The thing I love about the Calder Trophy is how well it represents competing interests and different stages of development: Often you know quite well that the Calder winner will not end up being the best NHLer of the candidates in his rookie year, but he was thrust into a bigger role sooner (often by a desperate team), or alternatively he was brought along later by a more patient team and thus had a more impressive first NHL season than peers thrust into a different situation.
The competing views and stages of development are also reflected in how voters treat age, where sometimes advanced age is punished and sometimes it's not. There seems to be an ambiguous curve among voters where production is production no matter what your age, but if you're 23 and just barely oustcoring an 18-year-old, the voters will smile upon your younger peer. Last year Jeff Skinner won in part because of how much production he put up after stepping directly into the NHL, which weighed in his favor and compensated for his being outscored by older fellow candidates Logan Couture and Michael Grabner.
This year, 19-year-old Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog has age on his side versus fellow finalist Adam Henrique (22). Meanwhile, he has health on his side since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' extraordinary rookie season was stopped at 62 games thanks to injury.
Meanwhile, Matt Read is punished for being 25 years old, as his 24 goals was tops among rookies (though to be fair, his 47 total points trailed the three finalists).
This week the hockey hub at SB Nation has collected NHL awards votes from the authors of individual team sites. Averaging out the votes, Landeskog got the nod for Calder.
As you'll see below, most of us agree.
Landeskog is the Highlander Grog of rookies: Interesting mix of ingredients going on there with the sweet and the bitter: Probably won't be a superstar but is already a fine supplement when you need a bit of rough harshness along with handsome good looks. I think most coffee brewers try to evoke romantic associations of Scotland while also including some harsh notes to remind you that, hey, it's still Scotland. The weather isn't for danglers. (Actually, all of this is just effluvia, as is my forced comparison to Landeskog simply because his name contains the same final syllable. Moving on then...)
LHH Ballots: Calder Trophy
Chris McNally: 1. Matt Read 2. Gabriel Landeskog 3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Read led all rookies in Goals, Game Winning Goals and Shooting % all while getting less TOI than the three NHL finalists. Landeskog had a great rookie season, but when you take 270 shots on net, if you want the trophy you shouldn't be second in rookie goal scoring.
Islanders' Calder Trophy: Doug Weight. It's amazing that the Isles had only one rookie play more than 29 games and only 3 that actually accumulated a point. Rookie coach Weight was a refreshing change of pace behind the bench...a coach who actually showed emotion.
Mike B.: 1. Gabriel Landeskog; 2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; 3. Adam Henrique
Razor-close margins, but I think Landeskog edges the Nooge (through no fault of Ryan's) and Henrique.
Islanders Calder: David Ullstrom. Guys like Ness and Cizikas are officially rooks next season. Ullstrom did a fine job with his bottom-six role.
PGI: 1. Landeskog. 2. Henrique. 3. Nugent-Hopkins
Down the stretch, Landeskog almost put the Avalanche in the playoffs by himself. Very solid on both ends of the rink already. Also, his Twitter feed is hilarious.
Henrique is a victim of chicken-or-egg syndrome. Is he this good because he played with Parise and Kovalchuk, or are they this good because they played with Henrique? Either way, he's strikingly talented and worthy of the Calder. The Nuge, who missed a lot of time, has jaw-dropping skill. But this year's Calder will go to someone else.
Islanders Calder: Niederreiter, for not committing ritual seppuku or mailing himself back to Switzerland in a box after having Capuano and Snow destroy his career before it even got off the ground. Nah, Ullstrom's the guy. He contributed right from the call up like he had been with the Islanders the whole time. That's what you want to see from a prospect.
Mark D.: Nugent-Hopkins
52 points in 62 games for a relatively awful Oilers team is pretty impressive. With the Oilers grabbing another 1st overall selection, his injury might have been a blessing in disguise. Being in the Philly area though, I am somewhat surprised that Matt Read didn't get nominated.
Someone intervened and said I couldn't vote for Nielsen, so I don't know WTF that's about. If I must do this without Danes...
If RNH plays a full season, he probably gets my vote. Instead I punish him for that which he cannot control. Regardless, Landeskog had the most impressive season, not just in production but in all-around play and the responsibilities he shouldered. His draft billing was true: Most NHL-ready. Another kid billed as NHL-ready at the 2011 draft, Couturier gets my second-place vote. The way Peter Laviolette increasingly trusted and used him to handle opposition stars -- I do not look forward to future years of him checking Tavares -- impressed me and seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn't sexy but it's worthy of recognition.
Islanders Calder: He'll be eligible again next year and the Isles hardly had any rookies who got more than a brief look, but Casey Cizikas impressed me most, a close second to David Ullstrom. Aaron Ness impressed in nine games too.
Your Turn To Vote
Alright people, how would you rank them? Don't limit yourself to just the NHL's official finalists.