NHL.com's midseason edition of Trophy Trackers attempts to project winners of the major individual awards. Today we predict the winner of the Calder Trophy, an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.
Shortly before Christmas, San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl began to break away from a pack of impressive NHL rookies. On Dec. 19, Hertl led all freshmen with 25 points (15 goals, 10 assists) and a plus-11 rating in 35 games before a knee-on-knee collision led to surgery that may have ended his season.
Without Hertl, the Calder Trophy race at midseason is a close call, and New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider owns the smallest of edges.
An unceremonious demotion to Hartford of the American Hockey League at the end of training camp put Kreider's regular season on hold, but since his Oct. 24 debut, he has 11 goals and 24 points with a plus-9 rating in 37 games, five fewer than rookie scoring leader Nathan MacKinnon (14-14-28). Eighteen of his points are either goals or primary assists and 10 of his goals have come in Rangers wins. Playing with three United States Olympians (Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan), Kreider's physical nature has been the trendsetter. His 93 hits lead Rangers forwards and rank fourth among rookies.