What a 2014-2015 NHL regular season we have had; from tank wars to 97 (West) & 98 (East) points needed to make the playoffs. However, one of the most impressive thing this year was the rookie class. There are five or six players this year that you could make a case for the Calder and it would be hard to say “you’re wrong.” From the hot start of Nashville’s Filip Forsberg to the amazing finish of Ottawa’s Mark Stone and even the consistent solid years of Gaudreau and Ekblad. A case can be made for any of these talented players, but for me this year should go to “the kid.”
Yes, for the Calder this year I believe it should belong to Florida Panther’s Aaron Ekblad. What Ekblad has done as a top defensemen is more impressive than having a great rookie season as a forward. Ekblad spent most of his year on the top line with Brian Campbell, playing against all of the NHL’s other top lines. A tall task for someone coming into the NHL as a rookie let alone someone who spent more than half of the year (50 games) at the ripe age of eighteen. This cannot be overlooked for Ekblad to have the year he had at 18/19 is almost unheard. To find seasons like Ekblad had at eighteen you would have to go back and find names like “Orr” and “Housley.” This is some pretty good company to have your name among.
Cool Under Pressure
Now for the fun stuff, looking at Ekblad’s season stats. He finished the year with 12G, 27A, 39P, +12, 170SOG, 7.11S% and 21:49 TOI/GP. He also, led rookie defensemen in fewest shot against average per 60 minutes with 38.04 as well as shots on net. Comparing this to previous rookie defensemen you would see the names of Krug (13’/14’), Gardiner (11’/12’), Subban (10’11’) and Myers (09’/10). Ekblad had better stats in many of the categories compared to players, except Myers who was the last defensemen to win the Calder (19 at the time). Ekblad was the highest draft pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and I believe this also, plays a major role in why he should win.
Being a nineteen year old kid and the number one overall pick the year before you would think would put a ton of pressure on a player in their first year. Not Ekblad and his play showed it. He was very calm with the puck and would rarely panic when under pressure. He was also, not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them other than always make the safe play. He was expected to come in and play well for the Panthers, but who thought he would play this well. Eating up 21:49 on average a night while also contributing on offense. This was a dream year for Ekblad and the future of the Florida Panthers. They may have missed out on the playoffs but they were clawing at the door this year. The biggest thing is they now know they have nothing to worry about when it comes to Ekblad being on the ice against the NHL’s best because the scary thought for the rest of the NHL, he will only get better.