Every summer as camps are about to break, conversation in some circles turns to who will be the most enigmatic rookie performer in the forthcoming season.
Last year's Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason didn't even start playing until after the season had started but made a huge impression by taking his team to their first ever postseason berth and leading the league in shutouts. In fact, Mason could very well have won a Vezina last year as well.
Undoubtedly not many pegged Mason to be the front runner for the award. In fact, the runner-up Bobby Ryan didn't make his team out of camp either and he couldn't have been very high on many's pre-season lists. Once the season started, Anaheim had a dynamic trio of young superstars blossoming on the big club.
That being said, 09-10 will be much different with 1st overall pick John Tavares sure to make and play on the New York Islanders first line (likely for the whole year). The title of perennial favorite has to rest on Tavares shoulder pads despite the Islander mediocrity.
That being said...does everyone think Tavares is the automatic shoe in?
How many points does he score (probably mostly goals)...40? 50? 60? maybe even 70? Having watched him play many many times I have to think he will conjure up images of a young Mike Bossy with his quick release and accuracy.
I think he scores 20 something goals on his way to a 48-55 pt season in his first year. Lots of PP time and probably a very bad plus minus rating also highlight his first year.
Having said all of that, I actually think the Calder race to be far from a foregone conclusion.
Nikita Filatov on Columbus will surely play in the top 6 all year on a playoff team with a much better supporting cast and winning environment...60 points is not out of the question.
The same can be said for Cody Hodgson in Vancouver. While he may or may not be in the top 6, he does have a supporting cast and plays on a better team.
What about a defenseman like Hedman, Gilroy, or Pietrangelo? Will these players make their teams and provide an impact immediately whether 5 on 5 or in special teams.
Could another goalie make a case...what about Jonas Gustavsson unseating Toskala and leading Toronto into the playoffs not unlike Mason last year...perhaps?
Honorable mentions go to: Evander Kane, Matt Duchene, Colin Wilson, and others
At this point it is too hard to tell, but who is your pick and why will they win the Calder as we get ready to open NHL camps in the next week or two?