Brendan Gallagher finishes No. 1

Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher finished the regular season with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists). Graig Abel/NHLI/Getty Images

Now that the 2013 NHL regular season has ended, let the voting begin. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association will have much to consider when voting on the 2013 NHL Rookie of the Year.

Determining who has been this season's most proficient rookie will not be easy, as a large cast of players have performed at an impressively high level over the shortened, 48-game schedule.

All season long, we've used this space as a barometer to measure the performance of the league's top rookies. Now we'll sharpen the focus (if only slightly) to look at the eight most worthy candidates for the Calder Trophy. Here are my thoughts on the players who have a shot at winning this year's award and why I think a diminutive forward in Montreal would get my vote. (Note: Statistics through the end of the regular season.)

1. Brendan Gallagher, forward, Montreal Canadiens
Previous rank: No. 1

It's hard to imagine that this small, bigger-than-life forward was not in the Canadiens' opening-day lineup. Coming into the season, the former fifth-round selection from 2010 was not really in the conversation as a contender for the Rookie of the Year. I not only believe that Gallagher is the top rookie in the NHL this season, but he is possibly Montreal's MVP. In 44 games, he recorded 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) and was plus-10 -- and that is a small part of why I think he will win this race.

"No matter how big the game or at what point of the game, this kid seems to always have an impact on the outcome," said an Eastern Conference scout.

Earlier in the season, I described him as contagious -- and he continues to be just that. The Habs have had a remarkable turnaround season, and this 5-foot-9, 178-pound winger has led the charge. He finished the regular season fourth in rookie scoring, three points back of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nail Yakupov. Plus, his 15 goals were just two behind leader Yakupov.