2014 Preseason Major Awards Watch: Calder Memorial Trophy
Here’s how this works. In this five piece series we’re going to reveal our three favourite picks plus a sleeper for each of the five fantasy relevant NHL Awards: Hart, Vezina, Calder, Norris, Rocket Richard. Each day of the week we’ll release our lists. Since this is our first post, we’ll start out with our favourite rookies who’ll be in the running for the Calder Trophy.
Side note: These predictions were put together before preseason hockey started. There may be other rookies who if they end up making the final NHL roster, would be ranked in this list.
5. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames
Diminutive in stature at 5’8” but gigantic in talent, the former 2011 fourth round draft pick has done nothing but dominate at every stop. After averaging a ridiculous 1.47 points per game over his sensational three year collegiate career, Gaudreau capped off his junior season by averaging two points per game and running away with the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the best player in Men’s Division I Hockey. Following the departure of Mike Cammalleri via free agency, opportunity knocks in Calgary’s top six for the talented youngster. Mason Raymond and Devin Setoguchi have been brought in to give Gaudreau some competition but neither of these guys is a major threat to Johnny Hockey’s role in Calgary’s top six forward group.
Final Thought: 73 GP, 17 G, 22 A, -18, 22 PIM
4. Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers
The “German Gretzky” is no lock to be on the Oilers opening day roster; however, he will have to massively disappoint not to make the team. With the Oilers shuffling incumbent second line center, Sam Gagner, to the Arizona Coyotes, there is a glaring void in the middle of Edmonton’s second line. Draisaitl isn’t overly physical but his ability to use his size and strength to his advantage is a perfect complement to the speed and skill players Edmonton has already stockpiled. If Draisaitl indeed wins the second line center role he’d likely center, the vastly underrated David Perron and the enigmatic Nail Yakupov.
Final Thought: 79 GP, 19 G, 25 A, -10, 33 PIM
3. Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres
The first words often associated with Sam Reinhart are hands and smarts. The youngest Reinhart is easily the most talented of the three brothers. Most importantly, the depth chart in Buffalo affords him substantial opportunity to play with quality players. He slots in nicely on the second line behind Cody Hodgson and is projected to play with Tyler Ennis and deadline acquisition Chris Stewart. He’ll see an abundance of even strength and powerplay time which will allow the 2nd overall pick’s offensive instincts to be on full display.
Final Thought: 82 GP, 21 G, 29 A, -7, 8 PIM
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, RW, Washington Capitals
Kuznetsov’s star had lost a bit of it’s shine over the last calendar year in prospect circles but he’s just too talented to not pay attention to. As a 21 year old in the second best league in the world, he was an assistant captain for Traktor Chelyabinsk and produced 21 points in 31 games. He then came overseas, and in largely a third line role, he put up 9 points in 17 games. With a full offseason to further learn the nuances of the NHL game and pick the brain of fellow Russian superstar, Alex Ovechkin, watch Kuznetsov blossom into the offensive star everyone thought he’d be after being stolen with the 26th pick in the 2010 draft.
Final Thought: 80 GP, 25 G, 27 A, -9, 44 PIM
1. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
There should be no surprise here as Drouin is simply the most talented player outside of the NHL currently. Tampa Bay decided to play it safe with Drouin, sending him back to Halifax for an additional season in the weight room. The 2013 third overall pick took on a leadership role with the Moosehead and continued his domination on the scoresheet, averaging a sublime 2.35 points per game. Fellow youngsters Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have emerged in recent years in Tampa Bay but neither of these two possess the tantalizing skillset of Drouin. A role in the top six forwards is a near forgone conclusion, while riding shotgun with Steven Stamkos is a distinct possibility. Look for JD to follow in former Mooseheads teammate Nathan MacKinnon’s footsteps and be crowned the next rookie of the year.
Final Thought: 76 GP, 21 G, 38 A, +4, 38 PIM
*WILDCARD*: John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
Gibson isn’t even guaranteed to be the Ducks starting goaltender this year. That being said, the only other goalies on Anaheim’s roster are Fredrik Andersen and Jason Labarbara, the latter of which is absolutely no threat to Gibson’s playing time. Gibson’s pedigree and statistics are not rivaled by either goalie and he’s the most talented of the bunch. If he parlays his brilliant four game playoff stint into the starting role, he could easily approach 35 wins on one of the Western Conference’s most loaded squads.
Final Thought: 63 GP, 33 W, 2.47 GAA, .919 SV %
Sam Bennett, C, Calgary Flames
Michael Dal Colle, LW/C, New York Islanders
William Nylander, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
Filip Forsberg, C/RW, Nashville Predators
Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers