Year after year the NHL becomes inundated with fresh new talent looking to become the next big impact players. As such, the Calder Trophy recognizes “the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.” This years award finalists are three players who made impressive strides during their first year in the NHL. The finalists are: Adam Henrique, Center, New Jersey Devils; Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing, Colorado Avalanche; and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Center, Edmonton Oilers.
Here are Hockey World Blog’s picks for the Calder Trophy winner:
Chris: Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils
The field is tough for this year’s Calder Trophy, but I have to give the trophy to Henrique. Although Nugent-Hopkins scored at a better point-per-game pace, Henrique was a more important piece for the Devils and a bigger impact player en route to an amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals. When center Travis Zajac went down during the regular season, the Devils called upon Henrique to center the top line between superstars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. That says a lot for the team’s faith in the rookie. Henrique gave the Devils the necessary depth to not only make the playoffs, but make a deep run as well. He was certainly a valuable asset for them this season and will continue to be for years to come.
Eddie: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Sure it’s easy to go with the No. 1 overall pick for the Calder. But he finished with 52 points in a 62-game rookie campaign that was derailed by a shoulder injury. He posted just as many points as Landeskog- but played 20 fewer games. I had him on my fantasy hockey team this year and he was very impressive from the get-go with a goal in his first game and a hat trick in his third. He also was the first player since Landeskog’s teammate Ilya Kovalchuk in 2002 to post five assists in a game as an 18-year-old when he did that in November against Chicago. In a lineup with a lot of young firepower that is hungry for the puck, he was one of the players that didn’t disappoint on a team that had many disappointments.
Eric: Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils
Although I think Gabriel Landeskog is a superb young player, my vote goes to Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils. Henrique had an exceptional year with 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in the regular season in addition to 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points in the playoffs. Furthermore, he had a team leading +12 rating in the playoffs. Simply put, the Devils would have never of made it as far as they did without him; and for that, Henrique is a more valuable and most proficient amongst the finalist.
Matt: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
While Nugent-Hopkins didn’t skate a full campaign in 2011-12, he was the rookie who made the greatest impact with his team in my opinion. Despite only playing only 62 games, Nugent-Hopkins somehow rallied for 52 points on 18 goals and 34 assists. His skill was not only enough to land him on the big club roster immediately after being drafted, but enough to rank him third on the team in points and see playing time on the top line. Edmonton has a lot of young talent, but they’re going to be building the franchise around this guy and he will be making a name for himself for years to come.