2009 NHL Awards – Rookie of the Year Finalists

calder trophy-rookie of the yearToday the NHL revealled the 3 finalists for the “Rookie of the Year award,” The Calder Memorial Trophy.

As expected, standout Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason was on the list of young stars… as was Anaheim Ducks breakout forward, Bobby Ryan and Chicago Blackhawks power forward, Kris Versteeg.

Notable exceptions to the list include the minute-muching, defensive anchor from the Los Angeles Kings, Drew Doughty; and the lanky goalie with a quick glove from the Nashville Preditors, Pekka Rinne.

Let’s break down the incredible seasons that these five young players had.

1. (G) Steve Mason – Columbus Blue Jackets
steve masonMason is the odds on favorite to win this award largely due to the media coverage and hype that he has received and the fact that his team would likely not have made it to the playoffs without him.  In addition to these two factors Mason has going for him, there’s also his very impressive statistics: 33-20-10 record, 2.29 GAA, 91.6 save%, and a league leading 10 shutouts.

While Mason did have a tremendous season where he benefited a large extent from Columbus coach, Ken Hitchcock’s defense first system, he did have some dark days down the stretch of the regular season.  In the final 3 weeks of the season as Columbus (and many other teams) were fighting for playoff position, Mason had very pedestrian numbers: 3-3-4 record, 2.61 GAA, 89.8 save%, 0 shutouts.

The voters almost always look at the whole body of work however… so despite some late season slumping, the NHL hype machine and his amazing season stats (as a 20 year old), will likely ensure that Mason still wins the Calder Trophy.

2. (W) Bobby Ryan – Anaheim Ducks
bobby ryanMany will probably consider Bobby Ryan to be robbed of this award (should odds-on favorite Mason indeed win it), because Ryan was largely a victim of circumstance this season. 

Ryan missed the first 18 games of the NHL season because the Anaheim Ducks were too close to the salary cap to carry him on their roster.  He had (by all accounts) an amazing training camp, but until the Ducks lost Francois Beauchemin with a knee injury 1/4 of the way through the season, there was simply no cap room for the young star.

Once Ryan joined the Ducks roster, he never looked back.  He posted 31 goals and 57 points in just 64 games with the Ducks and quickly entrenched himself on the Ducks number 1 scoring line with Dustin Penner and Ryan Getzlaf.  Had he played the whole season with the big club, he could have very well closed in on 70 points as a rookie… and he likely would have been this year’s Calder Trophy winner. 

As it is, he’ll likely be overshadowed by another young player (who’s team didn’t have any salary cap issues in bringing him on board when he was ready).

3. (W) Kris Versteeg – Chicago Blackhawks
kris versteegWhile Versteeg’s season stats (22 goals, 53 points in 78 games) are fairly impressive on paper, he absolutely disappeared about halfway through the season. 

Starting in mid-January, Versteeg had just just 8 goals and 15 points in his remaining 33 games of the season (a pace that’s not even good enough for 40 points in a full season of play). 

Voters tend to look at the big picture and heavily favor statistics however… so Versteeg was voted as a finalist despite (in my opinion) other more suitable selections.

(D) Drew Doughty – LA Kings
drew doughtyAs alluded to above, I believe that there were other more appropriate selections that could have been made for the finalist spots.  18 year old Drew Doughty from the LA Kings is one of those selections.

From the same point in January that we measured Kris Versteeg’s “second half” production, Drew Doughty had 13 points (2 less than FORWARD, Kris Versteeg).  Doughty also consistently logged over 20 minutes of ice time a game (several minutes of which was often during shorthanded situations).  He was arguably LA’s most consistent and dominant defender throughout the season, and very much so held his own against some of the most dominant forwards in the western conference and the NHL. 

It’s absolutely unheard of for an 18 year old DEFENDER to make the transition to the NHL so easily… and the fact that Doughty exibited such leadership qualities and scored close to 30 points at such a young age, should not have been discounted by Calder Trophy voters.

Regardless, he’ll become one of the more dominant defenders of his generation within a few short years, and will perhaps one day receive a nomination for the Norris Trophy (as best defender).

(G) Pekka Rinne – Nashville Preditors
pekka rinneI think it’s an absolute shame that Pekka Rinne didn’t receive the same publicity, hype, and coverage that Steve Mason received this season.  His statistics (29-15-7, 2.38 GAA, 91.7 save%, 7 shutouts) were every bit as good as Steve Mason’s (his win percentage is actually better than Mason’s)… but Rinne received no where near as much publicity throughout his rookie campaign. 

I think that is tragic.  How two goalies can have such similar statistics, and one can be the “favorite” for an award that the other isn’t even a finalist for is beyond me. 


Tremendous seasons by all the players above.  All were worthy of Calder consideration, all (to varying degrees) were worthy of being finalists for the award. 

My personal pick for the winner would have to be Drew Doughty because I honestly do not remember the last time an 18 year old defender played as well as he did at the NHL level. 

For all those looking at mason’s sparkling numbers… Consider that last year, Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire finished the season with a 24-17-9 record, 2.25 GAA, 91.9 save%, and 9 shutouts.  Is Steve Mason really as good as his numbers this season suggest?  Or is he just on a stellar defensive team?  You be the judge.


One Response to “2009 NHL Awards – Rookie of the Year Finalists”

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