Jeff Skinner

Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, and Michael Grabner named Calder Trophy finalists; Who should win?


This year’s rookie class was especially loaded in the NHL which helped make the race for the Calder Trophy all the more interesting. With numerous players having outstanding first seasons, the campaigning to see who would end up being the three finalists to see who would land the league’s rookie of the year award was tough. In the end, if you’re not scoring you’re not trying as three high-flying, high-scoring forwards will vie for the big prize.

San Jose’s Logan Couture, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, and Islanders winger Michael Grabner were named the finalists for the Calder Trophy this afternoon and each of their résumés offer a great case to be made.

Jeff Skinner was the leading point scorer amongst all rookies with 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists). Skinner emerged to become an instant fan favorite in North Carolina and turned his great season into an All-Star Game appearance as well. Skinner’s point total put him second on the Hurricanes in scoring just behind Eric Staal. Skinner’s play nearly led the Hurricanes into the playoffs as well, only falling short in the season’s last game. With an All-Star Game nod and being the top point getter amongst rookies, Skinner’s case to win it all is perhaps the strongest.

Logan Couture was a revelation for the Sharks and helped lead them to a Pacific Division title. While the Sharks saw disappointing seasons from Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, Couture’s 32 goals made him the team’s second best goal scorer just behind Patrick Marleau. His 56 points were second amongst rookies and the fact that his team is actually in the playoffs helps boost his case.

Michael Grabner’s case is a real heartwarmer. During the summer, Grabner was traded by Vancouver to Florida as part of the Keith Ballard deal. In Florida, they didn’t seem to have a spot for him in the lineup and then waived him only to be claimed by the Islanders. Many thought playing there would be the last chance for the once highly touted prospect. Instead, it turned out to be the awakening he needed as he finished the season with 34 goals, best amongst all rookies. More amazingly so, only two of those goals came on the power play and six came shorthanded, second best mark in the NHL. Grabner’s speed and his offense made him a revelation and a steal for the Islanders. From a guy squeezed out of a roster spot in two cities to a potential rookie of the year. Not too bad.

Of course, with the announcement of the finalists there’s some debate over who got snubbed. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford heads that list after his outstanding season saving the Blackhawks and leading them to the playoffs. Defensemen P.K. Subban in Montreal, John Carlson in Washington, and Kevin Shattenkirk of St. Louis also turn out to be also-rans. After seeing a defenseman win the award last season in Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, this year’s outstanding corps of forwards made it tough for defensemen and goaltending to be noticed.

So now we ask you, who do you think wins the Calder Trophy this year? Let us know in our poll as well as in our comments.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen