With my Top 100 NHL Prospect Rankings fresh off the press, I still wanted to discuss this year’s top rookie class. Though a prospect had to be Calder Trophy eligible to meet the Top 100 criteria, the list was focused on long term potential with NHL readiness taken into account.
This article then features prospects that are obviously ready for the Big League and should garner some consideration for rookie-of-the-year, should things fall in place for them this season.
TSN’s Darren Dreger beat me to it and revealed an excellent list on October 6th on the season preview show. Bob McKenzie followed that up with a great article with some insight on the lower profile potential Calder candidates.
The list I had compiled mentally when preparing the Top 100 Prospect Rankings is not a lot different than that of TSN’s Darren Dreger. Has Darren Dreger used some kind of Inception – like technique to invade The Hockey Spy’s thoughts to pull out his Top 10 list!?! Not quite. Dreger talks and polls experts (as does McKenzie) when they compile such lists.
Thus, I have decided to make my Top 10 Calder Trophy Candidate article in a slightly different direction. The following prospects then are strong candidates in their own right but I will throw a spin in to the mix in which I predict things that will have to go right (or wrong) for them to be a true contender.
Calder Memorial Tophy
1. 26 years old or younger by September 15 of their rookie season.
2. A player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.
Top 10 Calder Trophy Candidates – Fearless Predictions
*Note: These are invented scenarios (i.e. I am not totally delusional!)
10. Tyler Seguin – Boston Bruins
Calder Winning Scenario: Marc Savard’s concussion issues keep him out for the whole year, or the best part of it. Seguin establishes he can take on top 6 forward role and his exceptional all around play shine through.
Calder Winning Scenario: The physically mature Carlson emerges as true second offensive weapon from the blueline for Boudreau to deploy.
8. Michael Neuvirth – Washington Capitals
Prospect Ranking: 58
Calder Winning Scenario: Varlamov struggles with injuries and the cool as ice Neuvirth takes to the crease and posts stellar numbers.
Prospect Ranking: #24
Calder Winning Scenario: The opportunity for the mature and offensively gifted McBain to emerge and flourish on the Canes blueline is certainly there for the taking. If he can come close to producing at the clip he did in a late season audition – 10 points in 14 games – McBain will be well on his way to getting up close and personal with the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Prospect Ranking: 51
Calder Winning Scenario: Ennis has already overcome the size issue. Quite simply needs to continue to do what he has done at every level he has played at and even with his late season and playoff stint in the NHL last season – maintain consistency and produce at or close to a PPG clip. Ennis might just admittedly be the one guy who got a raw deal in my top 100 rankings, coming in at 51st.
Prospect Ranking: 16
Calder Winning Scenario: Could one ask for a more brilliant debut? Eberle obviously possesses an uncanny natural scoring ability, but he simply will have to withstand and endure the physical intensity of 82 game NHL schedule, which he will have trouble doing this season.
4. Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
Calder Winning Scenario: The one thing that just might be standing in the way of the #1 rated NHL prospect winning rookie of the year is an injury. Hall plays with an obvious passion and determination. He is susceptible to being hit and hit hard, but to this point has been able to get right back and have an impact even in the same game. Until now though he has not faced guys who are so big, so fast and hit so hard. My fearless prediction is that Hall gets knocked out at some point for about 15 games, which ultimately cost him the Calder.
3. Jonathon Bernier – Los Angeles Kings
Prospect Ranking: 11
Calder Winning Scenario: Jonathon Quick falters or gets injured and Bernier takes the opportunity and rolls with it. This guy is ready for primetime behind the extremely talented Kings. Both him and the Kings will be good for a very long time.
2. Magnus Paajarvi – Edmonton Oilers
Calder Winning Scenario: Paajarvi leads the Calder race for three quarters of the season only to somewhat run out of gas in the final quarter, not used to the marathon-like NHL season, allowing him to be surpassed in the final sprint for the Calder by…
Calder Winning Scenario: P.K. “Primetime” Subban explodes out of the gates with Andrei Markov on the shelf for the Canadians. The riverboat gambler of a blueliner is just as effective when Markov returns, as he mans the right point on the Canadiens powerplay. There are stretches of growing pains due to over-handling of the puck, but the swift-skating, Subban-spin-o-rama manoeuvring defenseman is in supreme physical condition and maintains production all year. “Primetime”, as his team-mates already refer to him as, brings home the Calder Memorial, separating himself from the rest of the pack in the 4th quarter of the season.
- Jeffrey Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes
Many questioned my ranking of Skinner as high as I did – 7th overall of NHL prospects. He’s already looking like he belongs at hockey’s highest level, and he had a brilliant NHL debut; notching an assist and scoring the shootout game-winning goal.
- Nino Neiderreiter: – New York Islanders
Prospect Ranking: 13
“El Nino” is a longshot for the Calder, but the Swiss native is used to beating the odds.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Phoenix Coyotes
OEL skating is smooth and sublime. This kid is going to be a stellar NHL defenseman, but I don’t think he’s quite there yet. This season will be a learning experience for him, as I’ve already witnessed him being forced into making mistakes which have ended up behind Bryzgalov.
- Derek Stepan – New York Rangers
Prospect Ranking: 27
Not be done by Eberle, how does a hat-trick sound for your NHL debut! Stepan is the real deal, and I would not be surprised to see him amongst the final 3 nominees for the Calder.
I think Schenn is close, but more likely a season away from making a Mike Richards-like impact.
Prospect Ranking: N/A
Bobrovsky narrowly missed my Top 100 Prospect Rankings. He was a bit of unknown entity for me, but he’s proving to be the real deal thus far with a 2.00 GAA and .931 SV% after his first 2 games.
***Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks
Prospect Ranking: N/A
Why the asterisks for Couture? Well, Logan admittedly caused me some confusion. I left him off my preliminary list when I compiled my Top 100 Prospects, thinking his playoff games played put him over the limit for Calder Trophy eligibility. I did want to clarify, but never got back to it. I’m thinking now he is eligible as he is, in fact, showing up on rookie scoring leader stats listings. Couture would’ve cracked my Top 35, and is poised to have a solid season with the Sharks.
May as well turn the Top 10 into a Top 20 with these three:
- Mikael Backlund – Calgary Flames
Prospect Ranking: 38
Prospect Ranking: 26
Prospect Ranking: 62
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