The Calder Trophy has gone to a defenseman just three times since Brian Leetch won it all the way back in 1989. It was Bryan Berard who got the nod as the NHL’s top rookie in 1997, Barret Jackman in 2003, and Tyler Myers in 2010.
By far the majority of the award’s recipients have been forwards, with just 10 d-men since 1932-33 winning it.
And that’s the way it was trending through the first part of 2014-15, as Nashville’s Filip Forsberg was piling up the points for the Predators. The 20-year-old Swede still leads the rookie scoring race with 25 points in 26 games, followed by Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (21 points in 27 games).
Just don’t count out Florida’s Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers’ 18-year-old defenseman, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, co-leads his team with 17 points (4G, 13A) in 25 games, while logging 21:45 of ice time per contest. Only one rookie, New Jersey’s Damon Severson (4G, 6A), has played more total minutes than Eklbad has this season.
Among other things, teammates have praised Ekblad’s ability to get his shots through to the net from the point, a skill that’s especially valuable in today’s NHL, where players are so adept at getting into the shooting lanes and blocking attempts.
“For the guys standing in front of the net, it’s so easy when you know the puck is going to arrive,” said Tomas Kopecky, per FOX Sports Florida. “He gets those pucks through. It’s not hard, but they’ll get there and that’s all that matters.”
Assuming he keeps producing and playing big minutes, Ekblad’s Calder candidacy will only be helped if the Panthers can make the playoffs. And that’s certainly not out of the question given today’s standings, which have Florida (11-7-7) just two points back of Boston and Toronto for the pair of wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers take on the Blues tonight in St. Louis.