Hockeyland Canada will profile the top 10 NHL rookies each month by ranking them according to overall impact on their teams, and ultimately their chances to win the Calder trophy as the league’s best rookie, you can take a look at past winners http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=24931. To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. Furthermore, a player must not have attained his twenty-sixth birthday by September 15th of the season in which he is eligible.
1. Tomas Hertl – The native of Praha, Czech Republic sees likely his last month atop the Rookie Ladder thanks to right knee surgery and the remainder of the season being in question. Despite going down Dec 19th, Hertl continues to lead rookies in goals with 15 and points with 25. The contenders that have been nipping at his heels will now have a chance to battle it out for top spot in the new year. Should Tomas return early, he could still find a place on the ladder but he now goes from favorite for the Calder to long shot.
2. Nathan Mackinnon – Born September 1st, 1995 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Nathan Mackinnon is one of the youngest rookies in this year’s class yet he has been one of the most consistent performers. The 2013 Memorial Cup MVP is 2nd in scoring and running away with the shots leads among rookies with 106. With injuries to Colorado’s top 6, Mackinnon has gotten chances to move up from the defensively responsible 3rd line. As he gets more and more comfortable, expect Mackinnon to victimize his opponents with his explosive acceleration more and more.
3. Chris Kreider – Long characterized as the best New York Rangers prospect in years, it was hard to see the prognostications coming true with a slew of call ups and subsequent demotions to the minors. After an off season of beast-like training, Kreider is using his big frame to get in on the forecheck and dig out pucks along the boards. With 4 goals in December, he is continuing to find the back of the net and has a chance to really take off on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash.
4. Valeri Nichushkin – Nichushkin first introduced himself to the hockey world this time last year at the World Juniors in Russia, when he used his long strides and man strength to impose his will on opposing countries. Now playing with the Dallas Stars on a line with young stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Nichushkin has been hot hot hot in December with 5 goals and 11 points. After starting the season slowly, Valeri is officially in the running for the Calder
5. Torey Krug – Formerly in 2nd on the ladder, Krug had a cold month in December despite increased offensive need with Dougie Hamilton missing time due to injury. Still very impressive with 8 goals as a D man at the half way mark, Krug needs to clean up his defensive game as he had two matches with a -3 rating. Several all around rookie defenseman have come into the league this year, so Krug needs to keep his goal totals rising if he wants a shot at Calder trophy glory.
6. Tyler Johnson – Johnson has been a steady contributor and has continued to rise to new challenges as his ice time is up to 20 minutes per game over the last month. The offensive contribution continues to be there with 4 goals and 4 assists in December, while his defensive game continues to be solid. Johnson has yet to record a minus season through the junior ranks and the pros, so expect this Spokane native to make his presence felt on both ends of the rink.
7. Hampus Lindholm – Typically with these comparisons, you compare rookies to rookies but Hampus Lindholm is right up there with league leaders in plus minus. Lindholm has a +20 rating in 19 minutes per game, finding himself among star contributors like Chris Kunitz, Anze Kopitar, and Marian Hossa. Hampus has provided timely offense like his game winner against red hot Washington Capitals rookie goalie Philipp Grubauer. Overall his points total are solid but not show stopping, so Lindholm needs to score a few more if he wants to climb the ladder.
8. Aleksander Barkov – Sasha Barkov was taken one place after Mackinnon at 2nd overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, while interestingly, Sasha was also born one day later on September 2nd, 1995 in Tampere, Finland. The odds of such a thing are unlikely, but Barkov isn’t your typical 18 year old, playing against men while adjusting to the North American game are not easy to do. For Barkov, he is making the transition look easy with a responsible two way game, and is now doing damage offensively with 10 points in December. Those above better watch out because Sasha is climbing.
9. Seth Jones – Having eaten up the most total ice time among rookies this season, Jones continues to be an anchor on the Predators blueline. While playing admirably as Nashville’s #3 D man behind Shea Weber and Roman Josi, Jones needs to add more offense, namely goal scoring, if he wants to win the Calder. Jones is finishing the year strong with 5 assists in his past 4 games, so he could make his mark in 2014.
10. Eric Gelinas – The towering blueliner, Eric Gelinas, has made an immediate impact for the New Jersey Devils, particularly with his heavy slap shot on the powerplay. Seeing time on the first unit, Gelinas has been able to beat goalies clean from the point and is a threat to score every time he winds it up. After stepping onto the scene in blazing fashion, Gelinas has cooled down lately on a current 6 game pointless streak. A member of the Memorial Cup winning Saint John Sea Dogs, Gelinas is a big part of the Devils’ D corp for years to come.
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