Henrique, Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins announced as Calder Trophy finalists

The first of the awards finalists was released by the NHL on Friday with the final three for the Calder Trophy, given to the rookie of the year, being announced: Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Well that's a shocking development, now isn't it? (*Sarcasm font off*) Those three were the favorites from almost start to finish this entire season, so it's appropriate they are the top three vote-getters. They are each hoping to follow Jeff Skinner of the Hurricanes as winner of the award.

A reminder how the process works. The votes have already been cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association members and counted. So the winner has already been decided, just not revealed.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards Show June 20 in Las Vegas, the NHL's annual extravaganza for that hot summer day where the musical acts are sometimes worse than the commercials -- head's up, Nickelback performing this year! -- and the presenters sometimes even worse than that, like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Now if you followed the blog through the season you would have seen our weekly Awards Races feature and you'd know that I liked Landeskog to take home the award with Nugent-Hopkins a close second followed by Henrique. But being a natural devil's advocate, I'm going to tell you why each should win the trophy.

Oh, and just before we start they should be thankful voting was done before the playoff when Sean Couturier would have likely received a lot more attention.

Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche

The No. 2 overall pick in last summer's draft, Landeskog was billed as the most NHL-ready prospect in the draft and he didn't disappoint. He easily made the Avs roster to start the season and grew as the season went along to become one of their best players.

When the season was all finished Landeskog scored 22 goals and 30 assists, good enough for third on the team in points, only three behind Ryan O'Reilly. For those that like it, he also led the team in plus/minus ... by a long way, too. Of players on the Avs that played at least half the season (41 games) only three of them finished with a positive marker. Landeskog was plus-20. I don't put a lot of stock in that stat, but that's still pretty damn impressive.

He was more than a scorer for the Avs, he also lays some lumber. Again, he was straight out of the OHL this season, that needs reminding. He ended up 18th in the entire league in hits with 219. Even playing that physical and being so young he still played a full 82-game schedule.

Did I mention he got better as the season went along? I did, but it bears repeating. The Avalanche hung in the playoff race until the final week of the season and Landeskog was a big reason why. He gave some of those award-winning highlights and memories that stick with voters. Like this one.

And, he's a humanitarian!

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

He was the first overall pick in the draft last season but still some wondered if he would be in the NHL this season despite the Oilers' need to have him there. Obviously he made the roster and they were probably glad he did, even if they still finished second in the league.

Nugent-Hopkins was seen more as a play-maker than anything and he showed that this year. His biggest contribution came to the power play, which went from near the bottom two seasons ago to third in the NHL this season, a massive turnaround. Don't underestimate his role in that happening for the Oilers.

He actually had as many points as Landeskog this season (18-34=52) despite playing 20 fewer games. His points per game were significantly better than either of the other finalists at a 0.84 per game clip. Imagine the laps he would have made on the field if he had been able to play a full schedule, or at least closer to it than he did.

If we're going with which player was the most oustanding and placing much level of "value" on it, you have to like the Nuge, don't you? He was taken first overall and he proved why that was a good decision this season. Maybe that's the best way of all to put it.

Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils

He's the forgotten candidate out of the three, but his argument is pretty strong too. He only finished one point behind Landeskog and Nugent-Hopkins for the most among rookies (16-35=51) and he missed eight games, so like Nugent-Hopkins would have surely finished ahead of Landeskog in 82 games.

Why Henrique? Well it's a fair statement to say that he plays a more all-around game than his other finalists here. He had seven points while short-handed this season, only one point fewer than he had with the man advantage. Obviously he was part of that record-setting PK for the Devils this season.

He was also a big part of the tandem of Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise clicking this year for the Devils. It was when Henrique was put in between them that they really began to take off.

His presence this season deserves at least a small amount of mention this season when you discuss the Devils' ability to rebound from an awful season and get back into the playoffs.

So who do you think will win?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Our Latest Stories