(Photo: Yahoo Sports)
It was announced on Wednesday April 23rd, that the three finalists for the Calder Cup were Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. The Lightning is the first club to have multiple finalists since Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ rookie season in 2008.
The trophy has been awarded since the 1936-1937 season when NHL President Frank Calder would purchase a yearly trophy to be given permanently to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie. After his death, the NHL decided to name the trophy in his honour. The top three are decided each year by the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association who submit ballots at the end of the regular season.
This year’s finalists are as follows:
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
The twenty-three year old scored 24 goals this season to set the Lightning rookie record, tying follow candidate Nathan MacKinnon for the lead in rookie goals. Johnson’s five shorthanded goals also tied for the overall lead in the league. Johnson became only the second rookie in NHL history to record five power-play and five shorthanded goals. It is a record that has not been seen since Dennis Maruk in the 1975-1976 season. The forward led all rookies in total ice time (1,540:20) and face-offs (1,275). He was signed as a free agent by Tampa in March 2011, making him the first undrafted finalist since Chicago goaltender Ed Belfour in 1991.
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning’s second candidate ranked second among rookie scorers with 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists). This record sat three points shy of Brad Richards’ Lightning rookie record of 62 points in 2000-2001. Palat was the league’s top rookie in the second half the season where he led all first year players in scoring after January 1st. He had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in the final 42 games, including 14 multi-point games. The young Czech held rookie honours for January and March. Between December 23rd and January 9th he had an eight game point streak, the longest by a Lightning player. He finished the season with a plus-minus of +32.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Even though he’s the youngest on the list, he topped all rookies in many facets. He had 63 points, including 39 assists, 8 power-play goals, 5 game-winning goals, 241 shots, and was tied with Johnson for 24 goals. The young Canadian was the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, and had at least a point in 13 consecutive games from January 25th to March 6th (5-13<18). He broke Gretzky’s NHL record for longest single-season point streak by a player 18 or younger. He has now become the fourth Avalanche player voted a Calder finalist in the past eight years. Before him were Paul Stastny (2nd in 2007), Matt Duchene (3rd in 2010), and Gabriel Landeskog (1st in 2012).
The winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 24, during the 2014 NHL Awards at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas. The awards will be broadcasted by NBCSN in the US and CBC in Canada.