Hockey’s Future December Calder poll

By Ryan Garner

At the midpoint of the 2005-06 season, several rookies have established themselves as future superstars, some have surprised with their high level of play, while others have struggled with injuries and inconsistency. The race for the Calder Trophy is shaping up as one of the most exciting the league has ever seen, with players from each position, forward, defense and goaltender, garnering Calder consideration.

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 registered a goal or assist on 45 percent of Washington’s scoring plays after the first half of the season. The talented Russian possesses one of the quickest and most accurate releases in the league and currently sits tied for sixth in the NHL with 25 goals. In addition to being a scoring threat every time he steps on the ice, Ovechkin has also emerged as a dominating physical presence.

2. Sidney Crosby, C – Pittsburgh Penguins

December marked a coming-of-age for Crosby as he was awarded an A on his jersey by new coach Michel Therrien, and he established himself as a leader in Pittsburgh both on and off the ice. The young center was often called upon to rally the Penguins and maintained his consistent output. Crosby scored 14 points in December, marking the third consecutive month he’s registered 14 points in a month.

3. Dion Phaneuf, D – Calgary Flames

Averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game, Phaneuf has garnered plenty of time on special teams and performed well when veteran defensemen Rhett Warrener and Roman Hamrlik went down with injuries. Already one of the league’s most punishing hitters, the big defender has also managed to contribute offensively. Phaneuf recorded nine points in 13 games during December, each of them coming on the power play.

4. Henrik Lundqvist, G – New York Rangers

Lundqvist has taken over as the go-to netminder for the Rangers, and currently ranks among the NHL’s top five in both goals-against-average (2.14) and save percentage (.925). The talented rookie has displayed incredible poise and very sound positional play, earning himself a roster spot on Sweden’s 2006 Olympic team.

5. Marek Svatos, RW – Colorado Avalanche

Svatos thrived during the month of December, teamed with resurgent center Pierre Turgeon and talented winger Andrew Brunette. The speedy Slovak has elevated his game, posting numbers comparable to Ovechkin and Crosby despite averaging less than 14 minutes per game and currently sits atop the NHL with seven game-winning goals.

6. Petr Prucha, C – New York Rangers

Prucha has really come on strong, emerging as a bona fide scoring threat to further bolster the Rangers strong offensive attack. The slight winger scored 12 goals in 13 games during the month of December thanks to an amazing release and deadly accuracy. Prucha registered an incredible 32.4 shooting percentage during December and currently leads the league in that statistical category with 24.7 percent.

7. Andrej Meszaros, D – Ottawa Senators

Mesazros is already a very complete defenseman, contributing at both ends of the ice for the Senators and drawing comparisons to a young Scott Stevens. The talented Slovak posted nine points in 14 games during the month of December and currently ranks third in the NHL in plus/minus with an incredible +25.

8. Thomas Vanek, W – Buffalo Sabres

After going 14 games without a goal to start the season, Vanek has finally settled into a groove with the Sabres and his confidence is growing every time he takes to the ice. The speedy Austrian posted seven goals and three assists in 14 games during December teamed with Maxim Afinogenov and Derek Roy. Possessing blinding speed and a great shot, his numbers should continue to improve.

9. Jeff Carter, C – Philadelphia Flyers

Carter’s role with the Flyers diminished slightly over the past month because of Peter Forsberg’s return from injury. His production decreased, only scoring six points in 13 games during December. The lanky center is an intense competitor, with 19 of his 21 points this season coming when the Flyers were tied or trailing an opponent.

10. Alex Steen, C – Toronto Maple Leafs

Steen has become a fan favorite in Toronto, and developed good chemistry playing the wing alongside Mats Sundin and Jeff O’Neill. The undersized center managed four points in six games during December before suffering a thumb injury which sidelined him during the end of the month. Averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game, Steen has contributed consistently while employing a solid defensive game as well.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.