Calder Trophy Watch: League leaders among rookies

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After noticing how well Jeff Skinner has been performing lately (he scored one goal and two assists last night against Edmonton), I couldn’t help but wonder where he ranks among the best rookies so far this season. With that in mind, I thought I’d look through some of the most interesting stats among players eligible for the Calder Trophy.

Top 5 in the NHL in scoring among rookies (overall)

1. Skinner – 15 points in 15 games

Note: Skinner also leads rookies in goals scored, with six.

Tied for second place with eight points:

Jordan Eberle (13 games played); John Carlson (15 GP); Tyler Ennis (15 GP); Mark Letestu (15 GP)

Top 5 in time on ice per game

1. Carlson – 21:37 minutes per game
2. Jonas Holos – 21:21
3. P.K. Subban 21:17
4. Cam Fowler – 21:10
5. Matt Taormina – 20:48

The Top Two Picks from 2010

Taylor Hall – three goals and three assists for six points in 13 games played. He’s been getting 16:05 minutes per game and owns a -5 rating so far this season.

Tyler Seguin – three goals and two assists for five points in 11 games played. He averages 13:09 minutes per game and an even (0) rating so far this season.

Two goalies top the games won list among rookies:

1. Michal Neuvirth won nine in 13 starts.
2. Sergei Bobrovsky earned eight in 11 starts.

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With these stats in mind, here are my early season picks for the three finalists for the Calder. Obviously, this list will probably change profoundly during the season.

1. Skinner

He leads all rookie scorers by a five-point margin, with 15 in 15 games played. Like I wrote earlier, he also leads rookies in goals scored with six. Skinner might not soak up a bunch of minutes (16:28 per game) but that could change if he gets a nice amount of time on the team’s top line going forward. With an outstanding point per game pace, it would be tough to argue against that idea.

2. Bobrovsky

It’s a bit of a “jump ball” in my mind between “Bob” and Neuvirth, but I think the Russian rookie earns it from a quality over quantity standpoint. He’s 8-3-1 in 11 starts, earning only one less point that his Washington Capitals counterpart despite playing in three less games.

Most importantly in favor of him being on top, though, are his other numbers: a superior 2.19 GAA and elite 92.6 save percentage. Let’s not forget the fact that he has a funny last name, either, as Philadelphia writers might get the opportunity to write columns with “What about Bob?” in the headline. Gold.

3. Neuvirth

That’s not to say that Neuvirth is far behind, though. He does indeed own more wins (9-8) while he plays behind an inferior defense (no Chris Pronger). Neuvirth also prevailed when the two rookies played against each other last weekend. His 2.46 GAA is second best behind Bobrovsky and his 91.2 save percentage is still well above the typical number for goalies.

Honorable mention:

Carlson

To the surprise of few, the former AHL stud is already an asset for the Capitals. He leads rookie defenseman in points scored (8), which also ties him for second overall. As we discussed earlier, Carlson also leads rookies in minutes per game.

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To close things out, here is a bonus video of Skinner’s impressive one-handed goal from last night.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”