Top Candidates for the Calder Trophy

At this time of the year, we are all looking toward the playoffs, but individual trophies will also soon be awarded. The Calder Trophy, for rookie of the year, is awarded for regular season play to the best rookie. To be eligible, a player cannot have appeared in more than 25 games in any single preceding season, nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons.  In addition, the player must not have turned 26 by September 15th of the current season. This year, the youngest top candidate, Aaron Ekblad, is just 19 years of age; the oldest, Mike Hoffman, turned 25 in November.

Three top candidates will be named after the regular season, with the winner being announced at the post-season NHL awards. Currently (with all stats thru 4/2/15), the top ten candidates for the 2014-15 Calder are:

1. Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers

Age: 19

Very few players can step onto ice at age 18 and have as big an impact on their team as Ekblad has had. By far the best rookie defenseman in the NHL, the question becomes whether he will be named over the sexier forwards that are eligible. On the ice for almost 22 minutes per game, Ekblad has had the most effect on his team, turning one of the worst teams in the league into a contender. (77 GP, 11 G, 25 A, 32 PIM, +12)

2. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames

Age: 21

Gaudreau is a big reason why Calgary is in the playoff hunt this season. The most offensively productive of all rookies eligible for the award, he has skated in all but one of the Flames’ contests this season. Currently, “Johnny Hockey” has the most power play points on the team and is arguably the most exciting player among all the top candidates. (77 GP, 22G, 39 A, 14 PIM, +7)

3. Filip Forsberg, C, Nashville Predators

Age: 20

With the most game winners on the Preds, playing over 17 minutes per game, Forsberg is one of the best all around rookies this season. Not as flashy a forward as Gaudreau, Forsberg is a constant threat on the ice, and might have been the top candidate before his offensive production slowed down since the all-star break. (78 GP, 23 G, 36A, 24 PIM, +14)

4. David Pastrnak, RW, Boston Bruins

Age: 18

With three game winners in regulation and one OT goal in just 42 games at age 18, Pastrnak is one of the most exciting young players in the game. Only averaging about 14 minutes per game on the ice, Pastrnak is as much a playmaker as a goal scorer and is good at both ends of the ice. Because he has not played all season, Pastrnak has not been a top candidate in many outlet’s discussion of Calder candidates, but his numbers are excellent and when his age and affect on the Bruins’ standing are considered, Pastrnak should be top candidate. (42 GP, 10 G, 17 A, 8 PIM, +14)

5.  Mark Stone, RW, Ottawa Senators

Age: 22

Stone plays in all situations and is a big reason that the Sens are in the playoff hunt. Averaging more than 22 shifts a game and 16:45 TOI. He has tallied five game winners and keeps piling up the points as the season goes along–since the all-star break, Stone has put up some of the best numbers in the league. Often Ottawa’s best player, Stone can play in all situations. (75 GP, 20 G, 36 A, 14 PIM, +15)

6. John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars

Age: 22

Although he is still learning the defensive game, it is hard to ignore Klingberg’s offensive production from the blueline this season.  Klingberg averages more than 22 minutes per game on the ice and has become a top four-defenseman for the Stars. He is an excellent puck mover and has a heavy shot. Plus, when you look at the quality of the competition Klingberg faces in the Central Division, it is no wonder that his name has crept into the Calder discussion. (60 GP, 11 G, 27 A, 32 PIM, +3)

7. Anders Lee, C, New York Islanders

Age: 24

With 22 games last season and two the year before, Lee sneaks into the Calder discussion with as one of the more experienced top candidates. Although the Islanders’ top rookie has cooled off over the last month (and experienced decreased ice time as a result), Lee has been one of the most offensively productive rookies over most of the 2014-15 season. He has excellent size and uses it well. On the Islanders, only John Tavares has more game winners than Lee’s six.  (72 GP, 23 G, 16 A, 33 PIM, +9)

8. Mike Hoffman, LW, Ottawa Senators

Age: 25

Talk about sneaking into Calder eligibility–prior to this season, the now 25 year-old Hoffman had played in 29 games over three seasons. There is no doubt about the fact that Hoffman is having an excellent season. Second only to Stone among team rookies, Hoffman has played a big role in making Ottawa a contender this season. (74 GP, 26 G, 21 A, 12 PIM, +18)

9. Kevin Hayes, C, New York Rangers

Age: 22

Not expected to be much of an offensive producer when signed as a free agent by the Rangers prior to this season, Hayes has surprised many. He has been New York’s third line center, and with his size and strength has begun to be a mainstay on the penalty kill too. Most of Hayes’s points have been posted since the All-Star break, but he has been a solid contributor to the Rangers’ success since the beginning of the season. (74 GP, 15 G, 24 A, 22 PIM, +13)

10. Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild

Age: 20

Not often mentioned among writers and fans as a Calder candidate, Dumba has been quietly having an excellent season in Minnesota. In the last six weeks, he has been playing more minutes and responding well to the call. He has contributed some offensively and had developed very well defensively. An excellent puck mover, with a good shot, the 20 year-old Dumba is one of the better young defensemen in the league and growing into his game. (53 GP, 8G, 7 A, 19 PIM, +14)

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