The NHL was blessed with a spirited race for the Calder Trophy this season as a bumper crop of talented rookies commanded the spotlight. Some of the best, such as Florida's uncannily poised defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Boston's speedy playmaker David Pasternak, must wait until next fall to continue their development, but a handful of promising kids will be playing prominent roles in the playoffs. Netminders Jake Allen (Blues), John Gibson (Ducks), Petr Mrazek (Red Wings) and Michael Hutchinson (Winnipeg) in particular could find themselves thrust into the kind pressure cooker from which legends such as Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur have emerged.
Here’s NBC analyst Pierre McGuire’s take on five kids you should keep your eye on this spring. Allan Muir’s historical look at great postseason performances by rookies is below.
KEVIN HAYES, RW, RANGERS
79 GP, 17-28-45, +15, 22 PIM
Hayes is a player who can control the tempo of a game with his size (6' 5", 225), and also with his skill. Down low in the offensive zone is where he really thrives as he can dominate the puck in traffic and also finish off plays.
FILIP FORSBERG, C, PREDATORS
82 GP, 26-37-63, +15, 24 PIM
Forsberg is a slick puck handler and passer. He’s silky smooth and can score off the rush as well as any player in the league. His quick release on his shot can fool goalies, so that allows him to score from long range as well.
JOHNNY GAUDREAU, LW, FLAMES
80 GP, 24-40-64, +11, 14 PIM
A passionate offensive force with fantastic instincts for the game. As an undersized player (5' 9", 150) he understands how to make room for himself off the rush and also off the cycle. He has a fantastic ability to escape and a quick release on his shot. This is a player with the hands of a skilled surgeon.
MARK STONE, RW, SENATORS
80 GP, 26-38-64, +21, 14 PIM
A pure scorer who has really improved his quickness and finishing ability. Has a great ability to elevate the puck in tight quarters. His ability to break free in the offensive zone makes him an amazing threat to score in all situations. He was a major reason why Ottawa completed its surprise run to the playoffs.
ANDERS LEE, C, ISLANDERS
76 GP, 25-16-41, +9, 33 PIM
A huge athletic talent who makes things happen with his strength, size (6' 3", 227), and quick hands. He’s a great slot area player who is not afraid to jam the opposition net and battle opposing defensemen.
• SERIES BREAKDOWNS: