RNH rookie of the year?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is one of three finalists for the NHL's Calder Trophy for rookie of the year....

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is one of three finalists for the NHL's Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. (David Bloom/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:29 PM ET

EDMONTON - Despite all their past achievements, the Edmonton Oilers have never had a player win the NHL's rookie of the year award.

The club is hoping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be the first.

On Friday, the Oilers rookie was named a Calder trophy finalist, along with Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog and New Jersey Devils center Adam Henrique.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards ceremonies, June 20th in Las Vegas.

"It's definitely exciting, it's a big honour for me and I just look forward to when the time comes for the decision," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I really didn't think about it (Calder trophy) at all coming into the season, I just focused on making the team and once I did that, I tried to focus on helping the team any way I could. I didn't think about it too much at all."

Nugent-Hopkins, 19, was the first overall pick in last summer's NHL Entry Draft.

He finished the season with 18 goals and 34 assists for 52 points in 62 games with the Oilers.

Landeskog, 19, finished with 22 goals and 30 assists for 52 points this season and was also an impressive plus-20 on the year.

Henrique, 22, a former third-round pick of the Devils, finished the year with 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points. He currently has one assist in four playoff games with the Devils.

Heading into the year, there was some doubt as to whether Nugent-Hopkins would be ready for the NHL coming straight out of junior hockey. However, he quickly proved his critics wrong, winning rookie of the month honours in both October and November as the Oilers got off to an outstanding start.

Nugent-Hopkins scored his first NHL goal on his Oilers debut, and then tallied is first career hat trick in his third career game. Later on, became the first 18 year old in league history to record five assists in one game.

"I think I'm happy with the way things went this year," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Obviously l would have liked to have stayed healthy for the whole year. It was tough getting hurt, obviously, being the first time in my career that I've had to miss time because of an injury was tough.

"But I just tried to take all the positives I could out of it and just try to come back stronger."

Nugent-Hopkins is no stranger to rookie of-the-year titles, having captured the award at the WHL level three years ago.

"It would be a huge honour for me to win it at the NHL level," Nugent-Hopkins said. "It's something that I would definitely look back to and be proud of. If I get the opportunity to win it, it would be a big honour and privilege for me."

The closest the Oilers have ever come to having a Calder Trophy winner was in 1994 when Jason Arnott was a finalist, but lost out to New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.

Arnott, now a member of the St. Louis Blues, scored 33 goals and added 35 assists for 68 points in his rookie season with the Oilers.

He spent the better part of five seasons with the Oilers before being traded to the Devils midway through the 1997-98 campaign.

Wayne Gretzky, who scored 51 goals and added 86 assists for 137 points in his first NHL season, was deemed not eligible for the award back in 1980 as he had played a year of professional hockey in the now defunct World Hockey Association.

Nugent-Hopkins may be hampered in the voting this year, due to having missed 20 games this season with a shoulder injury. However, his point-per-game average (.84) was the best among all rookies this season. Nugent-Hopkins went on to lose the rookie scoring title to Landeskog by virtue of having scored fewer goals. It's the same way Gretzky lost the league scoring title in his first NHL season, having two fewer goals than Los Angeles Kings legend Marcel Dionne.

Prior to heading to Las Vegas for the award ceremony, Nugent-Hopkins will travel to Helsinki, Finland to play with Canada at the upcoming World Hockey Championships.

It'll be the first opportunity for Nugent-Hopkins to represent his country at the senior level.

"It'll be a lot of fun. Any time you get to represent your country, it's a big honour," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I just want to take the right mindset into it and try to help the team any way I can."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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