MacKinnon, Johnson and Palat named Calder Trophy finalists

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Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and a pair of Tampa Bay teammates — Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson — have been named the three finalists for the 2014 Calder Trophy, the NHL announced on Wednesday.

Awarded annually to the league’s top rookie, this year’s Calder is expected to go to MacKinnon, the first overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft that led all first-year players in points (63) and assists (39). He also broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for the longest point streak by a player 18 or younger — 12 games — and became the fourth Colorado player in the last eight years to be named a Calder finalist, joining Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, who took home the trophy in 2012.

As for Palat and Johnson, they’ve made strong cases to be among the Calder finalist group. Johnson led all first-year scorers with 24 goals and set a Lightning rookie record in the process; he also became just the second rookie in NHL history to score five power-play and shorthanded goals in a single season.

What’s more, Johnson becomes the first undraft Calder finalist since Ed Belfour in 1991 — he signed with the Bolts as an undrafted free agent in 2011 following a standout career with WHL Spokane.

As for Palat, he finished second to MacKinnon in points (59) and was three shy of breaking Brad Richards’ franchise rookie scoring record. The Czech skater — who represented his country at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi — captured rookie of the month honors in January and March, and finished atop the first-year leaderboard in plus-minus (+32).

Oh, and in case you’re wondering — Palat and Johnson are the first teammates to be nominated for the Calder since Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in 2008.