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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: Potential Shattenkirk trade fell apart over contract talks

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 9:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 9, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blues defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Shattenkirk‘s name has been floating around the NHL’s trade rumor mill for sometime now, and according to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Blues came very close to dealing him six weeks ago only to have the trade fall apart when the new team and Shattenkirk were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

It is not the first time that has happened over the past year.

According to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Blues recently had a Shattenkirk trade in place with an Eastern Conference team that was believed to be the Tampa Bay Lightning. But when Shattenkirk turned down a long-term contract extension with the team that would have paid him $42 million over seven years, the trade fell apart.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Thursday night that the Arizona Coyotes also had permission earlier this season to speak to Shattenkirk about a new contract but were unable to reach a deal. A similar situation unfolded in the offseason when the Edmonton Oilers also tried to acquire the veteran defenseman.

The Lightning would make a ton of sense as a trade partner for the Blues here because they have been in desperate need of another big-time defenseman to add to their blue line along with Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. They also have several restricted free agents (and a pretty tight cap situation) to deal with this summer that could have been part of a return in a Shattenkirk trade.

If the reported contract terms are correct, it’s a pretty good sign that Shattenkirk thinks he can get a massive payday on the open market this summer as a free agent. And he is probably not wrong. Since the start of the 2011-12 season Shattenkirk has been one of the most productive defensemen in the NHL, currently sitting 10th among all blue-liners in points (241) and posting dominant possession numbers.

A $6 million per year cap hit would put him in the same salary range as Mike Green, Johnny Boychuk, and Erik Johnson.

He outperforms all of them.

Even though Shattenkirk is one of their top players, and the Blues seem on track to make the playoffs, the team still seems determined to move him before the deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing over the summer.

Blackhawks keep rolling with another dominant offensive performance

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Another night, another hat trick, and another dominant offensive showing from the Chicago Blackhawks.

On Thursday night it was Patrick Kane becoming the second Blackhawks forward in as many games to record a hat trick — following the three goal (and five point) effort Jonathan Toews had on Tuesday night — to help lead the Blackhawks to a 6-3 blowout win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Along with Kane’s three goals, Toews picked up two more assists to continue his recent scoring surge that has seen him pick up 23 points in his past 15 games. Keep in mind he only had 21 points in the 37 games prior to that.

Even more than Toews is the fact the entire Blackhawks team is clicking right now offensively.

Their win on Thursday is their eighth in the past nine games and every one of those wins has been a display of total offensive dominance, scoring 40 goals during that stretch. That is more than four goals per game. Everybody is contributing to it at this point as seven players (Toews, Kane, Richard Panik, Artemi Panarin, Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Duncan Keith) all have at least eight points during this run.

It’s a stretch that has helped the Blackhawks gain some ground on the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division race, as they now sit three points back of the top spot.

Just about the only bad news for the Blackhawks on Thursday night was defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson leaving the game with what coach Joel Quenneville described as an upper body injury.

The Blackhawks knew he wasn’t 100 percent going into the game and dressed a seventh defenseman, Michal Rozsival, as a precaution in case Hjalmarsson could not finish. After skating just four shifts in the first period — a first period that saw the two teams combine for six goals — he exited the game and did not return. Rozsival ended up playing a pretty significant role in the game scoring his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period for what ultimately prove to be the game-winner.

Lundqvist stays hot as Rangers move ahead of Blue Jackets

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers laughs as Kevin Klein #8 misses an attempt at a hattrick during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2017 in New York City.  The Rangers defeated the Avalanche 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Remember those few weeks earlier this season when Henrik Lundqvist was struggling, he was losing playing time to Antti Raanta, and everybody in the NHL was freaking out about the Rangers’ goaltending situation?

At this point it seems like an eternity ago.

Lundqvist has been on an absolute roll over the past month and has helped the Rangers finally gain some ground in the Metropolitan Division.

After his 32 save performance — in the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout win in Toronto on Thursday night, the Rangers are now in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division, moving ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets who for the time being move down to the top Wild Card spot. The Rangers are now just two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a spot that would get them home ice in the first round.

Leading the way lately during this recent surge has been Lundqvist as he plays his best hockey of the season. In his past 13 starts the Rangers own a 10-2-1 record, while Lundqvist is carrying a .938 save percentage.

Even though the Rangers took huge steps over the summer to improve their forward depth — and it has absolutely paid off — it is still a team that is weak on the blue line and is only going to go as far as Lundqvist can carry it in the playoffs.

But with the way he is playing right now, and with the way the Rangers can roll four solid lines and score (3.28 goals per game, fourth best in the NHL) this could be a potentially scary team come playoff time.

Islanders shut out Canadiens for huge road win

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 18:  Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in action against the New Jersey Devils on February 18, 2017 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.

Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.

The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.

With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.

But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.

With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.

It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.