At the end of October, we took an early look at some of the year’s early Calder candidates. Where do these players stand now? Which rookies have seen their stock rise, and which rookies are looking more like one-month wonders? Read on for your answers.
John Tavares (NYI) – I’d say John Tavares has delivered on all the hype that came with being selected first overall this past summer. He leads all rookies with 9 goals and 20 points this season and he’s done this on a rebuilding Islanders team. He also leads all rookies with 4 powerplay goals. This is a big reason why the Isles sit in 9th place in the Eastern Conference, only 1 point out of a playoff spot.
Victor Hedmen (TBL) – At last check, Victor Hedmen was leading all rookies in average icetime, playing 25 minutes a game, which was unbelievable. Well, one month later, Hedmen is playing more than 23 minutes a night, which is tops among a surging Lightning team that is suddenly looking like a legitimate playoff contender.
Matt Duchene (COL) – Matt Duchene had a decent start to his NHL career in October, but his November could’ve been better. I think we all know what type of player Duchene will be in the future but the big question is how long will it take for him to get there. We’ve seen highlight reel goals Duchene, but we’ve also seen worse-than-expected defensive play from him. His -9 rating does surprise me a little, considering his two-way play was apparently one of his strong points. His stock is down now, but I’m expecting a stronger December from the former third overall draft pick.
Ryan O’Reilly (COL) – Colorado may have cooled down after their white-hot start to the season, but Ryan O’Reilly continues to play well for the Avalanche. Through 11 games, he’d scored 10 points and was +10. Through 25 games, he has 17 points and is a freshman-best +12. O’Reilly simply continues to impress.
James van Riemsdyk (PHI) – Injuries slowed van Riemsdyk early in the season but he’s been hot lately, having jumped up to 2nd in rookie scoring with 18 points in 19 games. He’s also leads all rookies with 4 Game-winning goals and is a surprising +7. Finally, he’s making me look good right now, as I predicted him to win the Calder before the season began. Let’s hope he keeps this up, otherwise I’ll have to eat my own words.
Tyler Myers (BUF) – Tyler Myers continues to impress in Buffalo because he seems to be able to play virtually any style of hockey. Despite having cooled off a little bit after a hot start to the year in October, he’s still +2 for the year and averaging close to 22 minutes a game. He’s also on pace for 35 points this season. Not too shabby at all.
Michael Del Zotto (NYR) – Del Zotto led all rookies in points at the end of October and has continued his solid play throughout November. His 16 points in 24 games is good for 4th in rookie scoring and he’s really become a main-stay on the Rangers powerplay. His 3 powerplay goals are a big reason why the Rangers own the league’s 8th best powerplay.
New Mentions in November
Semyon Varlamov (WSH) – I gave Varlamov an honourable mention in October because while he had played well at times, he had also played a few forgettable games. However, his record this season currently stands at an awesome 9-1-2. It’s especially impressive because Jose Theodore isn’t with the team due to a serious personal matter, leaving the Caps with only Varlamov and 21 year old Michal Neuvirth as netminders. That’s a lot of pressure for a rookie to handle but Varlamov’s handling it very well.
Niklas Bergfors (NJD) – Bergfors is another player that I gave an honourable mention to last month but he’s really picked up his game has fitt in well with the Devils. He’s now scored 15 points in 22 games this year, vaulting him to 5th in rookie scoring. Bergfors is scoring timely goals too – with 3 powerplay goals and 2 game winning goals.
Evander Kane (ATL) – Kane has really elevated his game in Atlanta, and he did this while captain Ilya Kovalchuk was out of the lineup. Kane now has 7 goals and 12 points in 21 games this season. What’s even more impressive is that he’s +7 this season and has 3 game winning goals. He’s averaging just under 14 minutes of ice per game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that total increase in December.
Tuukka Rask (BOS) – If you’re a Maple Leafs fan, you may want to stop reading now. Rask has been sensational for Boston this season and has started the last 5 games for the Bruins. He’s sporting a sparkling 2.13 goals-against average, going 7-2-1 for the year. His strong performance must have Bruins fans feeling a little better after hearing that Thomas may have a broken hand.
Honourable Mentions for November
Peter Regin (OTT), Carl Gunnarsson (TOR), Jason Demers (SJS), Jamie Benn (DAL), Davis Drewiske (LAK) and Matt Gilroy (NYR) All of these guys have improved with every game they’ve played, especially Gunnarsson in Toronto, who has 4 assists in his first 6 games. Don’t forget about these players over the next few months, as they could quickly emerge as serious Calder Candidates later in the season.
Your Reporter in the Field,