While it won't be easy, it certainly isn't too far-fetched to believe Columbus Blue Jackets prodigy Steve Mason could earn that unique distinction when the 2009 NHL Awards are presented June 18 at the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas.
One thing is certain -- even if he isn't up for the Vezina as the League's top goaltender, he most certainly will be the odds-on favorite to win the Calder as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.
The last player to win both awards was Chicago's Ed Belfour in 1991. Belfour finished 43-19-7 his rookie season with a 2.47 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Belfour's achievement marked the first time since Buffalo's Tom Barrasso in 1984 that a goalie won both awards in the same season. Barrasso made his NHL debut with the Sabres straight out of Acton-Boxborough High School the year after he was drafted and went 26-12-3 with a 2.84 goals-against average.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's not forget that Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and Anaheim right wing Bobby Ryan should also be considered among the top nominees for the 2009 Calder Trophy.
Rinne is the 11th rookie goaltender in NHL history to win at least 25 games in a season, and is just the sixth first-year goalie to do it in the past 14 seasons, joining Mason, Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers, 2005-06), Ryan Miller (Buffalo, 2005-06), Andrew Raycroft (Boston, 2003-04) and Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose, 2000-01). Raycroft and Nabokov were Calder winners in 2004 and 2001, respectively.
The 26-year-old Rinne (28-14-4, 2.29 GAA, .920 save percentage), drafted in the eighth round (No. 258) of the 2004 Entry Draft, has allowed two-or-fewer goals in 30 of his 48 starts this season. He became the seventh Nashville Predator to appear in a YoungStars Game during 2009 All-Star Weekend in Montreal, replacing an injured Mason, and leading the Rookie team to a 9-5 victory against the sophomores with 19 saves, including 12-of-13 in the third period.
"Mentally, my comfort and confidence level wasn't there early on, but after that things started rolling well and it got a little easier for me," Rinne told NHL.com. "When I began to feel that confidence, things kind of slowed down in my eyes."
Rinne and Mason, by the way, are the first goalies since 2000-01 to post at least four shutouts in their first season.
Ryan, a 20-year-old from Cherry Hill, N.J., has 30 goals, breaking the Ducks' rookie record of 29, established by Dustin Penner in 2006-07 and has tied the rookie record for assists (26), held by defenseman Francois Beauchemin since 2005-06. He leads all rookies in points (56), power-play goals (11) and shooting percentage (18.2 percent).
"It would be nice to be at the top (of the rookie scoring race) at the end of the year," Ryan said. "When I was called up mid-November, it was certainly something that hadn't crossed my mind. But, still, there's plenty of other things on my radar outside of that but I'm certainly going to try to make a push for it."
Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer is excited to have Ryan aboard this season.
"He's just continued to work hard, whatever has been asked of him," Niedermayer told NHL.com. "When he was asked to go down to the minors and work down there and then come up here and play in different situations, he did it, no questions asked. Now he's taken advantage of that and he's hung in there, continued to work hard and continued to have a positive attitude and those two things are going to lead to success and he's having that right now. We need him right now and he's giving us that."
Then there's Mason, our projected Calder Trophy winner for 2008-09.
The 20-year-old Oakville, Ontario, native, a third-round pick (No. 69) by the Blue Jackets in 2006, set a franchise record with three consecutive shutouts and a scoreless streak of 199 minutes, 19 seconds, from Dec. 27-31. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come.
GOALTENDER - BLUE JACKETS
WIN: 32 | LOSS: 18 | OT: 7
SAVE PCT: .918 | GAA: 2.22
Mason's feats are even more remarkable when you consider he missed the start of the minor-league season while rehabbing from a September knee surgery procedure. Mason was called up by the Blue Jackets on Nov. 4, in the absence of injured starter Pascal Leclaire, and hasn't looked back since.
He claims nothing much has changed since his first start in the NHL.
"I've kept everything the same," Mason said. "It worked for me in the past so I didn't think I needed to change anything. Right now I'm having success with it. I'm trying to keep my game simple. I don't try to model after anybody, but I've learned that you can't give up on any pucks. If there is a scrum in front, you can't lose track of the puck. You have to fight for it and never give up."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.