While it’s not surprising an overwhelming number of fans of the Edmonton Oilers consider Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the favourite to win the Calder Trophy, most Western Conference coaches think Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog is the top rookie of 2011-2012.
In an informal poll of 11 coaches – Tom Renney of the Oilers and Joe Sacco of Colorado weren’t included – done by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, nine coaches gave Landeskog the nod while just two went with Nugent-Hopkins. The link to the TSN video is here.
Nugent-Hopkins, who doesn’t celebrate his 19th birthday until April 12, leads all rookie scorers with 18-31-49 despite missing 20 of the 76 games the Oilers have played. He’s even in plus-minus and has averaged 17:36 of ice time per game.
Landeskog, 19, taken second overall in the 2011 Entry Draft right behind Nugent-Hopkins, is second in rookie scoring with 22-26-48 in 77 games. He’s plus-19 and is averaging 18:34 of ice time per game.
It could be easily argued that Nugent-Hopkins would be running away with the rookie scoring race if hadn’t missed 20 games with shoulder injuries, but the vote – which will be done by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association in all 30 NHL cities – isn’t about what-ifs?
Point totals and PPG aside, the prevailing view from behind the bench seems to be that the rugged Landeskog brings more dimensions to the Avalanche than Nugent-Hopkins does to the Oilers. McKenzie puts it this way:
"Some duly noted that if Nugent-Hopkins hadn’t lost the 20 games to injuries, perhaps their vote would have been different, but Landeskog’s physical presence, his all-around game and the leadership won out over Nugent-Hopkins world-class skill, vision and ability to run one of the top power plays in the NHL."
If the PHWA membership sees it the same way as nine of the 11 coaches TSN polled did when it comes time to vote, the Oilers will have to wait awhile longer before one of their rookies gets his name engraved on the silverware.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.