The 8 Debate

BEST NHL ROOKIES
March 11, 2013

Nearing the halfpoint of the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule, there is no clear-cut favorite to take home the Calder Trophy, but here's who's in contention.

1 Vladimir Tarasenko

RWBlues

The 16th pick in the 2010 draft scored his first goal less than seven minutes into the opener, a 6--0 win over the Red Wings. But it was his second, just under 14 minutes later, that made people take notice. From the left boards, the 21-year-old Tarasenko weaved through defenseman Kyle Quincey and beat goalie Jimmy Howard high to the stick side. He's the early favorite for the Calder Trophy this season, but at week's end, concussion symptoms had sidelined him for four straight games.

2 Justin Schultz

DOilers

The 22-year-old became a sought-after free agent last summer after he de-registered from Wisconsin and was unable to come to terms with the Ducks. Schultz moves the puck well, is calm under pressure and, above all, is a game-changer on the power play. At week's end, four of his five goals had come with a man advantage, helping Edmonton, last in the league in even-strength scoring, to the third best power play in the West (21.5%).

3 Nail Yakupov

RWOilers

The top pick in the 2012 draft, the 19-year-old Russian sniper entered the league with great expectations. So far, though, his most indelible moment was an over-the-top goal celebration against the Kings on Jan. 24.

4 Dougie Hamilton

DBruins

Meet Exhibit B in the case of Maple Leafs fans against the '09 trade that sent two first-round picks to Boston for winger Phil Kessel. As if getting center Tyler Seguin with the second choice in '10 wasn't enough, the Bruins drafted Hamilton, 19, ninth in '11. The 6'5" 199-pounder has earned steady minutes on a Stanley Cup--caliber team.

5 Cory Conacher

CLightning

A distant relative of three Hall of Famers (Charlie, Lionel and Roy Conacher), the 5'8", 180-pound undrafted 23-year-old is similar to teammate Martin St. Louis, making up for his lack of size with unmatched will and determination. Folks in Tampa have taken to calling Conacher, who led all rookies with 18 points through Sunday, the Honey Badger.

6 Alex Galchenyuk

CCanadiens

The third pick in last summer's draft, the 19-year-old Milwaukee native has earned a place on the third line, and along with fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher has helped Montreal to a surprising 14-4-4 start.

7 Jonathan Huberdeau

CPanthers

At 19, he is the heartbeat of Florida's young and promising Kiddie Corps, a line which includes wingers Drew Shore, 22, and Peter Mueller, 24. Huberdeau, who was drafted No. 3 in '11, leads all rookies with 10 goals.

8 Simon Despres

DPenguins

He filled in ably for an injured Kris Letang for 18 games last season and now is finding regular ice time in the deep and talented pool of Pittsburgh defensemen. The 21-year-old is big (6'4", 214 pounds), but he is also impressively mobile.

In September the 2011--12 Calder Trophy winner, Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog (left), became the youngest captain in NHL history at the age of 19 years, 286 days—11 days younger than Sidney Crosby was when he was named Penguins captain in '07.

PHOTODOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES (LANDESKOG) PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONILLUSTRATION BY SARAH ADLER: MICHAEL TURESKI/ICON SMI (HAMILTON), SCOTT KANE/ICON SMI (TARASENKO), DUSTIN BRADFORD/GETTY IMAGES (YAKUPOV)DOUGIE HAMILTON, VLADIMIR TARASENKO, NAIL YAKUPOV

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)