Calder Trophy up for grabs: Nathan Kanter

Today’s Nathan Kanter tackles the tricky business of calling the Calder Trophy race for the NHL’s top rookie 2013-14. Take it away, Nathan…

San Jose Sharks’ Tomas Hertl

Tomas Hertl surprised the hockey world with an explosive start to his first NHL season thanks to 6 goals and 7 points in his first three games. But it’s taken him thirteen more games to hit his next 7 points, bringing his season total to 14 in sixteen games (still impressive).

Hertl’s “drought” means his lead on the rookie-scoring race is now down to two. Oilers center Mark Arcobello has 12 points, Flames pivot Sean Monahan has 11 points, and Dallas winger Alex Chiasson also has 11.

The 25 year-old Arcobello has been a surprise this season considering he was never drafted and measures a hobbit-like 5-foot-8 and 166 pounds. Monahan, who also wasn’t expected to stick with the Flames this year, was chosen sixth overall at the 2013 entry draft. It’s his two-way play that left the Flames no choice but to keep him around. Alex Chiasson, who turned heads last April with 6 goals in seven games, is getting top-six minutes with Lindy Ruff and has 11 points in sixteen games to show for it, playing primarily with Ray Whitney and Cody Eakin.

Elsewhere, first-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon sits fifth in rookie scoring with 10 points. He continues to play on the third line for the Avs 5-on-5, but receives (and will continue to receive) decent powerplay minutes. Expect him to keep climbing the rookie scoring chart.

My pick for the Calder, however, won’t go to the rookie-scoring leader. I believe it will go to Seth Jones, at least if he keeps playing as well as he is. He has 7 points in sixteen games (remember he’s a defenseman); but more importantly, has logged almost 25 minutes of ice time per game.

The Preds’ Seth Jones

Last season, many felt rookie D-man Jonas Brodin was snubbed by Ms Calder after he anchored Minnesota’s top pairing with Ryan Suter all year. This year I don’t see the same mistake happening, and I feel Seth Jones will continue to play big minutes and excel with Shea Weber – and will subsequently walk away with the league’s top rookie honours in June.

Other possible candidates? Watch for Aleksander Barkov to continue to get big minutes in Florida, even under a new coach and for his numbers to steadily rise. There is no question he has struggled as of late (two points in his last 11) but Dale Tallon was extremely intent on keeping him around, and not to play a bottom-six role. The Rangers’ Chris Kreider is also now receiving big minutes under Alain Vigneault and has seven points in just nine games.

In the absence this year of an overwhelming shoo-in favourite for the Calder (it’s been a few years since the race was dominated by the likes of Ovechkin, Malkin, or Kane – and remember the Calder gurus can sometimes stumble a bit: Andrew Raycroft won the award in 2003-04, the season before Alex Ovechkin), the race should be interesting. Watch this space for updates.

– Nathan Kanter


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