Huberdeau takes over top spot in HF’s February Calder Poll

By Tony Piscotta

Jonathan Huberdeau - Florida Panthers

Photo: Florida Panthers' forward Jonathan Huberdeau formed a potent trio in February with Peter Mueller (R) and Drew Shore (courtesy of Juan Salas/Icon SMI)

With the lockout-shortened season, most teams will reach the midway point of their 48 game season sometime over the next week. In terms of the race for the 2013 Calder Trophy, most of the front-runners from the season's opening month continued to shine.

But the injuries that some anticipated due to the lack of extended training camps are beginning to mount for some clubs and that has effected the Calder race, both taking some players out of action and also providing opportunities for newcomers.

St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who led our poll in January, and Montreal's Brendan Gallagher (ninth in January) both suffered concussions while Red Wings' defenseman Brendan Smith suffered a shoulder injury. Tarasenko remains out while Gallagher and Smith (tied for 10th in January) have just recently returned to action.

Injuries to several Ottawa veterans has allowed rookie Jacob Silfverberg to assume a larger role for the Senators and the 22-year-old Swedish forward makes his debut in this month's poll.

1. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW/RW, Florida Panthers
Drafted 2nd overall (1st round) in 2011

Huberdeau had the biggest jump in our poll this month – moving from the sixth spot to the top position after a breakout month for the Panthers.

Continuing to play on the wing position rather than his traditional center spot,  Huberdeau has made highlight reel plays seemingly on a nightly basis playing alongside fellow rookie Drew Shore and young veteran Peter Mueller. Huberdeau leads Florida with 10 goals in 22 games.

While it was uncertain at the beginning of the year whether Huberdeau would stay in the NHL for the full season or return to the QMJHL, he has been one of the few consistent forces on a Panthers team that has looked very good on some nights but not so much on most nights.

He was -2 with six goals and three assists in 13 games in February while averaging 17 minutes of ice time.

2. Cory Conacher, C/LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Signed as a free agent, March 2012

Neither Canisius College – which is located in Buffalo, NY for those wondering – nor the NCAA's Atlantic Hockey league are known to NHL scouts as hockey hotbeds. Conacher could be helping to change that perception.

The former Golden Griffin continued putting up points for the Lightning in February, moving up one place in our poll. Playing alongside Teddy Purcell and 2011-12 NHL goals leader Steven Stamkos, he has 18 points in 21 games this season and competes all over the ice.

After a six-game scoreless streak to start the month, Conacher finished February with four goals and five assists in 14 games while averaging just under 16 minutes of ice time per game.

3. Justin Schultz, D, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted 43rd overall (2nd round) in 2008 by Anaheim/Signed as Free Agent, July 2012

Schultz' slide from the second spot one month ago has more to do with the recent exploits of Huberdeau' and Conacher than it does with the play of the former Wisconsin Badger. Schultz continues to lead all rookie defensemen in scoring (13 points) while leading all rookies in time on ice (averaging 22:41 minutes per game)

Schultz has scored four of his five goals this season on the Oilers' power-play and also has 8 assists in 21 games. Schultz played arguably his best game of the season on Feb. 28 in Edmonton's 5-1 win over the Stars; scoring a goal with an assist and playing over 25 minutes.

In 12 games in February, Schultz scored three goals with four assists and was a -6 while averaging 22:51minutes of ice time.

4. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, Montreal Canadians
Drafted 3rd overall (1st round) in 2012

Galchenyuk continued to impress in February, even when Gallagher was out of the lineup, as the Canadiens continue their surprising start under first-year coach Michel Therrien.

Primarily playing alongside Lars Eller and Erik Cole before the latter was dealt to Dallas for Michael Ryder,  Galchenyuk has not matched the offensive numbers of his teammate Gallagher or some of the other rookie forwards so far, but his combination of size and skill seem to project limitless potential.

Galchenyuk skated in 14 games for the Habs in February and, despite a five-game scoreless string early in the month, finished +4 with two goals and five assists while averaging 12:33 minutes of ice time.

5. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues
Drafted 16th overall (1st round) in 2010

Even before suffering a concussion in a Feb. 20 game against the Avalanche, Tarasenko had cooled off a bit from his red hot start to the season. After recording an assist  in a Feb. 1st game against Detroit, Tarasenko was -7 with just one goal and one assist over his next nine games, including the Colorado game.

Tarasenko's injury occurred in the third period of the Blues' 1-0 overtime loss to the Avalanche after a collision with Colorado's Mark Olver.

While his productivity and role were more modest in February, Tarasenko figures to still be a big part of the puzzle for St. Louis, both this season and for many years to come.

In 10 games in February he scored one goal with two assists and was -7 while averaging 13 minutes of ice time.

6. Nail Yakupov, RW, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted 1st overall (1st round) in 2012

Yakupov moves up two spots in this month's poll as he continues to see regular ice time for the Oilers. Like Galchenyuk, his numbers are not as impressive as Conacher nor Huberdeau but Yakupov continues to display a package of skills that suggest he can be a high-end talent in the years to come.

