The NHL will be announcing the winners of their most prestigious awards tonight prior to game two of the Stanley Cup Finals. One of the awards to be handed out tonight is the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the league’s most outstanding rookie. The three nominees are, Jonathan Huberdeau of the Panthers, Brendan Gallagher of the Canadiens, and Brandon Saad of the Blackhawks.
Ignoring for a moment that I write for a website dedicated to the Florida Panthers, I would be very surprised if Jonathan Huberdeau did not win tonight. Huberdeau has the statistical edge over both players (31 points compared to 28 for Gallagher and 27 for Saad) but I think the biggest factor in Huberdeau’s favor is that he plays for the Panthers.
When you talk about MVP awards, being a good player on a bad team is usually a knock. People want their MVP’s to lead their team’s to success. If you are lighting up the scoresheet for a team at the bottom of the standings, how valuable can you really be? In this case with the Rookie of the Year, the fact the Huberdeau played for the worst team in the league has to be viewed as a plus. It is not illogical to draw the conclusion that if Huberdeau played for the Blackhawks or the Canadiens his point totals would be much higher. With more talent surrounding him, he would have better players to finish off his would-be assists, and he would endure less pressure from opposing defenses and thus receive better scoring chances.
If you throw away the stats and just go by the eye test, I think the case for Huberdeau becomes stronger. While admittedly I watched way more Huberdeau than Gallagher or Saad this season, I think Huberdeau blows the other two out of the water when it comes to wow-moments. With his nasty penalty shots, virtuosic displays of stick handling, and gross undressings of opposing goaltenders, Huberdeau has already curated a pretty awesome highlight reel for himself, and that has to count for something.
That’s just my brief take, lets hear your opinion. Fill out the poll below and tell us who you think will be named rookie of the year tonight, and if you have more to say on the subject feel free to voice off in the comments section below.