Evaluating top rookies' Calder chances 

March, 30, 2011

As the season winds down, I've been getting more and more questions about the different awards -- particularly the Calder Trophy. As you know if you've been a regular reader, I think that this season's freshman class has been a deep one. I don't think there's been that one breakout star (Jeff Skinner probably comes closest), but rather I see it as a group of many really good players.

Next Wednesday, I'll give you my end-of-season top five Calder watch list. For now, I'll offer the pros and cons -- as I see them -- for the candidacy of six of the league's top rookies. For the record (or, in case you don't figure it out), I'm listing these six players in alphabetical order.

John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals

Pros: The 21-year-old has shown an ability to help his team at both ends of the rink. He has 33 points, ranking him fourth among rookie defenders, while posting a strong plus-20 rating. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau isn't afraid to use Carlson against an opponent's top players. He leads all rookies with an average ice time of 22:32, and he has three winning goals.

Cons: Like Logan Couture, Carlson had a leg up on his classmates, playing in 22 regular-season and seven playoff games last season. That could work against him with some voters. Playing alongside some high-profile players in D.C., Carlson gets a little lost in the shuffle, and that could hurt him as well.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.