Today we continue a five-part series, looking at top candidates for the different awards this season. Here are my top five Calder Trophy contenders…
1. Tyler Ennis When you look at other pre-season prognostications, Tyler Ennis is not considered to be one of those favorites. I mean, when you have as stellar a rookie class as this is expected to be, it’s very understandable. But something he has over some of the others is a cup of coffee of experience, and played in the postseason against Boston.
Ennis, the Sabres’ first-round pick in 2008, tallied 9 nine points in 10 games late last year. Not bad. Ennis will get an opportunity to play in the Sabres’ top-six (probably at wing). But given Tim Connolly’s inability to stay healthy on a year-to-year basis, though, Ennis could see some time as the team’s number two pivot at some point. I really like the chances of Ennis at least finishing as a finalist for the Calder – if not, winning it.
2. P.K. Subban Andrei Markov’s injury could be a blessing in disguise for ‘Little Bird’, a.k.a. P.K. Subban. The defenseman was called up during the playoffs last year and performed admirably. He immediately became a fan favorite at that time, racking up 8 points in 14 pressure-packed games.
Entering his first season as an NHLer, Subban has a great opportunity at hand. With Markov out for an unknown amount of time to start the season, the 21-year-old rookie will have a chance to shine as the Canadiens’ top offensive defenseman… on a power play unit that is normally pretty darn good, nonetheless. Look for Subban to put his hat into this ring, as well.
3. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi Since all three of these high flyin’ Oilers are candidates for the Calder, we might as well include them in one segment! They have already stolen the spotlight here in the pre-season with great performances from Eberle and Paajarvi. Then there is Hall, this summer’s number one pick.
I would love to see all three on one line, but that seems very unlikely at this point. If they are split into two different lines, the Oilers should have three sets of lines that could strike at any moment. While Eberle, Hall, and Paajarvi all have unlimited potential and could very well be the best rookies in this class, there’s one question I have: would the three cancel each other in this race for the Calder if they have equal success?
4. Jonathan Bernier This past March, I saw Bernier shutout a hot Nashville team and was amazed how good this kid was. It was just his sixth game in the NHL (and second since 2007/08). With Manchester of the AHL last season, he recorded a 2.03 GAA and 30 wins. With the Kings, Bernier will undoubtedly rack up the wins – just how many is the question. Even though he is still on the outside looking in, per se, with Jonathan Quick as starter, it’s only a matter of time before Bernier becomes a star between the pipes.
5. John Carlson Some call him the next great defenseman for the Caps. Some call him the American hero for his overtime heroics against Canada in the World Juniors. Whatever he is, John Carlson is freakin’ good. He put up 39 points in 48 games for Hershey last year… as a defenseman! If you remember, Carlson also scored the game-tying goal in waning minutes of Game 2 aginst Montreal to send the game to overtime (and had a +6 playoff rating to boot). The future is bright for this kid, and should be one of the top Calder candidates.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Seguin, Alex Pietrangelo*, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
*Update (9/30): Been notified that Pietrangelo is not eligible for the Calder since he has played in more than six games in two separate seasons. Honest mistake. Add Vancouver's Cody Hodgson as an honorable mention...
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.