Tag: Florida Panthers

Filip Forsberg

Poll: Who would get your vote for the Calder Trophy?


This year’s Calder Trophy race was close enough that there’s no one right answer to the question of who was this year’s Rookie of the Year. We now know that Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Ottawa’s Mark Stone are the finalists, but an argument could be made that Filip Forsberg with the Nashville Predators or John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars were also worthy of being on that list.

Then there’s St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen and Winnipeg Jets netminder Michael Hutchinson. They both played important roles for their respective clubs this season in a critical position. Should either of them have been given more consideration?

You can vote for your pick for the Calder Trophy below:

Of course, there’s one major first year player that’s gone unmentioned. Ottawa Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond wasn’t eligible for Calder Trophy consideration because the 27-year-old was too old. Even if he was eligible, it’s hard to say if he would have been a finalist. On the one hand he had a dominant 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, but he only played in 24 contest.

So as a bonus, would you have considered Hammond as worthy of winning the Calder Trophy if he was eligible?

For a more detailed rundown of what each rookie did: Tight Calder Trophy race down to Ekblad, Gaudreau, Stone

Tight Calder Trophy race down to Ekblad, Gaudreau, Stone

Johnny Gaudreau

This year featured a tight race for the Calder Trophy with several candidates worthy of being called the Rookie of the Year. However, only one can win and tonight we learned that the three candidates are Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Ottawa’s Mark Stone.

At this point it’s not surprising to see Gaudreau’s name on the list of Calder Trophy finalists, but going into the season there was a lot of skepticism about him. He was the 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner after scoring an incredible 80 points in 40 NCAA contests with Boston College, so obviously he had potential offensively, but there were concerns about the 5-foot-9 forward’s ability to adjust to the NHL given his size. Aware of that perception, he reached out to other undersized forwards like Martin St. Louis before the start of the season to get their advice.

“I’ve just got to make sure I follow in their footsteps and do what they’ve been doing,” Gaudreau said back in July. He’s taken a great first step by scoring 24 goals and 64 points in 80 contests with the Calgary Flames.

Out of all the rookies that stepped up this season, Mark Stone was perhaps the biggest surprise. Originally taken in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Stone had to hone his game in the minors before being able to earn a regular spot with Ottawa. He got off to a solid start this season, but it wasn’t until Dave Cameron took over as the team’s bench boss that his playing time grew substantially. He repaid Cameron’s trust by scoring 15 goals and 38 points in 36 contests after the All-Star break. No other rookie even came close to matching Stone’s pace during that stretch and if the NHL season was just a few weeks longer, he might have been regarded as the undisputed favorite for this year’s rookie honors.

As it is Stone still ended up tying Gaudreau for first place in the scoring race.

Unlike Stone or Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad managed to jump straight into the NHL after being drafted. While that’s pretty much the standard for a first overall selection, it is still very rare to see a defenseman be this effective as a teenager. He had 12 goals and 39 points in 81 contests while also leading the Panthers with a plus-12 rating. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him though is the level of trust he earned with the Panthers, as evidenced by his average of 21:48 minutes per contest.

Of course in a year with this many strong rookie seasons, there’s bound to be snubs and Filip Forsberg arguably tops that list.

The Nashville Predators have been hurting for a top-end skilled forward for a while and their search seems to be over. Although Forsberg needed to spend the 2013-14 campaign adjusting to North America hockey after playing predominantly in Sweden prior to that, he hit the ground running this season with 14 goals and 35 points in 36 contests by New Year’s Day. At one point he looked like the heavy favorite to win this year’s Calder Trophy, but he slowed down somewhat in the second half and consequently finished a close third in the scoring race with 63 points in 82 contests.

John Klingberg is another big snub. He didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 11, but he still led all rookie defensemen in scoring. The 22-year-old had 11 goals and 40 points in 65 contests while making the transition from Sweden. Stars GM Jim Nill was so impressed by Klingberg that he handed the blueliner a seven-year, $29.75 million contract despite the relatively small sample size. So while he won’t get the Calder, his efforts were far from unrecognized.

Sather impressed by Hayes’ impact on Rangers

Kevin Hayes, Carl Hagelin

Rangers’ rookie Kevin Hayes netted the overtime winner on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh giving New York a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to MSG.

It was the 22-year-old’s first career Stanley Cup playoff goal in just his fourth career postseason game.

Hayes, a free agent signing out of Boston College last summer, has been a surprise fit for the Rangers.

“Oh, it would be completely different,” Rangers GM Glen Sather told the New York Post Wednesday night. “Not only wouldn’t we have had him, but we would have had to go out and gotten somebody else [to fill the role as third-line center].”

Hayes had 44 goals and 132 points in 142 games with the Eagles over four seasons. The Blackhawks draft pick was unable to come terms with Chicago making him a free agent last August.

The Boston native had 17 goals and 28 assists in 79 regular season games with the Rangers.

Hayes rookie campaign has surprised even Sather.

“No, I didn’t envision it would happen this quickly,” Sather said. “It’s very rare to be able to do what he’s done. He’s a very smart player, he learns quickly and he’s a great kid.

“The mistake I made was not getting his brother from Chicago,” he said, alluding to Jimmy Hayes, who was in the Blackhawks’ organization for a few years before joining the Florida Panthers last season. “I wanted to, but it just didn’t work out.”

The Rangers can close out their series with the Penguins on Friday night.