Here are six forward thoughts for the NHL’s top rookie award:
Jonathan Toews, C: If you’re looking for the rookie who had the biggest impact when he played, the award goes to the Chicago pivot. Toews led all first-year NHLers with 23 goals, and his 52 points in 61 games is the highest points-per-game average. He’s plus-8 (rookie teammate Patrick Kane is minus-9) and was heralded as “future captain” material by the time training camp had ended. The only drawback is he missed 18 games with injury, so Kane and Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom are about 15 points up on him.
Patrick Kane, RW: The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder quickly put to rest any questions about his size, producing points from the start of October through to early April while playing with tenacity in a big man’s league. He’s battling Backstrom for rookie scoring honors, and – along with Toews, of course – has been a bright spot on a Blackhawks roster that, finally, can see light at the end of a long, long tunnel.
Nicklas Backstrom, C: Perhaps no rookie has been more important to his team in the second half of the season and down the stretch than Backstrom. When Washington lost No. 1 center Michael Nylander for the year to injury, many thought the Caps’ playoff hopes were over. Maybe they are, but Backstrom’s point-a-game heroics after January helped keep Washington in the race, and he has fared well in the face of opponents’ top checking lines and defense pairings.
Peter Mueller, C: One of several surprises on a surprising Coyotes team, Mueller led all NHL rookies in goals until Toews made a late charge. He’s still raw, but with his talent and size, he should be a bona fide No. 1 center before long.
Andrew Cogliano, C: Five game-winners, including an NHL-record three consecutive overtime goals, are a pretty good place to start for this 20-year-old Oiler, and a plus-1 rating (freshman teammate/wunderkind Sam Gagner wasn’t so fortunate, at minus-20) is another impressive number. He has two shorthanded markers among his 18 goals (and 45 points). All in all, pretty good bang for the buck from a guy playing only 13-14 minutes a night.
Sam Gagner, C: Gagner might not even beat out Cogliano for the Oilers’ rookie of the year, but he deserves a nod for withstanding the NHL rigors as a 5-foot-11 freshman who won’t even turn 19 until Aug. 10. Gagner (sixth overall) and Kane (first overall) are the only 2007 draftees who played all year in the NHL.
And you should see their fastball…
With just a few days remaining in the regular season, the finalists for hockey’s Cy Young Award are apparent.
And while perennial contender Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets, with a 38-29 “record” (goals-assists), once again managed a winning mark, he’s not among the top candidates.
St. Louis winger Brad Boyes is this year’s runaway winner – the Roy Halladay of the NHL, if you prefer – with a 41-22 output.
The surprising Boyes (and St. Louis could use a few more pleasant ones) is followed by Detroit’s Johan Franzen (26-10), Dallas’s Niklas Hagman (27-12) and Colorado’s Marek Svatos (26-11).
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