Back in November, Edmonton Oilers rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the runaway favorite for the Calder Trophy. But after he suffered a shoulder injury and ended up missing 20 games, two new favorites emerged in the race for the honor of being the NHL’s top rookie. Those two players are New Jersey Devils center Adam Henrique, and Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog.
In the wake of top-line center Travis Zajac’s injury, Henrique stepped up and became the middleman for the Devil’s first unit. Henrique hasn’t been fazed by the task of centering two All-Stars either; he’s performed admirably between Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise this year, notching 15 goals, 31 assists and 46 total points playing alongside New Jersey’s top forward.
Taken second overall in the 2011 draft, Gabriel Landeskog has fulfilled all expectations in his first professional season. He was billed as a big, physical, two-way forward with an offensive knack, and that’s just what the Avalanche has gotten out of the 19-year-old Swede. Through 72 games (an impressive statistic in and of itself, as it indicates that Landeskog has played in every Colorado game this year), Landeskog has 20 goals, 26 assists and 46 totals points to go along with an impressive +19 rating.
As of this writing on March 14, 2012, Henrique and Landeskog are tied for the lead in points among all NHL rookies with 46 apiece, and each has been a key part of their respective teams’ playoff aspirations. But which of these two is the top rookie of the 2011-12 NHL season? Which of these two is more deserving of the Calder Trophy?
*Note: All statistics current as of March 14th, 2012
By the Numbers
Adam Henrique: 62 games played, 15 goals, 31 assists, 46 points, +10
Gabriel Landeskog: 72 games played, 20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points, +19
The Case for Adam Henrique
In his first full NHL season (he was called up for one game in the 2010-11 campaign), the 22-year-old Brantford, Ontario native was asked by the Devils to center their top line, to set up their two best offensive players (Kovalchuk and Parise). And he’s done just that, and with ease. Henrique has scored 15 goals of his own, and set up 31 others. He’s been tabbed as a penalty killer, and has fulfilled that role admirably, having scored an NHL-best four shorthanded goals.
The Case for Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog has made an incredible impact on the Avalanche in his first season. At only 19 years old, he’s come in and played at a level usually reserved for players with much more experience. He’s a balanced offensive threat (20 goals, 26 assists), and he leads Colorado in goals scored, shots taken, plus/minus rating with a +19 mark (made even more impressive by the fact that the Avalanche are -2 as a team); Landeskog also leads the Avalanche with four game-winning goals. He’s also a great defender, a rare trait in forwards as young as Landeskog. He has five power-play goals, second best on the Avalanche and second amongst all rookies (Nashville’s Craig Smith has 6).
The Case Against Adam Henrique
Henrique has zero power-play goals compared to Landeskog’s five. Henrique also has a +10, which is good, but that’s on a team that’s +13 overall, and not as good as Landeskog’s +19. Henrique is also three years older than Landeskog, and had more “seasoning” at the minor league level to get ready for the NHL, whereas Landeskog jumped right from the junior leagues to the NHL. But the biggest argument against Henrique stems from his linemates. He gets to play alongside two All-Stars, who may be making Henrique look better than he is.
The Case Against of Gabriel Landeskog
Landeskog and Henrique have the same point totals, but it took Landeskog ten more games (72 games played, compared to Henrique’s 62) to match Henrique’s numbers. Henrique also has four shorthanded goals, while “Landy” has none this year.
Adam Henrique and Gabriel Landeskog- their point totals are even, and each has individual traits that makes them valuable to their team and superior to the other in certain regards. But when it comes to the impact a player makes on his team, Gabriel Landeskog is the clear winner. In his rookie season, he leads the Colorado Avalanche in goals, game-winning goals, plus/minus rating, and is second on the team in power-play goals. Landeskog’s offensive and defensive skill makes him a player beyond his years, and truly the most deserving player of the Calder Trophy this year.
Winner: Gabriel Landeskog