Making an impact as a rookie in the NHL is no simple task. The title of ‘rookie of the year’ is bestowed on the player who best proves himself to be a top player in his first year and is awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy for his efforts.
The only NHL award that players can only win one time, the Calder Trophy stems from a tradition former NHL President Frank Calder began in the 1930’s. Calder bought a trophy for the top young performer in the league each season to commemorate their success. The first Calder Trophy was awarded in the 1936-37 season to Syl Apps of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After his death in 1943, the NHL named the award the Calder Memorial Trophy in his honor.
The rules in place to qualify for the Calder Memorial include not exceeding 25 games in any single preceding season and an age limit of 26 years.
Countless Hall of Famers through the years began their legendary careers by winning the Calder. Glenn Hall, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and present day Panthers color analyst, Denis Potvin among many others hold the honor of having their names in the history books as a ‘rookie of the year’ as well as owning a hall of fame ring.
The Toronto Maple Leafs hold the record for the most Calder Trophies in franchise history (nine), while the Colorado Avalanche have had two winners (Nathan MacKinnon 2014 and Gabriel Landeskog 2012) in the last three seasons and five in total dating back to their days as the Quebec Nordiques.
Florida Panthers F Jonathan Huberdeau became the first Panther to win the Calder Trophy during the 2012-13 season tying Nail Yakupov for the rookie scoring lead with 31 points (14-17-31). Huberdeau’s 17 assists led all rookies and the young forward recorded his first goal on his first shot in his first game in the NHL.
As a first overall pick Panthers D Aaron Ekblad will join the conversation as a potential Calder winner this season. More often than not, forwards have won the Calder Trophy over defensemen and goaltenders but Ekblad has been very impressive early on. Recording four points (1-3-4) in his first ten games and averaging 21:41 TOI per game ranking second in the league among rookies, the 18-year old defenseman has looked far beyond his years on the ice and has been a tremendous asset in a two-way capacity for Florida.
“He’s playing with the poise of a veteran 25 or 26-year old defenseman in the NHL,” said Potvin about Ekblad’s play on the ice.
“His preparation for the game is ‘one game at a time, one shift a time’, the old adage of a professional athlete. So far he’s been very impressive.”
In the last decade, four first overall picks have won the Calder trophy and three defensemen earned the honor. Two of the last four winners were 18-years old, while the last defenseman to win the Calder as a teenager was Orr (1966-67).
While most youngsters are still in development stages of their careers as rookies, the Calder Trophy is an award that can put a player on the map and shed a spotlight on them as a player to watch for years to come.