In a season that had a healthy crop of Calder Trophy candidates including Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, and Gallagher's teammate Alex Galchenyuk (picked third overall in 2012), Brendan Gallagher should be the safe bet to take home the Calder Trophy. Habs' Brendan Gallagher finished his rookie campaign with 15 goals and 13 helpers to go with a +10 rating.
Being a Hab fan myself I can see how some may say I'm biased. The truth of the matter however, is that Gallagher brought more to his team than his fellow nominees.
Gallagher's Calder Competition
In no way am I trying to take away from either Brandon Saad or Jonathan Huberdeau. Both rookies displayed tremendous talent and have bright futures ahead of them in the NHL.
Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks finished fourth among rookies in scoring with 27 points in 46 games and first among first year players with a +17 rating. Saad averaged 16:27 minutes of ice time per game (third among rookie forwards) on a President's Trophy winning team that boasts the likes of Jonathan Toewes, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick sharp just to name a few.
Nobody is doubting that Saad is one of the top rookies in the NHL, but the cast he plays alongside certainly doesn't hurt his development. It's hard to imagine the Blackhawks suffering too much in the standings without Saad in the line-up.
Jonathan Huberdeau is one heck of a player and undoubtedly has a promising future ahead of him. Out of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy, Huberdeau is though of by many to be the best in the longrun. Huberdeau finished his season tied in first with Edmonton Oilers prospect Nail Yakupov for points among rookies with 31 points in 41 games. His 14 goals put him third behind only Yakupov and Gallagher.
Huberdeau's -15 rating is nothing to write home about but when you average16:55 minutes per game - unmatched by any other rookie forward - on the lowly Florida Panthers (the Panthers finished 30th overall) it would be asking a little much for a top quality plus/minus rating.
While he didn't have the roster that Saad had to play alongside, Huberdeau's stellar introduction into the NHL did little for his team overall.
Head Of The Class
And now for Gallagher...
Montreal's nominee for the Calder, the (expletive) disturbing fireball with a pesky smile that 90% of the league wants to slap right off of his face, managed to have an incredibly impressive season with less to work with.
Gallagher managed to finish third among rookie scorers with 28 points in 44 games, his 15 games had him behind only Nail Yakupov and his +10 rating was good enough for fifth among rookie skaters. Gallagher pulled those numbers off on a team that doesn't come close to matching the linemates Saad played. Not to mention if Gallagher took the season off, it would be a safe bet that the Canadiens would not have won their division, jumped to second overall in the East and eased their way into the post season after finishing last place in the Eastern Conference the previous year.
Huberdeau also lacked the all star support that Saad enjoyed but was unable to help his team rise in the standings. And unlike Huberdeau, Gallagher saw an average of only 13:51 minutes per game which would put him 13th among rookie forwards who've played at least ten games.
A Quick Recap
While Saad, Huberdeau and Gallagher all enjoyed stellar seasons, Gallagher brought the most to his team while having less to work with in terms of support (Saad and his first place Hawks) and time on ice (Huberdeau and his top sik minutes).
To simplify things if the three candidates were to have sat out the season the Hawks would win their conference still and - probably the President's trophy - and the Panthers would more than likely remain in the basement....no changes there.
The Habs however would be hard pressed to make the playoffs let alone win their division and keep up at the Penguins pace for the better part of the season.
There is no doubt in my mind that the stats Gallagher managed to put up with minimal ice time on a team that had no business succeeding as much as they did should be enough to earn Brendan Gallager the 2013 Calder Trophy.
(Photo By Ryan Remiorz , The Canadian Press)