With the pre-season only a few weeks away, the excitement is building for 2010/2011. As always, a new group of rookies will enter the league in hopes of sticking with their NHL clubs.
If a rookie does well enough throughout the season, he could challenge for the Calder Trophy. Here's my top 5 list of the players that should be in the running.
1. Jamie McBain, D
The Carolina Hurricanes had a tough season in 2009-10, but there were a few bright spots in the way of prospects coming up in their system. The brightest of those was Jamie McBain.
He finished the AHL season at a PPG pace, and received some playing time with the big club. With Carolina, he put up 10 points in 14 games. Don't be surprised if Jamie McBain ends up on Carolina's top-pairing within a few months, and if he does, he could crack the 50 point barrier.
2. P.K. Subban, D
If you watched last season's playoffs, you know why P.K. is as high as he is on this list. When Andrei Markov went down to injury, Montreal looked as though they were finished. The Canadiens called up Subban, and he did nothing but impress. He put up 8 points in 14 playoff games and played very well defensively, helping Montreal reach the 3rd round as huge underdogs. As for this season, P.K. Subban should easily crack the Canadiens line-up, and eventually make his way to the top-pairing should things go as planned. If he can replicate what he did during the playoffs, he should easily be a Calder candidate.
3. Taylor Hall, LW/C
Whether the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft plays left wing or center, he should be given a ton of time on the first line. Playing alongside a very good playmaker in Ales Hemsky, Hall has the potential to have a very good rookie year. With that said, there are a few question marks. If Edmonton puts him on the wing, Dustin Penner and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson could easily challenge him for his spot on the top line. If they play him at center (worth noting that he hasn't played there for a while), there's only one legitimate challenger to his spot in Sam Gagner. While Hall could end up having a very strong season, I believe McBain and Subban are much safer picks.
4. John Carlson, D
Subban wasn't the only player who stepped up during the post-season, as John Carlson emerged as one of Washington's best defensemen. While most of Washington's roster was doing..well..nothing, John Carlson stepped up and outplayed a lot of players on Washington's all-star like roster. The only reason that Carlson is lower than Subban at this point is playing time. While Subban should be getting top-pairing time next season, it's hard to see Carlson beating out Washington's duo of Green and Schultz. If he can, the potential is there for a gigantic season for Carlson. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for him to challenge for the Calder.
5. Tyler Ennis, C
In Ennis' brief stint with the Sabres, he put up 9 points in 10 games, as well as 4 points in Buffalo's 6 playoff games. Impressive. Again, the only thing that could hold Ennis back is playing time. Will he be able to take over the #1 center job with players like Connolly and Roy ahead of him on the depth chart? He'll have to get out to an early start and not look back to hold down the job. If he ends up playing on a line with Vanek and Pominville, he could eclipse 70 points, and would almost be a lock for the award.
Nazem Kadri, C
Nazem should get lots of playing time with Toronto, but he'll have to outperform Bozak if he has any chance at winning the Calder.
Jonathan Bernier, G
It's going to be hard for Bernier to overtake Quick as the #1 goaltender in Los Angeles, but if he does, he could definitely challenge for the Calder. Boston and Tuukka Rask were in a very similar situation last season, and look what happened. It's possible.
Jordan Eberle, RW/C
The talent is there, but with Hemsky ahead of him, it's hard to see him having a shot at the Calder. We know what he is capable of, seeing as he's produced against men, but I believe playing time will hold him back.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D
The sky is the limit for Oliver, but I'm not sure if he's ready for big things yet. He'll be an amazing defenseman one day, but it might be a little too early. Regardless, I'm putting him on the list just in case.
Feel free to reply with your thoughts on who I've picked, and throw out more names if you think of I've missed someone.