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Stating our case for the Calder winner

Tuesday, 06.15.2010 / 8:52 AM / 2011 NHL Awards

By NHL.com Staff

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Stating our case for the Calder winner
A forward, defenseman and goaltender are up for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the best first-year player. NHL.com writers have strong opinions on who should win.
All this week is Awards Poll Week at NHL.com, where our collection of staff writers is stating a case for each finalist in some of the League's major post-season awards. We have opinions and we're not hesitant to share them.

Today's debated hardware is the Calder Memorial Trophy with the finalists being Matt Duchene of Colorado, Jimmy Howard of Detroit, and Tyler Myers of Buffalo. With a forward, a goaltender and a defenseman, respectively, we have all the positions covered.

The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season. To be eligible for the Calder, 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. Also, a player must not have attained his 26th birthday by September 15th of the season in which he is eligible.

The winner will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, to be held in Las Vegas on June 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Here's how the NHL.com writers would cast their vote:

Why Matt Duchene should win …

Colorado center Matt Duchene turned a strong training camp into a surprisingly successful rookie season for an 18-year-old (he turned 19 on Jan. 16) who didn't come into the League with the same fanfare as John Tavares, the lone forward selected ahead of him in the '09 Entry Draft

Duchene led all rookies in scoring with 55 points on 24 goals and 31 assists. Duchene also helped his team make the playoffs one year removed from the worst season in the franchise's history in Denver.

No offense to Howard, who had a solid season with the Red Wings, but he's 26 years old and had four pro seasons in the AHL already on his resume. Howard is a nice story, but not -- by the truest definition of the word -- a rookie.

While Myers is of reasonable rookie age (20) and was only drafted in 2008, it says here that Duchene had a better first season in the NHL.

Without Duchene, the Avs probably don't make the playoffs. He was second on the team in goals behind only Chris Stewart's 28 and third on the team in points. His team-high 10 power-play goals helped Colorado finish 15th in the NHL with the man-advantage after a 25th place finish in 2008-09. Duchene scored 16 of his 24 goals away from Pepsi Center, the most road goals for any rookie.

Duchene was far from a lock to make the team after he was picked No. 3 last June, but he quickly became Colorado's second-best center behind Paul Stastny. Some would argue that Duchene is already better than Stastny, but his stats and ice time would not suggest that's the case just yet.

He was, however, the best rookie in the NHL this season.

-- Dan Rosen

Why Jimmy Howard should win …

While Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard became only the fourth rookie goalie in franchise history to post a 30-win season, there's another reason he should be considered the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy. Without him, the Red Wings might not have even qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Howard appeared in 63 games during the 2009-10 regular-season, finishing with 37 wins (tied for eighth in the NHL), a 2.26 goals-against average (fifth), a .924 save percentage (fourth) and three shutouts.

"Up until the Olympic break he might have been our most valuable player," Detroit General Manager Ken Holland said. "I think he's a legitimate candidate for rookie of the year. The biggest thing he's done this year is he's been way more consistent. You could see his confidence growing as the year wore on. At 26, he's really just coming into his prime."

Howard joined Hall of Famers Glenn Hall (30 in 1955-56), Terry Sawchuk (44 in 1950-51) and Roger Crozier (40 in 1964-65) as the only first-year goalies in Detroit to win 30-plus games. Crozier was the last Red Wing, in fact, to win the Calder Trophy.

"I'm very happy to be a part of the Red Wings' organization," Howard said. "My coaches and teammates, in particular, Jim Bedard and Chris Osgood, really helped me along through my first full season in the NHL. I'm already looking forward to 2010-11."

Howard's 25 consecutive starts were the most by a first-year goalie since Connie Dion suited up for 26 straight in 1943-44. He made quite the turnaround, too, after his opening-night debacle in St. Louis on Oct. 3 when he allowed five goals on 32 shots in a 5-3 loss.

Howard, Detroit's first selection (second round, No. 64) of the 2003 Entry Draft, finished 5-7 with a 2.75 GAA and .915 save percentage in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games this spring. The Wings eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes in a grueling seven-game series in the Western Conference Quarterfinals before bowing to the San Jose Sharks in a five-game series in the conference semifinals.

-- Mike Morreale

Why Tyler Myers should win …

Entering the 2009-10 season, John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene were the three rookies receiving the bulk of the hype.

In the end, though, it should be Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers standing at the podium at The Palms in Las Vegas to accept the Calder Trophy as the League's best first-year player.

Myers, the 12th selection in the 2008 Entry Draft, made his mark in Buffalo as a 19-year-old with 48 points (11 goals, 37 assists) -- 28 more than Hedman, who was the No. 2 pick in 2009 -- in 82 games. The 6-foot-8, 222-pound defenseman established himself as the backbone of the Sabres' defense and made life easier more often than not for Vezina Trophy-finalist goaltender Ryan Miller.

More impressive, Myers became the first rookie defenseman in more than a decade to notch 40 points (Bryan Berard, 1996-97). His efforts helped the Sabres win 45 games and rack up 100 points, good enough to win the Northeast Division and earn the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

One never would have realized Myers was a rookie, considering he led the team in ice time per game (23:44), which also topped all first-year players. The towering defenseman also topped all League rookies in assists (37) and blocked shots (137) and finished tied for second in plus-minus (plus-13) and third in points (48). He was one of only four rookies to appear in every game.

Only Duchene and Tavares -- the first two forwards drafted in 2009 -- finished with more points than Myers, who took 176 fewer shots than Duchene and 182 fewer than Tavares. Combine that with the fact that Myers spent most nights shutting down the opposition's top forwards, and you have the player most worthy of being named the NHL's best rookie.

-- Brian Compton