The Best First-Year Player Won’t Win the Calder

Stuart McDonald

2009-03-14

 doughty

 

The Calder trophy, like so many NHL awards will be awarded to the player with the best statistics and not necessarily to the best player.

 

Steve Mason probably deserves to win the Calder Trophy for best rookie this season. His .920 save percentage, league-leading nine shutouts and 28 wins so far, will probably hold off 25-year old Pekka Rinne and win the Calder. Neither Mason, nor Rinne however, will have a better career than the best player in this year's Calder class.

To understand who the best player is you have to go back to the 2005 draft. Likely Calder nominee Bobby Ryan was picked second behind Sidney Crosby that year. It has taken Ryan three years since his draft year to hone his game to the Calder-caliber level where he now sits. Much like Mason and Rinne, Ryan has shiny, happy numbers that most fans can easily digest.

The player picked after Ryan in 2005 provides the greatest insight as to who the current first-year gem might be. Jack Johnson, widely considered the number two pick behind Crosby in 2005, went third to the Carolina Hurricanes. Like Ryan, it has taken Johnson three years since his draft year to make his name in the NHL. Still considered an elite defensive prospect, Johnson struggled out of the gate with a serious shoulder injury, but has logged the third most minutes per game on an LA team ranked among the top 10 NHL teams defensively.

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The third youngest team in the NHL (average age 26.3) is backstopped by "household names" Jon Quick and Erik Ersberg who sit 28th and 37th in NHL save percentage respectively. Okay, so the Kings are incredibly young, have mediocre goaltending and yet are among the ten best NHL teams defensively. How is that possible?
Drew Doughty, who turned 19 three months ago, is the leader of the LA Kings. Doughty, perhaps the most underappreciated player in the last decade is a victim of his position, his offensive numbers and especially his west coast city which lends itself more to sand and surf than sla