice time as Calgary tries to keep pace with some of the powerful teams in the Western Conference. While both Sven Baertschi and Joe Colborne have spent time in the AHL, Monahan continues to prove that making the jump directly from junior hockey to the NHL was not too much of a challenge.

Hertl, Kreider, and MacKinnon are the only rookie forwards who have averaged more ice time per game than the former Ottawa 67's center, and Monahan's nine goals are second only to Hertl (13) amongst rookie scorers.

In 12 games in November, Monahan scored three goals with two assists and was -1, averaging 16:26 minutes of ice time.

7. (tie) Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Signed as a free agent in March, 2011

While playing in Tampa Bay doesn't always allow a player to be in the spotlight, it can be argued that the former undrafted free agent's early season exploits have been as impressive as any of the rookies in this month's poll. Expected to struggle this year, the Lightning have been among the Eastern Conference's top teams over the first two months, and the diminutive but speedy Johnson has been a big part of that success.

Recalled late in the season last spring after two impressive AHL seasons, Johnson had six points in 14 NHL games, and he has continued to be a spark for Tampa Bay this season while averaging over 17 minutes of ice time in 26 games. The 23-year-old is seemingly constantly in motion and makes the players around him more effective.

In 14 games in November, Johnson scored three goals with four assists and was +3 while averaging 17:42 minutes of ice time.

9. Hampus Lindholm, D, Anaheim Ducks
Drafted 6th overall (1st round) in 2012

While the nature of his position and style of play make it difficult for Lindholm to garner the attention of some of the offensively gifted players on this list, Lindholm's value to the Ducks cannot be overstated. Now in his second season playing in North America after spending the 2012-13 season in the AHL, the Swedish 19-year-old continues to eat up minutes on the Anaheim blue line and is a big part of the Ducks' success.

Lindholm's size and reach allow him to be a strong defender in his own end, but it his skating and high skill level that separate him from other large defenders. Lindholm is adept at moving the puck and has the strength and stamina to play large amounts of ice time.

In 15 games in November, Lindholm scored two goals with four assists and was +3, averaging 19:29 minutes of ice time.

10. (tie) Dan DeKeyser, D, Detroit Red Wings
Signed as a free agent in March, 2013

DeKeyser joined the Red Wings last spring following his junior season at Western Michigan and like Krug saw time in the NHL playoffs before a broken thumb kept him out of the Detroit lineup. The 23-year-old was skating in a full-time role for Detroit this season before suffering a separated shoulder that is expected to keep him out of the lineup for four to six weeks.

Had he not suffered the shoulder injury, DeKeyser might have been a bit higher on this list as he has been seeing top minutes on a Red Wings team that continues to be among the league's top squads after switching conferences this year.

DeKeyser appeared to be elevating his game prior to the injury. He scored both of his goals and had four of his seven assists this season in nine November games and was +2 while averaging 21:20 minutes of ice time.

10. (tie) Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings
Drafted 47th overall (2nd round) in 2010

Toffoli burst onto the scene with a flourish after being re-called on November 2nd. The 21-year-old recorded points in five of his first seven games, including a pair of goals and an assist in a 5-1 win over Vancouver on November 9th in his third game back from Manchester.

While Toffoli's scoring pace and ice time diminished as the month wore on —he had 1 assist in six games before scoring two goals on December 2nd against St. Louis — Toffoli could be a dark horse candidate for the Calder Trophy if he is able to re-capture that offensive touch.

In 13 games in November, Toffoli scored four goals with five assists and was +5 while averaging 13:32 minutes of ice time.

Others receiving votes (in order of points):  Alex Chiasson, RW, Dallas; Michael Bournival, C/W, Montreal; Marek Mazanec, G, Nashville; Eric Gelinas, D, New Jersey; Nick Bjugstad, C, Florida; Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto; Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Dallas; Ryan Murphy, D, Carolina; Ryan Murray, D, Columbus; Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida; Olli Maatta, D, Pittsburgh.

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