No matter how good a rookie is at the start of the season; there will be a darkhorse rookie to tear it up in the second half to win the Calder Trophy. In addition, Jason Spezza is always in the running.So, with that in mind-- we look at the early goings of the rookie season, with John Tavares and James van Riemsdyk leading the points for rookies, with Ryan O'Reilly and Michael Del Zotto close behind. However, the hot rookie to start the season, Matt Duchene, has slumped and even demoted to the fourth line for the Avalanche.
Yet, according the theorem, we have to look for a darkhorse rookie who will rise through the ranks and take over the Calder. Going up and down the list, who can we pick out as a possible candidate for the SRT??
There's a lot of defensemen out there who can be considered for the Calder. The hype with big Tyler Myers is certainly worth buying into. Myers plays a tight checking game and has been a welcome surprise for the Sabres into the line-up. Also, Cody Fransen in Nashville could create some buzz if he can continue his solid play in Music City, USA-- though he would get lost in the defense corp with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in the mix. Also, Davis Drewskie of LA should get some consideration for this award, as well as Olympic consideration as well. Drewskie has been a welcome surprise to the young LA Kings' squad, and is at the top of the chart of ice time. Plus, how could you forget Victor Hedman, who leads all rookie's in ice time and is a vital part on the rebuilding Bolts blueline.
At the same time, we all know defensive defensemen don't get that much consideration if they don't put up points along with it. That's why a player like Del Zotto will get more consideration over the likes of the names above.
Also, you can't look past two Dallas Stars as candidates for this award, with Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell really making some quiet noise. Wandell is a definite darkhorse, but his role playing is fairly unseen; yet Benn could make some noise if given the chance. Benn right now has 13 points in 24 games, which puts him sixth in rookie scoring and seventh on the team. The downside to Benn is maybe getting his time overshadowed by other forwards and getting lost in fold of all of this.
Even with all of that, Evander Kane goes under the radar in terms of consideration. He's second in rookie goal-scoring, he's tied for second in rookie +/-, and eight in rookie points. While he's in a market like Atlanta which often goes unnoticed beyond Ilya Kovalchuk; Kane should be one to keep an eye on should John Anderson give him an increased role with the Thrashers as the season moves forward.
Let's not forget goalie, too. Seymon Varlamov in Washington has played solid with the big club and is 9-1-2 on the season. The trap for Varlamov is not being the clear-cut start, mostly splitting time with Jose Theodore when Theodore is actually rostered for the Caps. Even so, many think Varlamov is the #1, even with coach Bruce Boudreau being coy with it. Jonas Gustavsson has a lot of hype with him, but could be a victim of being on a horrific team, which will inflate his GAA and wins for the season. Even with that, Gustavsson has keep his save percentage at a decent .900. Though, sneaking in-- Tuukka Rask could be a darkhorse, depending on how long Tim Thomas is out for the Bruins. Rask is 7-2-2 for the season and has been a shot in the arm for the B's.
In the end, however, it looks like it could be John Tavares' to lose in all of this. He's playing magnificently and really doesn't seem to be letting the hype or pressure get to him. In fact, he seems to be taking it to heart with all the eyes on him and leading the Isles to an early-season surprising start. He's leading in rookie points and goals and will probably increase those throughout his run. While van Riemsdyk is a surprise, I doubt he'll get the chance to really catch up to Tavares, even though the team around JVR is solid and may get a chance to get more time should his pace continue.
We're a quarter of the way in the season, which gave us a nice look at who's-who in the NHL rookie race and only time will tell in the new calendar year if the SRT will be put into play this season....and if Jason Spezza and finally pull this one out.