The Calder Trophy is a strange beast, as winning the rookie of the year title is no guarantee of future success, while the list of those who did not earn the award includes some of the best players ever – Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby, for example. It is a reward for players who start their careers off in great fashion and it doesn't matter if those players are 18 or 24. While the race is close, one 20-year-old has distinguished himself early on.
1. Tomas Hertl, San Jose
The four-goal game against the New York Rangers will not be forgotten in a very long time and you can thank Hertl for bringing back the Marek Malik behind-the-leg move to the NHL (Ottawa's Clarke MacArthur just used it to set up a goal the other night). But the young Czech has been consistent, too: his longest pointless streak is three games. Hertl sits atop the rookie scoring charts with 12 goals and 18 points in 22 games.
2. Sean Monahan, Calgary
Monahan will ultimately suffer because the team around him isn't very good. After all, he's not taking passes from Joe Thornton, as Hertl is. But where would the Flames be without the 19-year-old? He and Jiri Hudler kept Calgary alive early and he's second to Hertl in the scoring race with eight goals and 14 points in 22 games.
3. Seth Jones, Nashville
Coach Barry Trotz recently realized that the Preds were sending Jones out as much as 28 minutes a night and reined in the rookie for his own good, putting him on a second pairing with Kevin Klein instead of with Shea Weber. But the fact Jones was able to play those minutes in the first place speaks volumes. In a Halloween shootout loss to Phoenix, he logged more than half an hour of ice time. Adept at both ends of the ice, Jones has contributed three goals and nine points to the Preds attack in 22 games.
4. Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Kreider has a lot of experience thanks to his playoff run with the Blueshirts two years ago, but he is still Calder-eligible after struggling under now-departed coach John Tortorella. Since being called up from the minors in late October, he has not only played well, but the speedster has helped turn around a squad that looked dead in the water at the time. He now has 12 points in 15 games.
5. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim
Even though plus-minus has become a gauche stat in the hockey world, it's hard not to see Lindholm's plus-12 and be impressed. The young Swede is playing 19 minutes a night on a very good team and has shown great efforts and both ends of the ice. Assistant coach Scott Niedermayer loves his maturity and he knows a thing or two about playing defense in the NHL.
6. Torey Krug, Boston
The undersized defenseman was a playoff darling after his “magic stick” befuddled the Rangers, but he's proving to be more than a one-series wonder, leading all rookie blueliners with six goals and 13 points in 22 games. Undrafted out of Michigan State, the former Spartans captain is a feel-good candidate for the award.
7. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
With Matt Duchene injured, it will be interesting to see what kind of work the first overall pick in 2013 gets in his fellow center's absence. So far, MacKinnon has been producing at a decent clip anyway, with 13 points in 21 games.
8. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton
Like Krug, Arcobello is a feel-good story; another undersized, undrafted college man (Arcobello went to Yale), he put up 10 points in his first 10 games this year and was one of the steadier Oilers on the roster. He has cooled down since with just two points in his past 10 games, but still leads all rookies in the faceoff circle with a 52.2 percent win rate.
9. Danny DeKeyser, Detroit
The Red Wings are going to miss the talented defenseman in the short-term, as he will miss up to a month with a separated shoulder. Before that, he was a key member of the squad, playing nearly 21 minutes a game and tallying nine points in 22 appearances.
10. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim
Wild card alert! Yes, the Danish netminder is currently in the minors, but it's not his fault the Ducks have three solid goalies on the roster. Someone will get traded eventually and he'll be back in the NHL, where his 6-1 record is almost as impressive as his 1.66 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.