After playing on the Oilers' second line with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner for much of the early part of the season, Yakupov has found himself in various spots in the Edmonton lineup the past few games as the team tries to find the right mix.

Yakupov scored two goals with four assists in 12 games in February while averaging 13:33 minutes of ice time.

7. (tie) Dougie Hamilton, D, Boston Bruins
Drafted 9th overall (1st round) in 2011

Hamilton slides from the fourth to seventh spot this month but his drop more likely can be attributed to the team depth of the Bruins and his role as a defender rather than any deficiencies in the 19-year-old's game.

Skating primarily with veteran Dennis Seidenberg, Hamilton is a fixture on the blue line for one of the Eastern Conference's top teams (the Bruins' three regulation losses are the fewest in the conference).

Hamilton skated in 10 games for the Bruins in February, averaging 16 minutes of ice time and was an even plus-minus with one goal and four assists.

7. (tie) Brenden Dillon, D, Dallas Stars
Signed as a free agent, March 2011.

One of three rookie defensemen on what is a young blue line for the Stars, Dillon makes his debut in the poll this month tied for 7th. After a steady first month, he has shown some offensive ability in addition to his rock-solid defensive play.

Known for both toughness and playmaking skills while playing for Seattle in the WHL, Dillon went undrafted and was signed as a free agent by Dallas in March of 2011. Dillon spent last season with the AHL's Texas Stars and appered in one NHL game.

He has spent the bulk of this season playing alongside Stephane Robidas. Scoreless in his first seven games this season, Dillon had a goal and an assist in a game with the Coyotes on Feb. 1 and both his ice time and offensive numbers have risen since.

In 14 games in February he was +6 and scored three goals with three assists while averaging 21 minutes of ice time.

9. Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota Wild
Drafted 10th overall (1st round) in 2011

Brodin, like Dillon, makes his debut in the poll this month.  While he has flown under the radar in terms of Calder Trophy consideration, a good case can be made that no rookie has been as important to his team as the Wild defenseman.

Among rookies, Brodin is second to Schultz in ice time, averaging nearly 22 minutes a night.

While Brodin's offensive numbers are limited (three assists in 18 game and -1 plus/minus), only high profile free agent signee Ryan Suter sees more ice time for Minnesota than the 19-year-old from Sweden.

Brodin skated in 12 games for the Wild in February and was +2 with 1 assist while averaging 22:30 minutes per night.

10. Drew Shore, C, Florida Panthers
Drafted 44th overall (2nd round) in 2009

Called up from the AHL's San Antonio Rampage in January, the former University of Denver forward was scoreless in his first six games but has been on a roll in February playing with Huberdeau and Mueller.

The leading scorer for the Pioneers last season as a junior, Shore signed with the Panthers last spring and was expected to need some time in the AHL to develop. However, his playmaking ability seems to be just the right fit with the high skill levels of his linemates.

In 13 games in February, Shore scored two goals with eight assists and was +2 while averaging 16:29 of ice time.

Honorable Mentions

Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal Canadians
Drafted 147th overall (5th round) in 2010

No rookie has been as impressive offensively as the under-sized Gallagher, who would no doubt be higher in the poll had it not been for the concussion he suffered earlier this month. Gallagher was expected to miss more time than he did but returned after missing just three games.

Since returning from the injury, Gallagher has been on a scoring line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais and has fit right in. The 20-year-old, who played for the WHL's Vancouver Giants last season, has 13 points in 18 games while sporting a +10 rating.

Gallagher played in 11 games in February and was +5 with four goals and one assist and 17 penalty minutes.

Jakob Silfverberg, RW, Ottawa Senators
Drafted 39th overall (2nd round) in 2009

Silfverberg makes his debut in this month's poll. He is one of several young players seeing more ice time than expected as Ottawa has remained among the top teams in the Eastern Conference despite multiple injuries. 

The MVP of the Swedish Elite League playoffs a year ago with Brynas, he has adjusted well in his first season in North America. He joined the Senators for the NHL playoffs following the Swedish finals and made his NHL debut in limited ice time in two playoff games against the New York Rangers

This season he has skated much of the time with Swedish legend and Ottawa's second-leading scorer, Daniel Alfredsson, and played on the Senators' power-play.

Silfverberg scored two goals, one on the power-play, with three assists  in 14 games in February and was an even plus/minus while averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice time.

Other Notables: Jake Allen (STL), Tyson Barrie (COL), Robert Bortuzzo (PIT), Simon Despres (PIT), Marcus Foligno (BUF), Mikael Granlund (MIN), Korbinian Holzer (TOR), Tomas Kundratek (WAS), Zach Redmond (WIN), Antoine Roussel (DAL), Brendan Smith (DET), Mika Zibanejad (OTT)