As the NHL season draws nearer, talk of who has the best rosters will spark up a lot more. We’ll compare top goal scorers, defensemen and goaltenders. It’s an every year event and every year fans try and convince other fans that their team is better. Been there, done that.
Yet I’ll bypass those, going into one of my favorite parts of the late off-season. Looking at the top rookies coming into the NHL this season. Now I don’t want to get into much detail, but you’re reading one angry Blues fan due to the lack of Calder eligibility for Alex Pietrangelo because of his 17 games in two seasons beforehand, yet Logan Couture was eligible despite his 40 games experience in one season. Yet, like I said, I’m not getting into much detail there, it’s just a stupid rule that should be changed.
ANYWAY! This season, like the previous years, the rookie class will be dissected and prodded all season long, so this is just the start. I’ve narrowed down my top three favorites for the Calder Memorial Trophy this season.
3. Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche
This kid has star written all over him. Picked second in last years NHL draft, Landeskog is ready for NHL time.
He has the body frame to play, and many believe he’s got the skillset and mentality to play this season. If he plays however, he’ll be in the top six. Meaning one of his centers will either be Paul Stastny or Matt Duchene. Also meaning he’ll could be lined up by Milan Hejduk or David Jones as well. The kid will get his offensive chances in that line up.
He can only help himself with his size as well. He’s a big bodied powerforward who plays a North American game.
People were dubbing him, ‘the Swedish Mike Richards’ early on in his junior years because of his playing style. He’ll go into the corners and battle all night long and that’s what the Avalanche need with their finesse players.
After dealing Chris Stewart to St. Louis, Colorado lost a big of size up front, but didn’t take long to get more as they drafted Landeskog 2nd overall in last years NHL entry draft. Many feel Landeskog can dress opening night and be an NHL right now, and I believe that if he does that, he’ll be showing a lot of people why I had him pegged 1st overall over Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
2. David Rundblad – Ottawa Senators
As a Blues fan, wastching Rundblad’s success is a little bitter sweet. A little more than two years ago, when the Blues drafted David with the 17th overall pick, I tried getting my sources together and worked out an interview with the Swedish defensemen. At that time I was blogging for St. Louis Game Time so you can go read the interview there.
I Was fond of the Swede, who even after a horrible start to his season and a abysmal World Juniors, I still had high hopes. He started proving me right when he went back to Skelleftea and improved his game in all areas.
Then he was traded at the draft, to Ottawa, for the 16th overall pick. I can’t argue because that landed us Tarasenko, but man did Ottawa get a beast.
He broke out this year in every way possible, he was much more physical than last season, using his big frame to his advantage. He upped his defensive play and because one of the top shut down players in Skelleftea as well. The most noticeable spike was his offensive play which jumped dramatically.
He played with men in Sweden and now coming in America, he’ll have that experience. I honestly believe that Rundblad will not only make the team but he will be a force, at least on the offensive side of the puck, in his first season. It may take him a while adjust defensively, but the Senators have a top end defender waiting in their wings.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers
Now you might be confused as to why I had Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog as my number one pick in the draft, but he is third here and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is ranked first.
That’s a simple answer, I’d prefer Landeskog on my team due to his power-forward style of play, as a man who can post good offensive numbers while still playing a physical, defensive style game as well.
RNH however, is an offensive fiend. This kid is going to post numbers higher than Landeskog as he’s got a higher skill set. He isn’t going to be the physical force that Landeskog will but he’ll make up for that with his shiftiness and his ability to be in the right place at the right time.
I’m not saying he’s a perimeter player, but he’s not going to be the guy to initiate contact. He’ll battle along the boards and in front of the net, but his playmaking ability allows him to stay out of harms way while making the pretty play.
He’s going to get more than a chance in Edmonton who are really looking for a number one center. If Nugent-Hopkins plays even half the year with Hall, Smyth, Eberly, or Hemsky, he’s going to post very high rookie numbers. Which is why he’s my number one for the Calder.
I hope you enjoyed the read! Be sure to follow me on twitter @Randall Ritchey for hockey talk, be sure to comment and share who your top three candidates are!