Leading up to the regular season, we’ll be taking a look at some of the favorites for the major awards. Who are the top Calder Trophy candidates for the 2011-12 season? 1. Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche
Of the 210 players drafted this past June, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog is the most NHL-ready. The second overall selection is a complete player with a high upside. Landeskog is expected to make the opening night roster for the Avalanche and skate in the top-six. The fact that he could spend 82 games playing alongside Paul Stastny or Matt Duchene means he’s going to get plenty of opportunities to shine as a rookie.
2. Brayden Schenn, Flyers
For the last two years, Brayden Schenn has been hockey’s top prospect. With the trade from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, the fifth overall pick in 2009 finally gets a chance to play full-time at the NHL level (9 games of experience in his career). Schenn, a smart two-way playmaker, is projected to open the season as the Flyers’ third-line center, playing a key role. Look for him to be in the Calder discussion all year.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers
It is still a question mark of whether Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will stick around in Edmonton this season, or be sent back to junior to get stronger and more seasoning. Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 draft choice of the summer’s draft, has the make-up of being a special player one day. If he gets to play alongside Taylor Hall and/or Jordan Eberle, maybe he’ll have a chance to rack up some quality numbers.
4. Adam Larsson, Devils
The name everyone talked about in the years leading up to this summer’s draft was Adam Larsson. He was the top defenseman of the draft, and is considered a steal by New Jersey at fourth overall. In all likelihood, Larsson will be given the chance to play some big minutes for the Devils. Larsson’s calmness on the blue-line should make for an easy transition from the Swedish Elite League.
5. Nino Niederreiter, Islanders
‘El Nino’ is a big piece of the Islanders’ on-ice future. Niederreiter played just nine NHL games last season before being sent back to Portland of the WHL, where he scored 41 goals in 55 games. Niederreiter, the Isles’ first-round selection in 2010, has a great opportunity to make the opening night roster. If he can seize the opportunity of playing with some talented forwards, he should be in the Calder chatter this year, as well.
Dark horses: Blake Geoffrion, Predators; Erik Gudbranson, Panthers; David Rundblad, Senators
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.