Calder Memorial Trophy: The National Hockey League’s most outstanding rookie
Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens: Gallagher helped the Canadiens with their bounce-back season going from last in the Eastern Conference the previous year to second in the East this season. Gallagher was third out of all league rookies in points and second among the ones nominated (28). He was lower down on the list in assists with 13, but he finished ahead of the other nominees in goals with 15 (second among all rookies, tied for first on the Habs, and tied with Sidney Crosby). His plus/minus rating for the season was a solid +10. Gallagher also had the most blocked shots among all rookie forwards and had 44 hits. On the other hand, he trailed the other nominees in ice time with only 13:51 per game and played in only 44 games.
Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers: Despite the Panthers disappointing season, Huberdeau was very impressive. He tied with Nail Yakupov for first in points among all rookies (31). 14 of those points came from goals (second among nominees) and 17 came from assists (tied for first among nominees). Unfortunately, his plus/minus rating took a hard hit and he finished with a -15. Of course, it’s important to note the support each nominee had around him. Not only is Huberdeau the only nominee whose team didn’t make the playoffs, but they came in dead last in the NHL. So we can give him a break on that one. Huberdeau had the highest time on ice among the nominees and played all 48 games; clearly Florida relied on him a lot. Not to mention, he also set two franchise records for the Panthers: 1) first player to score on two penalty shots in one season and 2) most points by a teenager in team history.
Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks: Unlike Huberdeau, Saad’s team had success. The most success in the league, actually. Saad ranked fourth among all rookies in points with 27, which is last among the nominees. Saad was also last among nominees with 10 goals. On the other hand, he was tied with Huberdeau for third most assists overall (17). Another notable accomplishment was that Saad was first overall in plus/minus rating with an astonishing +17. The closest nominee to that is Gallagher with a +10. Luckily, he had a great group of guys around him to help with that stat. Another accomplishment he had in the short season was his 16:27 minutes per game (third among rookies) and played in all but two games. With a team full of so many great players, getting that much ice time is impressive.
Pink Puck Pick: Jonathan Huberdeau. Each of these rookies had their own way of standing out. Saad fit right in with the mix of high talent in Chicago, Gallagher was something of a pleasant surprise since he was considered to be second to Galchenyuk before the season started, and Huberdeau was the lone glimmer of light in Florida. Even though he trailed off in the latter half of the season, Huberdeau was still relied on heavily by his team—as a 19 year old. He is the youngest of the rookies nominated and had the most impact on his team. Despite coming in last in the league, the Panthers’ rookie had a stand-out season. Not only was he ranked in the top five of almost every rookie category, he helped the Cats with the non-statistic factors of the game like puck possession. If he could have such an impressive freshman year with the offense (or lack thereof) in Florida, imagine what he could have done on a higher caliber team.