The National Hockey League announced their top three choices for this year's Calder Memorial Trophy earlier this afternoon. The Calder Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding player in his first year in the league over the course of the regular season. The nominees are forward Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche, defenseman Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres, and goaltender Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings. All three had incredible rookie seasons and are a main reason why their clubs are participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now.
In 81 games played with the Avs this year, 19-year-old Matt Duchene recorded 24 goals and 31 assists for a total of 55 points. I think it is safe to say that Matt lived up to his second overall draft pick expectations quite well, and performed better than the only other two individuals to be drafted in front of him in John Tavares and Victor Hedman. Colorado has a very skilled centerman on their hands that they can now build their team around.
Tyler Myers, who was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres 12th overall in the 2008 Entry Draft, sort of came out of nowhere. We heard things about his potential leading up to the season's start but once this kid hit the ice, it was made very clear the talent he holds while playing the defensive position is breathtaking. The freshman blue-liner compiled 11 goals and 37 assists for 48 points in 82 games played with the Sabres. If you notice, that is only seven points less than Matt Duchene's total, who is a forward. Needless to say, Tyler had an extremely impressive first season in the NHL.
Jimmy Howard, age 26, took the starting goaltender job from Chris Osgood this season in Detroit. His 2.26 goals against average and .924 save percentage, without a doubt, puts him in the mix for the Calder Trophy. With a veteran Red Wings defensive squad in front of him, Howard was stellar in his first professional season and even put up better numbers than last year's Calder winning goalie, Steve Mason. While the numbers may be better, the competition he is going against is much tougher, however.
My personal choice has to be Tyler Myers. He had a ton of poise with the puck, smart in his own zone, and was superior to many defensemen in the league, both young and old. I think he is the most likely to take home the Calder, especially since defense is the hardest position to come in and play as a rookie. The fact that there are so many considerable candidates for rookie of the year, though, just goes to show how great the development of hockey is as well as the drafting and scouting that goes on in North America and in Europe.