Top 10 Calder Trophy Finalists - Preseason Scouting
By: Dan Waldner and Mike Wilson
While rookies often don't have a huge impact on single-season pools, veteran GMs in keeper pools are keenly aware of what young blood brings to a team. In addition to providing the future promise of a franchise player on which to build a perennial contender, Calder Trophy candidates also offer a wealth of options for trades down the stretch.
We have painstakingly analyzed the trends, examined the history, and have developed our list of predicted 2013-2014 Top 10 Calder Trophy finalists ahead of the training camps.
We examined all Calder Trophy winners (and their respective teams) since the 2003-2004 lockout, and from those winners, a number of commonalities emerged that helped provide a statistical model. Of the eight winners:
- Seven are skaters, and six are forwards; the only goalie to win was Steve Mason (CLS) in 2008-2009, and the only defenseman was Tyler Myers (BUF) in 2009-2010.
- Four were drafted the summer before and three more were drafted the year previous; Mason was drafted in 2006 and won in 2008-2009.
- Six were top-10 selections in their respective years, with five of them being top-3.
- Five served on teams that finished 26th to 30th the previous year.
- All of them were in top-six forward spots, top-four defensemen spots, or starting goalies during their Calder year.
In addition to these common traits, we have also taken into consideration the player's talent, experience, likely linemates, and potential opportunities to produce this Top 10:
1. Jonathan Drouin LW, TBL - Tampa Bay has a bona fide phenom in Drouin, and the perfect environment to turn him into an elite sniper. His career trajectory thus far suggests that he will develop into a Patrick Kane-like scorer, given the right conditions. Early projections have him serving time during the season on the top line and first power play unit with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. His linemate in juniors, Nathan MacKinnon, offered a playmaking style similar to St. Louis, and Drouin reacted by putting up 41G / 64A / 105P in 49 games last year alone. In addition, St. Louis can tutor him how to survive (and thrive) in the NHL as a sub-six foot forward, and Stamkos can divert much of the on-ice attention away from him. Look for Drouin to be a threat all year, and, barring injury, should have the inside track to winning the Calder this year.
2. Mark Scheifele C, WPG - Winnipeg has slowly developed this 2011 top-10 draft pick (7th overall) over the last two years, making sure not to rush him until he was ready. His prodigious scoring in the OHL (217 points in 158 games) has shown that his time is now, in addition to Winnipeg's need for a second line center to take over for the aging Olli Jokinen. His linemates are likely to be an ever-improving Evander Kane, and likely speedster Devin Setoguchi - a potent combo for Scheifele to step into. With second line duty, he's also likely to serve on the second line power play, a bonus for any rookie. All signs point to Scheifele having a breakout campaign and becoming this year's surprise-but-not-really like Nazem Kadri.
3. Ryan Strome C, NYI - Much like Scheifele, Strome was a 2011 top-10 draft pick (5th overall) that has been given time to hone his game in junior. In the last three years in junior, Strome has netted 97 goals and 171 assists in 164 games. Unlike his draft-mate, Strome has a little more competition for top-six ice-time. Frans Nielsen is likely the incumbent center for the start of the season, but it's expected that Strome will shine with the predicted pairing of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck. Coach Jack Capuano may elect to move Kyle Okposo to the second line to provide a secondary scoring punch to the Matt Moulson-John Tavares pair, which would benefit the rookie even further. In any event, Strome will likely have every opportunity this year to prove he is the gifted player he has shown himself to be in junior.
4. Nathan MacKinnon C, COL - There is little question about the talent that MacKinnon will bring to the Colorado Avalanche, providing them with yet another franchise center from which to build a strong future with. Coming off his performance in the QMJHL, MVP performance in the Memorial Cup and first overall selection in this June's NHL Entry draft, GM Patrick Roy has already stated that he's likely to start the season as the third-line center, with incumbent Ryan O'Reilly being moved to wing. Our only concern is that his ice time will be limited in this capacity, and being behind Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny, his year will not be as productive as expected. If Stastny gets dealt, all bets are off.
