On Wednesday the NHL named the three finalists for the Calder Trophy and two of them come from the same team.
The Calder, which is given "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition," will be handed out to one of these three: Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, Ondrej Palat of the Tampa Bay Lightning and his teammate in Florida, Tyler Johnson.
MacKinnon was the first overall selection in last summer's draft by the Colorado Avalanche and made an immediate impact. He started ths season in a limited, bottom-six role but with his play as well as some injuries, he garnered more playing time. In the first two games of these playoffs he recorded a goal and five assists. His regular-season accomplishments include leading all rookies in points with 63, tying for the lead in goals at 24, power-play goals, game-winning goals and shots. If he wins he would be the second member of the Avalanche to win the award in the last three seasons (Gabriel Landeskog in 2012).
Palat had a very strong season for the Lightning, proving himself as a good two-way player as a rookie. He was instrumental in helping the Lightning stay afloat after the injury to Steven Stamkos early in the season. Palat finished the season second behind MacKinnon in rookie points with 59, finishing one goal behind him for the rookie lead as well. Palat was especially strong in the new year, scoring 44 points in the final 42 games of the season.
Johnson is perhaps the surprise of the bunch as this was another very strong Calder class this season, particularly with defensemen like Olli Maatta, Hampus Lindholm, Jacob Trouba and Torey Krug all in the conversation, but Palat's teammate had a strong season as well. Johnson set a franchise record with 24 goals as a rookie, matching MacKinnon for the league lead and was the first rookie since Dennis Maruk in 1975-76 to score at least five power-play goals and five short-handed goals in the same season. Johnson is the first undrafted free agent to be a finalist for the Calder since Ed Belfour in 1991.
Even with the accomplishments each Lightning player racked up, it's tough not to imagine MacKinnon bringing home the hardware. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft and lived up to the billing this season.
The Calder Trophy, along with the rest of the hardware, will be handed out at the 2014 NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas. The show will be held on Tuesday, June 24.
On Thursday the NHL will unveil the finalists for the Selke Trophy, given to the best defensive forward in the NHL.