ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As the Stanley Cup Playoffs kick into full gear this week, the Professional Hockey Writers Association has begun announcing the finalists for its postseason awards. They will do so by releasing the names of the finalists for 11 awards each weekday through May 20.
The first award announced Monday was the Calder Trophy, given to the League's top rookie, as voted on by members of the PHWA.
Among the nominees: Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher and Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, considered by many as a potential front-runner to win the award, was not.
Saad, who spent much of the season playing left wing on a line with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa, finished tied for fourth on the team with 27 points. His 10 goals were also fourth on the team, behind only Toews, Hossa and Patrick Kane.
His point total ranked fifth best among all rookies league wide and his plus-17 mark was tops among all newcomers.
"Exciting for sure, a big honor, but same approach as before, still looking forward to finishing off the playoffs here," Saad said. "It's always nice to get your game mentioned and be up for an award like that, but I'm just focused on hockey."
The nomination of Saad as a finalist caps a terrific maiden campaign, one in which he said being considered for the Calder never crossed his mind -- not even at the beginning of the season.
"I just thought about making the team this year, to be honest," Saad said. "I got a good setup here in Chicago, playing with a great team with great players … I had a good season."
"He's come into the NHL, maybe under the radar when he started the season," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "With that line and his consistency and absorbing more responsibility, being on special teams, getting critical minutes, and the confidence when we used him was based on how well he played."
Many in the Wild dressing room thought Brodin was a shoo-in for the award. Just a couple of weeks ago, Wild coach Mike Yeo characterized Brodin's candidacy as a "tap-in."
"I don't focus on that," Brodin said. "I'm just focused on the playoffs right now, the game tomorrow. They are good players, the three guys there … I'm just focused on the games here."
In the end, it was likely the lack of offensive production which doomed Brodin's chances to win the award. His two goals and nine assists for 11 points was good enough for just fourth among Wild defensemen.
But his 23 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time per game was best among all rookies by almost two minutes. So far in the playoffs, Brodin has skated 28:54 per game -- fifth-best among all players.
Brodin has skated a vast majority of the season on the Wild's top defensive pairing with Ryan Suter. He was a plus-3 overall during the regular season.
"I'm disappointed," Yeo said. "And congratulations to the other players. They're great players, and I mean this with the greatest respect to them, but I've coached this guy all year. We're here battling in the playoffs and it's hard to say we would be if he's not on our team. This kid is a very, very good hockey player, so it's disappointing to me."