5. Alex Barkov C, FLA - This year's 2nd overall draft pick will have the opportunity to make Florida the first back-to-back Calder trophy team since the Bruins did it in the 60s with Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson. Barkov is being all but gift-wrapped the second-line center position behind Jonathan Huberdeau, and will likely see tons of ice-time. Florida has few gifted scorers, so potential linemates of Tomas Kopecky and Drew Shore/Thomas Fleischmann are not likely to provide the same assistance as some of the previous candidates. If Barkov is as good as advertised, he may have to do it himself. Additionally, Barkov is coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury; other talented young players - Ales Hemsky and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins come to mind - have experienced similar chronic injuries that have derailed promising Calder seasons.
6. Alex Chiasson RW, DAL - While being drafted later than is typical of a Calder winner (38th in 2009), Chiasson will be this year's big surprise. Appearing in seven games at the tail end of last year, Chiasson scored 6G / 1A / 7P, while appearing on the same line as Ray Whitney and Jamie Benn. While Loui Eriksson was dealt to Boston in the offseason for newcomer Tyler Seguin, it seems unlikely that the management in Dallas will change the top line from Chiasson-Benn-Whitney. This provides the rookie with a substantial opportunity to continue his success from last year, and play with two premier forwards in the league. He'll also be afforded first line power play time. The only concern is that Chiasson doesn't have the pedigree of the previous candidates: his season last year in the AHL was 35 points in 57 games. Perhaps this opportunity with two skilled players will elevate his game, like Alex Burrows.
7. Sven Baertschi C, CAL - 2011's 13th overall pick has played the maximum amount of games allowable by the NHL to still be designated a rookie. In the 25 games he's played for Calgary, he's amassed an underwhelming 6G / 7A / 13P. That's a 43-point pace - the closest Calder winner to that was Sergei Samsonov in 2000-2001 with 47 points in a much different NHL. Calgary will afford Baertschi all the ice-time he can skate this year, but with next-to-nobody to skate with. Calgary is in full rebuild mode, and Baertschi and fellow rookie Sean Monahan will be the foundation of the future. Baertschi has the pedigree, but it's unknown if Calgary will be able to provide an environment for immediate success.
8. Seth Jones D, NAS - Nashville has the reputation of drafting and developing strong defensive talent, and they continued that this year with the selection of Jones, who slid to 4th overall. While it seems likely that Jones will follow in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter's footsteps as another Norris-class Predator rearguard, Calder trophies seldom go to defensemen. While Jones has shown his proficiency at the position in junior (14G / 42A / 56P in 61 games), highly drafted defensemen have shown a penchant for disappointment when elevated immediately to the NHL. Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, and Adam Larsson - all recent highly touted draft prospects - were drafted in the top-ten, and served time in the NHL in their first year. None of them had the immediate success necessary to capture the Calder; the only defenseman to win the trophy in the last 10 years, Tyler Myers, was kept in the minors for a year to mature. There is little question: Seth Jones will be a generational defenseman that will provide the Nashville Predators with another All-Star, but it is statistically improbable that he will win the Calder this year.
9. Filip Forsberg LW, NAS - In addition to drafting Jones, Nashville flipped Martin Erat to Washington at the deadline in order to pick up this talented Swede to help rebuild their top-six. Based on their lineup, Forsberg is likely to receive second line ice-time, likely serving as left wing to David Legwand and Viktor Stalberg. The trio should be a nightmare for NHL defensemen, as Forsberg's speed is well-documented, and Stalberg is already one of the fastest wingers in the league. There's also the possibility that coach Barry Trotz may try out Forsberg up on the top line with fellow Swede Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher. If that occurs, Forsberg could be in position to reap big rewards. Questions still remain around Forsberg's ability to adapt to the NHL game, having played his entire career in Sweden, but his speed and skill should serve him well.
10. Mikhail Grigorenko C, BUF - After a very disappointing half-season in 2012-2013, the 2012 12th overall pick was returned to junior where he took the letdown the best way possible: by ripping up the Q. In 33 games, Grigorenko scored 30G / 24A / 54P and tacked on an additional 14 points in the playoffs. Unlike other players, which have struggled after demotion, it's clear that Grigorenko has the drive to succeed in the NHL. It seems likely that Buffalo will promote Grigorenko this year, however, his ice time will be limited by the Ennis-Hodgson-Ott grouping above him. He may get moved to wing in order to get more ice-time, or coach Ron Rolston may decide to have him start on the fourth line to work his way up. In any event, Grigorenko will have a very steep climb ahead of him if he wants to hoist the Calder trophy this year.