Florida Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau was named one of the three finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy awarded to the league’s rookie of the year. Huberdeau will be up against Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens and Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks. The winner of the award will be announced during the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
It is really no surprise that Huberdeau has been named a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, whether or not he actually wins the award is another story. Huberdeau finished tied with Nail Yakupov for the rookie scoring lead with 31 points off 14 goals and 17 assists. Gallagher, a fifth round draft pick by the Canadiens in the 2010 NHL Draft, finished the year with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) while Saad finished with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).
As is often the case with these subjective end of season awards that are decided by a media vote, who you vote on depends on how you interpret the meaning of the award (just as Gary Washburn). The NHL defines the award as follows: “The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League”. This sounds very simple and straightforward but when you delve deeper you get into questions such as, “how do you define proficient?” and “how does your definition of proficiency manifest itself on the ice?” in other words “what factors do you take into account when make your pick”?
Jonathan Huberdeau led these three finalists in the main counting stats so if that is what you value than he would be the clear choice. But wait a minute: Nail Yakupov had tied Huberdeau for the rookie scoring title and he also led all rookies with 17 goals but he did not even get nominated! So its clear that the award is not solely based on numbers.
So what do voters value? Is it ice-time? quality of competition? helping your team advance to the playoffs? or could it be WOW moments? If your making the case for Huberdeau, it would go as follows: He played for a team that was crippled by injuries and managed to be productive despite the fact that most of his shifts came against opponents top players. While the other rookies benefitted from playing on deep teams with other star players that their opponents had to focus on stopping, Huberdeau was often the main focus in opponents defensive game plans. Jonathan also displayed excellent puck handling ability, deft passes, mind boggling dekes,and an intrinsic knowledge of the game that cannot be taught.
It may sound cliche but it doesn’t really matter who wins the rookie of the year award. What matters for the Panthers is that Huberdeau had a fantastic rookie season and has a bright future ahead of him. That being said Huberdeau’s being nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy is a continuation of the best story of the season for the Panthers and we will take an in depth look at Huby’s chances off winning as we get closer to the announcement.