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Top 10 Season 5 Calder Trophy Candidates - A 1/3 Review Written by habsfan93 - December 16th, 2008

Ryan GetzlafEarlier this season I sat down and had a look at the league's rookie crop. I outlined who I felt were the top 10 candidates for the Rookie of the Year Award, and the result had Ryan Getzlaf as my #1 candidate.

Well, last week the CMHL crossed the 1/3 mark of the season, so I thought I would sit down and have a look at my original list and see how its changed.

Ryan Getzlaf headlined the original list...did he maintain his spot?

First off, let's review the list that was put together prior to the preseason:

Honourable Mention: Sam Gagner (NYI - now BUF), David Backes (NYI - now COL), Daniel Girardi (ANA - now CAR), Peter Mueller (ANA), Devin Setoguchi (NJ - now WAS)

#10 - Erik Johnson (CGY) / Tobias Enstrom (PHX) / Braydon Coburn (OTT - now EDM) / Alex Edler (ATL)

#9 - Alex Steen (TOR)

#8 - Dennis Wideman (NYR)

#7 - R.J. Umberger (NYR)

#6 - Carey Price (BUF)

#5 - Mike Green (DET)

#4 - Patrick Kane (EDM)

#3 - Nicklas Backstrom (CGY)

#2 - Jonathan Toews (BUF)

#1 - Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)

 

Although a couple players have switched teams, most are still with the club they started the year with. One concern was whether or not any of these players would be sent to the minors during the first 20 games of the season if it became apparent that they were not fitting into the club. As it turns out, this has indeed happened. Honourable mentions Sam Gagner and Peter Mueller were given extended tries in the pros, but have since been returned to the farm for more seasoning. The same goes for Alex Edler in Atlanta. The most prolific failure however has been rookie phenom goalie Carey Price, who was given the starter's mantle in Buffalo, but was not living up to the task, going 5-6-0 in 12 games with a reasonable 2.92 GAA, forcing GM Ludo's hand into acquiring star netminder Evgeni Nabokov. Price has since been sent down.

Needless to say, these players are no longer Calder candidates. Its not to say these players are failures, on the contrary, they instantly become Calder favorites next season. But we're concerned with the present, aren't we? Here's a look at the top candidates as it stands today:

Honourable Mentions - Tobias Enstrom (PHX), Erik Johnson (CGY), David Backes (COL), Daniel Girardi (CAR), Erik Christensen (TOR)

#10 - Mike Green (DET)

Green would be higher on this list if not for his horrible -10 rating. Scoring wise, Green had a slow start, but has been rising the rookie scoring charts recently. If he can improve his defensive play, he'll up his chances, but that said, I think its extremely difficult for any defenceman to win the Calder Trophy in the CMHL, especially in a year with this many strong candidates.

#9 - Alex Steen (TOR) / Jordan Eberle (TOR)

This one-two punch was half predicted, as we knew Steen would be given a big opportunity to succeed. But Eberle, after being drafted this summer, made the team out of camp and has been very good as well. Put a franchise player on the line between these two, and then maybe they move up the list, but on their own, they will both do very well for themselves regardless.

#8 - Travis Zajac (COL)

Looking back, to be honest, the fact that Zajac was left off the original list was an oversight. Zajac is getting top minutes on a team starved for goals, and playing alongside enigmatic Alex Kovalev. He probably won't be able to climb this list much further though unless he has an R.J. Umberger-like epiphany.

#7 - Jan Mursak (BOS)

Who?? Jan Mursak has been feeding off a white hot start by Sergei Fedorov in Boston, and Fedorov shows no signs of slowing down, so Mursak shouldn't either. His ratings certainly don't support these stats though, so time will tell if this is an early season abberration or the real thing.

#6 - James Wisniewski (CAR)

Every year, players that you didn't expect come out of the woodwork and have great seasons. Wisniewski is an early candidate for unexpected breakout player of the year. The defenceman has 7 goals and 5 assists through 30 games, only one goal back of the defencemen goal scoring lead.

#5 - Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)

Getzlaf was projected early as the top rookie candidate based on the expectation that he would be the 1st line center on a very good Anaheim team. Well, those expectations may have been too lofty, and the pressure may have gotten to him as Getzlaf had an absolutely horrible start to the year. But after a demotion to the 2nd line, and some major changes to the Anaheim roster, including the acquisition of Peter Forsberg to be his linemate, Getzlaf has risen from the ashes, and now sits 5th in rookie scoring. If his rise continues, he could well fulfill my preseason prediction.

#4 - Jonathan Toews (BUF)

Toews had a bit of a rough start with the Sabres. Frankly, the Sabres had a rough start, and Toews just fell in line. But the team has rebounded and so has Toews, so while he may have fallen from #2 to #4, do not count this man out.

 

#3 - Patrick Kane (EDM)

We knew Kane would be good, ranking him at #4 early, and he moves up one spot in this ranking, with 31 points in 30 games to start the year on the Oilers 2nd line. His -3 rating could be improved given he's on a playoff team, but if he keeps this pace up, he will be in the thick of things come award season.

#2 - R.J. Umberger (NYR)

Umberger was expected to have a breakout year as the top center in New York, but no one quite knew how well he would do, hence the #7 spot early on. But Umberger has taken the role to heart, leading all rookies with 14 goals in 30 games, and 15 assists to boot. The Rangers made a big trade to bring in Brad Richards, but continue to play Umberger as their #1 guy, which goes to show the impression he has made so far on this hockey team.

#1 - Nicklas Backstrom (CGY)

Backstrom has taken the rookie class by storm early on with 37 points, including 30 assists, in his first 29 games. Although he's currently day-to-day with an injury, he's not expected to miss much time. If he can come back from injury and keep up the pace he's set, he'll be very hard to catch.

 

As you can see, 7 of the top 10 preseason candidates are still on the list, but what's changed is the order of candidates. Some players that were expected to be big, have not quite lived up to the hype, while some we were unsure on have proved us wrong in every way. We'll reevaluate this list at the 2/3 mark and see how things have changed.

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