Skinner, not Hall, leads Calder pack

Hurricanes rookie forward Jeff Skinner is the early favourite to win the Calder Trophy for NHL...

Hurricanes rookie forward Jeff Skinner is the early favourite to win the Calder Trophy for NHL rookie of the year honours. (JOCELYN MALETTE/QMI Agency)

GEORGE POPALIS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 1:02 PM ET

TORONTO - At the start of the 2010-11 season, most of the rookie hype surrounded around Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. However, right now, those pre-season favorites aren't the frontrunners for the rookie of the year award, making this a very intriguing Calder Memorial Trophy race. With the All-Star break upon us and the season more than halfway over, now is a perfect opportunity to evaluate this year's rookie class.

Let's find out who are potential candidates for when the Calder Trophy is given out at the 2011 NHL Awards:

Jeff Skinner: Carolina Hurricanes - (18 G, 40 P)

Leading all NHL rookies by eight points is impressive, but it's downright amazing when one considers that the 18-year-old is the youngest player in the NHL. Where most rookies fall victim to the typical ups and downs of a freshman campaign, Skinner has only gotten better. With 12 points in his last 10 games, the Markham, ON native is showing no signs of slowing down. While many are surprised by the sizzling campaign Skinner has put together, the Hurricanes knew what they were getting when they drafted the center seventh overall in 2010. A gifted goal scorer in junior hockey, his intense work-ethic has helped him translate that penchant for finding the net to the NHL level, and Carolina is reaping the benefits. After finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference last year, the Hurricanes sit only one point back of the eighth and final post-season spot. If Skinner can keep up his current pace, chances are he'll be adding some new hardware to his trophy cabinet this summer.

Logan Couture: San Jose Sharks - (22 G, 33 P)

Since there are roughly 30 games left in the season, the reality is that Couture could very well catch fire and eclipse Skinner by season's end and that wouldn't surprise anybody. At 21-years-of-age, Couture is a veteran in this rookie class and, after a long audition with the Sharks last season, he also has the most NHL experience. The Guelph, ON native played in 15 playoff games and 25 regular season games last year for the Sharks and had he played one more, he would not have been eligible for freshman status this year. While some believe that a rookie should be evaluated as a rookie no matter the experience level, Couture's maturity may be helping him. In 25 games last year the center put up only nine points, while this year he leads all rookies in goals and sits second in points behind Skinner. While his role and ice time with the club have increased this year, helping explain the bump in his production, the fact that Couture is three years older than Skinner with more NHL experience makes what Skinner is doing as an 18-year-old even more impressive. Regardless, Couture will more than likely be neck and neck with Skinner as the season winds down, setting the stage for an exciting finish.

P.K. Subban: Montreal Canadiens - (6 G, 19 P)

Many defenseman don't fully begin to get comfortable with the NHL game until their mid-to-late twenties, that's what makes the rookie season that P.K. Subban is having such an impressive one. Fourth on the team in ice-time, averaging 21.14 minutes per game, and leading all Hab defenders in power play points, Subban has become an impact defenseman at only 21-years-of-age. Unlike Couture, who had a mediocre NHL stint last season, Subban's NHL experience in the 2010 post-season with Montreal was spectacular. The Toronto, ON native became a key piece during its surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final last spring, notching eight points in 14 games. Although Subban's outspoken nature has found him in some hot water with veterans around the league, he is without a doubt one of the top offensive-minded young defenseman in the game. Although it will be tough to compete with the outstanding forwards in this rookie class, Subban definitely deserves some consideration for the Calder.

Taylor Hall: Edmonton Oilers - (16 G, 31 P)

The first overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft may not be putting up points with the regularity of some other first year players, but he's not far behind. Third in rookie scoring, behind Couture and Skinner, Hall has plenty of time to pick up the pace. While he might be adjusting to the rigours of the NHL game a bit slower than other freshman, he still manages to make plays on a nightly basis that justify why he was chosen with the No. 1 pick. His combination of speed, strength and hands still put him at the top of this rookie class in terms of pure skill and with so much raw talent it's only a matter of time before the 19-year-old from Calgary, AB breaks out. With a strong finish, Hall could get back into the mix for the league's top rookie.

Sergei Bobrovsky: Philadelphia Flyers - (21-6-3, 2.42 GAA, .920 SV%)

The Calder debate gets really interesting when you consider there's an outstanding young goaltender that is eligible for the award this year. Sergei Bobrovsky is quietly putting together a remarkable rookie campaign in Philadelphia and if he can maintain his play, might steal the ROY outright. After a tough December, the Russian is back on track winning his last six starts, while his numbers in January (6-0, 1.83 GAA, .940 SV%) have been spectacular. The 22-year-old undrafted free agent does have the luxury of the league's best offense in front of him, as well as a defense corps that includes future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, but those are the breaks. Some goalies become rookies on bad teams; some get their first call to action for Stanley Cup contenders. Going from a relative unknown to the No. 1 goaltender on a top NHL team is quite a story, one that could end on an even higher note if the Calder Trophy find its way into Bobrovsky's hands this summer.


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