The Tampa Bay Lightning may have been eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there is still plenty to be happy about here in the Bolts Nation. Earlier today, Lightning center Tyler Johnson and right wing Ondrej Palat were named as finalists for the Calder Trophy.
As most of you know, the Calder Trophy is awarded to “the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.”
In other words, the trophy is awarded to the Rookie of the Year.
While there are arguments that can be made for all three players nominated in this category, my bet is that a Bolt brings home the hardware. (And not just because of the Bolts to MacKinnon ratio.)
Nathan MacKinnon leads the league in points and assists among all rookies in the National Hockey League this season. MacKinnon played all regular season games with the Colorado Avalanche this season, scoring 24 goals and 39 assists for an overall total of 63 points to accompany his plus-20 player rating.
MacKinnon was selected first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. Last season, MacKinnon posted some impressive numbers playing alongside Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Speaking of incredible numbers, let’s not forget about Tyler Johnson. Johnson suited up for all 82 games this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that time, Johnson was able to net 24 goals, tying MacKinnon for the most goals among rookies, and 26 assists for a total of 50 points to go along with his plus-23 player rating.
Last season, while he was still playing with the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate Syracuse Crunch, the Spokane, Washington native had an award winning year. He was named as an AHL 1st Team All-Star, won the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL’s Top Goal Scorer of the Year, and was awarded the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s Most Valuable Player. I firmly believe that there is nothing this kid can’t do when he puts his mind to it.
However, if you ask my personal opinion, which we all know you guys want to hear, my money is on Lightning right wing Ondrej Palat to bring home the Calder Trophy this season.
Palat played in 81 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, coming in just below Nathan MacKinnon and Tyler Johnson for the most goals scored during the regular season with 23. Add in his 36 assists, and this gives him a grand total of 59 points to accompany his league leading plus-32 player rating.
While both MacKinnon and Johnson are incredibly deserving of this award for everything they have accomplished this season, there is no doubt in my mind that Palat serves as the best all-around player. He is fierce in front of the net, he knows how to make a play happen, and he is just as skilled at taking the puck to the net as he is playing defensively.
Honestly, in my personal opinion, any one of these three finalists would be a fine choice to bring home the Trophy; however, at the end of the day, there can only be one. If I had to place a bet on which one it would be, I am going to have to go with Palat on this one.
Who do you think will walk away with the Calder Trophy this season? Why do you believe said player is the best choice? Vote in our poll, and let us know why you made that choice in the comments below.