There is no shortage of candidates for this year’s Calder Memorial Trophy awarded to the NHL’s rookie of the year.
Around the league, some of this year’s class are making a case for themselves night after night on the score sheet. But does scoring alone win you the Calder trophy? Maybe. It certainly doesn’t hurt one’s chances.
Three of the top five rookies in scoring all played during the lockout, so it seems they were better prepared for the NHL than some of the rookies in years prior. Whatever the case, these rookies I’ve chosen to profile have caught my attention and are my early season candidates for the rookie of the year.
Dark Horses: Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov
It’s not often that a team lands the first overall draft pick or the most coveted unrestricted free agent defenseman, but the Edmonton Oilers did just that this past offseason in drafting Yakupov and signing free agent blueliner Schultz.
Due to the lockout, Yakupov started the season in the KHL while Schultz started with the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons.
While Schultz had greater statistical success than Yakupov did during the lockout, both have fit nicely into a young Oilers line up.
As of Monday night, Schultz led the Oilers in power play goals (4) and is fourth among NHL rookies in scoring. While Schultz has been able to put points on the board, he has averaged 23 minutes of ice time per game to lead his team.
Yakupov on the other hand is tied for first in goals on the Oilers with five and is third in NHL rookie scoring with eight points, but he’s also a -6 in plus/minus rating.
Both Yakupov and Schultz are immensely talented players in their own right, but have issues in the defensive zone. Unless either of them blow up statistically, I’d say they’re the long shot in this year’s class.
If I told you I knew who he was prior to this season, I would be lying to you. Undrafted, Conacher is one of the older rookies in this year’s class at age 23.
Prior to joining the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, Conacher was a member of their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12. He led the Admirals in scoring with 80 points.
This season in the NHL, Conacher leads all rookies in goals (5), assists (7) and points (12). If he continues to produce at this rate he stands a great chance at winning the Calder Trophy.
If we were playing a full 82-game season, Conacher would be on pace for 89 points. Last year’s winner, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog finished with 52 points. But scoring isn’t everything and it is still very early.
Drafted 16th overall in the first round in 2010, Tarasenko didn’t come over to play in North America until this season. Rather, the Yaroslavl native stayed in his native Russia and played 38 games with Sibir Novosibirsk.
In those 38 games, Tarasenko proved he could play against men in a professional league. During this year’s lockout, Tarasenko again stayed in Russia playing for SKA St. Petersburg.
While his point total wasn’t as impressive as the year past with Novosibirsk, it’s the NHL where the 21-year-old as really made his mark in 2012-13.
Currently leading the St. Louis Blues in goals (5) and second in NHL rookie scoring with 10 points, Tarasenko is my early candidate to win the Calder. He possesses great skill and vision, and is more important to his team than perhaps others in this class.
Not known for playing high scoring games, the Blues have in Tarasenko the potential for an elite scorer for years to come.
Mitch Dyck is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who has been covering the Canucks for the last year. Follow him on Twitter @MitchEmDee
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.