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Tomas Hertl Injury Opens Up Calder Race

Through the first two and a half months of the NHL season, San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl has been leading the race for the Calder Trophy as top rookie in the league, and not just because of his amazing four goal game back in October.

He leads all NHL rookies with 15 goals and 25 points while playing a regular top six role (alongside former Art Ross winner Joe Thornton) on one of the best teams in hockey. If his form held, there was a very good chance he could have netted 30 goals this season and would have a Calder on his mantle as a result.

Sadly, things in hockey don’t always work out for the best. Hertl was injured in a knee-on-knee collision with LA Kings captain Dustin Brown which forced him onto the injury list. While early indications were of at least a month’s recovery time, there have been rumors floating around that Hertl might be out for the season.

In either case, his injury has opened up the race for the Calder in a huge way, and there’s a number of rookies capable of stepping up and taking the lead. Let’s take a look at a few of the candidates.



Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. The first overall pick from this year’s draft, MacKinnon is proving himself worthy of that position. So far this year he has seven goals, 20 points, a tidy plus seven rating and leads all NHL rookies in shots on goal with 100. However, his shooting percentage is a paltry 7.0%, so there’s every indication that his goal totals will improve. Like Hertl, MacKinnon also plays in Colorado’s top six and hasn’t looked out of place, an indication that he should be able to sustain his level of production.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers. Most people don’t think of Kreider as a rookie, and why would they? After all, he made his NHL debut in the playoffs back in 2012. However, he does still technically qualify as a rookie by NHL standards, even though he’s four years older than the 18-year-old MacKinnon. However, the two have nearly identical stats, with 20 points on the year, and Kreider takes the slight edge in goals with nine. He might not get the same Calder love this season, but he’s certainly in the conversation.

Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars. That fact that Nichushkin slipped to tenth in the 2013 draft is still a wonder to me; this kid could end up being the most dominant offensive force of them all. He’s six-foot-four and over 200 pounds and uses every inch of that size on opposing defencemen. So far this year Nichushkin has put up six goals and 18 points with an impressive plus 12 rating (I considered Dallas teammate Alex Chiasson in this spot, but his comparably terrible minus 10 takes him out of the conversation). The biggest factor for me is that Nichushkin is playing primarily on the top line in Dallas alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. This kid is just getting started and could easily catapult to the top of everyone’s Calder ballot.



Torey Krug, Boston Bruins. While defensemen don’t always get noticed in the Calder race, it’s hard to ignore what Krug has done for the Bruins. He leads all NHL rookie defensemen in both goals and points, with eight and 18, respectively. He also leads all NHL rookies (regardless of position) in power play goals with four. He’s undersized for the defenseman position, but has shown his capabilities on the backend by playing a regular shift with in the top four with either Zdeno Chara or Denis Seidenberg on one of the top defensive teams in the league.

Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks. I might take some heat for choosing Lindholm (ahead of more high profile players such as Seth Jones, Danny DeKeyser or Eric Gelinas), but he’s been an absolute rock on the injury depleted blueline in Anaheim and a big reason why the team is currently first overall in the NHL. Offensively, he’s got two goals and 11 points to sit tied for third in scoring among rookie defensemen, but the stat that really stands out is his plus minus. At plus 20, he’s tied for second in the entire NHL behind teammate and frequent partner Francois Beauchemin, and the duo make up one of the best defensive pairs in the entire league.



Martin Jones, Los Angeles Kings. Every few years a goaltender seems to come out of nowhere and make a huge impact in the NHL. This year, that goalie is Jones. The stats have been discussed endlessly lately, but they really do speak for themselves: eight games, eight wins, three shutouts and a goals against average (0.98) and save percentage (9.66) that are tops in the NHL. Yes, he will likely regress, but he’s been a revelation in relief of the injured Jonathan Quick, and there’s a very real chance he could snag the Calder if he maintains even a fraction of his current pace for the rest of the season.

Eddie Lack, Vancouver Canucks. Okay, I’ll admit that I’m showing my homerism here and there may be better candidates (such as Frederik Andersen in Anaheim), but I feel Lack’s performance so far this year has been overlooked in many corners of the hockey world. Of rookie goaltenders that have played at least ten games, Lack is second in both goals against average (1.93) and save percentage (.928). Perhaps even more impressive has been Lack’s consistency; he’s allowed more than than two goals only once in 11 appearances this season (and that was his first NHL game). With a potential injury to Roberto Luongo looming, there’s a possibility that Lack could take the number one job in Vancouver and run with it all the way to a Calder nomination.


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