SB Nation writers were recently asked to vote on the seven major NHL awards. This week and next, the results will be unveiled at the main site with today featuring the Calder Trophy, "an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." Here's how Fear the Fin (okay, just me) voted.
Winner: Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche. Landeskog was heavily leaned on by Joe Sacco, along with his frequent linemate and fellow standout Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly, to routinely match up against opposing top lines, a very rare role for a rookie to be cast in. He rewarded Sacco's faith in him, posting the best zonestart-adjusted Corsi among rookies this season and the 17th-best Relative Corsi rate in the entire NHL among forwards while facing a tougher quality of competition than anyone else on the Avs. No rookie had more points than Landeskog and the Swedish forward's 270 shots on goal were 86 more than the next-closest first-year player in that category. It was just a remarkable season for the 19-year-old Landeskog who has already established himself as one of the premier play-drivers in the NHL and should easily be up for a Selke Trophy someday in the near future.
2nd place: Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers. Although Henrik Lundqvist kept them afloat, the Rangers were an abysmal 44.7% Fenwick Close team this season before Carl Hagelin first donned a team sweater. In the 64 games after Hagelin was integrated into the lineup, New York was a vastly improved 51.9% Fenwick Close team. The uptick certainly can't be ascribed solely to one player but the speedy, forechecking hellhound that is Hagelin was a 54.2% Fenwick Close player this season, dramatically improving the Rangers' possession game and allowing them to retain control of the Atlantic Division title even when their PDO began to regress. Hagelin led all rookies in even-strength points per 60 minutes, scoring at a 2.40 per 60 rate that ranked 39th among all NHL forwards, ahead of guys like Zach Parise, Anze Kopitar and Daniel Sedin. Hagelin also posted the 19th-best +/- per 60 among forwards in the league this season. I don't think it's at all a stretch to call Hagelin the Rangers' best forward this season and when you consider that they finished first in the Eastern Conference and boast the likes of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on their roster, that's quite an accomplishment for a rookie who was completely unheralded coming into the year.
3rd place: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers. Taking quality of competition and zonestarts in sum, it's arguable that no rookie in the league played tougher minutes this season than Couturier. Frequently hard-matched against opposing first- or second-line centers (as Evgeni Malkin will gladly attest), Couturier started 60% of his non-neutral zone EV shifts in the defensive zone yet still managed to keep his head very nearly above water in terms of possession and finish with the 20th best +/- per 60 rating among NHL forwards (although that was heavily aided by an unsustainable 1034 PDO). Couturier was also a force to be reckoned with on the penalty kill, somehow being the Flyers' best option when down a man at the age of 19. Just a ridiculous season from another 2011 Draft class rookie who looks to have the Selke Trophy in his sights at some point during his career.
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes: Only Minnesota's Marco Scandella faced tougher competition than Faulk among rookie defensemen this season and he did so with far worse results. A second round pick in 2010, Faulk did considerably well against second-tier opposition this season on a bad Hurricanes team. He was great on the power play as well.
Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils: Despite starting in his own end more often than not, Henrique had a great season in terms of driving the play forward as well as contributing offense with the second-best points-per-game rate among rookies who appeared in at least 20 games. He also recorded just seven minutes in penalties this season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: He had the highest points-per-game rate among rookies but there are a lot of reasons I didn't seriously consider RNH for any of the three slots on my Calder ballot. First, he was heavily sheltered to the tune of 62.5% offensive zone starts (a very smart move by Renney...god save the Oilers if whoever they bring in thinks RNH and Eberle are ready for some power-versus-power matchups) yet still ended up with a negative on-ice Corsi, his point totals were heavily propped up by a 10.3% on-ice shooting percentage at evens and a ridiculous 20.3% on-ice shooting percentage on the power play, neither of which are very likely to be his true talent level. Nugent-Hopkins was also just 37.5% on faceoffs, well below league-average. Still, he made the NHL as a teenager and, regardless of whether or not his success is sustainable in the long run, his performance occurred and as a result he deserved some remote consideration for this award in my eyes.