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Rookie seasons worth noting

Wednesday, 04.22.2009 / 12:00 PM / 2011 NHL Awards

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

Calder Trophy finalists Steve Mason, Bobby Ryan and Kris Versteeg represent the cream of the rookie crop for 2008-09, but were far from the only impressive newcomers.

You can make cases for at least 11 other players, who at the very least merited some part in the Calder conversation. Let's break them down by position.

Forwards

Derrick Brassard, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Early on, Brassard was considered a Calder favorite when he got off to a sizzling start, but injuries scuttled his season after 31 games. But in those games, Brassard had 10 goals, 15 assists and was plus-12.

Mikhail Grabovski, Toronto Maple Leafs -- The former Montreal Canadien proved to be a strong pickup by Toronto when he scored 20 goals and 28 assists in 78 games.

Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues -- Part of an impressive stable of young players in St. Louis, Berglund's skill set is impressive and he showed plenty of future promise with 21 goals and 26 assists and a plus-19 in 76 games.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning -- The top selection of the 2008 Entry Draft endured a world of pressure in the early days of the season when the Lightning struggled mightily. With time, Stamkos got his feet under him and responded with 23 goals and 23 assists in 71 games.

Michael Frolik, Florida Panthers -- The Panthers are another team with some impressive young players, and Frolik is among the those who figure to play a prominent role in the coming years as evidenced by his 21 goals and 24 assists.

Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins -- An astute signing by the Bruins to be sure. Wheeler stepped in and made a place for himself on what became the top team in the Eastern Conference. He scored 21 goals and 24 assists and was an impressive plus-36.

Defensemen

Matt Hunwick, Boston Bruins -- Appearing in only 53 games, Hunwick made sure he was noticed, scoring 6 goals and 21 assists while posting a plus-15.

Luke Schenn, Toronto Maple Leafs -- The only untouchable on the Leafs' roster, according to GM Brian Burke, Schenn scored only 2 goals and 12 assists in 70 games, but what was really impressive was he averaged more than 21 minutes per game.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings -- A linchpin to the future for the Kings, Doughty, like Schenn, immediately became a go-to guy this season. He scored 6 goals and 21 assists and was minus-17. But the number that really impressed was Doughty's 23:49 per game.

Zach Bogosian, Atlanta Thrashers -- A broken leg suffered early in the season limited the Thrashers' top pick in 2008 to just 47 games, but when he played, Bogosian impressed. He scored 9 goals and 19 assists and was a plus 11.

Goalie

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators -- Columbus' Mason had the best season among rookie goalies, but Rinne was more than a pleasant surprise for the Preds. By season's end, Rinne was 29-15-4 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 52 games.