Buffalo's Tyler Myers
became only the second defenseman in 12 seasons to win the Calder Trophy, but could one of this year's rookie crop make it two in a row for rearguards? Three rookie defensemen -- Anaheim's Cam Fowler
, Colorado's Kevin Shattenkirk
and Washington's John Carlson
-- are among a deep pool of candidates for top honors at the midway point of the season.
Could a goalie make it two in three years for the netminders? Philadelphia's Sergei Bobrovsky
and Washington's Michal Neuvirth
started strong but have slowed a bit while Chicago's Corey Crawford
and Nashville's Anders Lindback
have both come on in the past six weeks.
The top forwards are a mix of youth and (relative) experience. Carolina's Jeff Skinner
and Edmonton's Taylor Hall
are leading members of the 2010 draft class who were both 18 years old on opening night while New York's Derek Stepan
and San Jose's Logan Couture
have had a little extra seasoning since being drafted.
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
None of this year's rookies are producing spectacular numbers like some of the recent freshmen, but Couture is on pace for 36 goals. Only 28 players in NHL history have accomplished that as rookies, and only Alex Ovechkin
and Sidney Crosby
have scored more in their first season since 1993-94.
Couture has been a revelation for the top-heavy Sharks. He leads the team in goals, and his five game-winners are tied for second in the League. A potential pitfall in Couture's campaign is his consistency to this point. He scored half of those goals in a 10-game span, but provided he reaches 30-plus he'll be a contender if not the favorite at season's end.
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Skinner was a 50-goal scorer in the Ontario Hockey League, but he's proven adept as a playmaker in his first year with the Hurricanes. He's played a lot with Erik Cole
and some with Eric Staal
, and he's been a big help for a team that looked a bit thin up front in the preseason.
The seventh pick in the 2010 draft, Skinner leads all rookies with 17 assists and 28 points, and has helped Carolina to the edge of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. He just nudged out Edmonton's Taylor Hall
for this spot.
John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Myers finished last season with 11 goals and 48 points while also being a strong defensive player and logging a ton of minutes for the Sabres. Carlson's offensive numbers are not at that level to this point. He's third among rookie defensemen in points and second in minutes played.
The reason why he gets the nod here over Shattenkirk and Fowler is his strong play of late. Teamed with another young blueliner, Karl Alzner
, Carlson has been tasked with facing some of the top talents in the NHL as part of Washington's surprising new shutdown pair. If his offense picks up in the second half he can challenge Couture for the top spot because his reputation as the complete package on defense is growing rapidly.