Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg could never have predicted this type of success on and off the ice in his first full NHL season.
In addition to leading the Predators and NHL rookies in scoring, Forsberg played in the Honda NHL All-Star Game and won a new Honda Accord as the last pick for Team Toews in the 2015 All-Star Fantasy Draft.
He has proven to be a versatile performer for Predators coach Peter Laviolette, who for most of the season has played the 20-year-old Swede on the top line.
"I'm sure he's more confident now playing first-line minutes and the first power-play," Laviolette said. "I think when you have success and knowing where our team is in the standings, he's having a strong year and that builds confidence in him. He might not have had that same confidence when the season started, but watching him in development camp, rookie camp and training camp, he was always a consistent player, a top player."
Forsberg remains NHL.com's top candidate to win the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year.
He was asked if he keeps tabs on other rookies possibly in the hunt for the award.
"You media guys remind me as much as you can," Forsberg said with a smile. "It's fun to know these guys and how good they are doing, but it's not like I'm keeping track of them. It's more just on a friendly basis. If you're thinking too much, it'll be bad for you, so I keep playing like I've always played and work on different things to create chances for myself and my teammates."
Nashville forward James Neal said he wouldn't be surprised if Forsberg won the award.
"Once you see him play, you aren't surprised," Neal said. "Coming in and not knowing him, and then seeing how good he was right from Day One in camp, I knew he'd be right there as a rookie of the year. His ability to shoot the puck and score goals; you don't see that every day. He's got such a great release and he can score from anywhere on the ice."
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was recently asked if he considers countryman Forsberg a lock for the Calder this season. Ekman-Larsson met Forsberg in 2009-10 when Forsberg played for the junior team at Leksands.
"I think he should win that one," Ekman-Larsson said. "If you look at his year and the way he is scoring big goals and having a lot of success on that [Mike] Ribeiro line, I don't see anyone else winning that one."
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers -- The No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft is not intimidated by anyone and has gained an incredible amount of confidence. He averages more than 22 minutes per game and is among the top seven rookies in assists and points. Paired for much of the season with Brian Campbell, Ekblad is first among rookie defensemen in blocked shots and shots on goal, and second in power-play points and hits. What has most impressed Panthers coach Gerard Gallant is Ekblad's ability to read plays in the defensive zone, anticipate, and have a knack for breaking up plays.
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames -- The New Jersey native has been hot on the trail of Forsberg in most offensive categories since the start of the season. He ranks in the top five among rookies in goals, assists, points, power-play points, game-winning goals and takeaways. He was playing on the top line alongside Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler until recently, and has thrived defensively. His game hasn't changed from his days as a standout at Boston College, where he won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation's top player as a junior. He likes the puck on his stick, is creative and provides teammates with great opportunities.
Also in the mix: Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators; Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets; John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer