Late Entrants To The Calder Race

Michael Grabner - New York Islanders and Brad Marchand - Boston Bruins

It goes without saying that the NHL’s stretch drive plays a crucial role in determining each season’s Calder trophy winner. It just so happens that the 2010-2011 season won’t be any different either.

What was once considered a two-horse race between Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and San Jose’s Logan Couture has quickly changed. To quote Simon Pegg in the very underrated Hot Fuzz, “[Stuff] just got real.”

Cheap excuse to throw in a movie quote? Maybe. But it does speak truth of Brad Marchand and Michael Grabner. Both forwards  have jumped into some contention for the award in recent weeks.

(I’m not suggesting a few weeks worth of great play can win an a Calder trophy. I am suggesting that a few weeks worth of great play can get a player in that wheelhouse of discussion.)

In his last 15 games, Grabner has scored 16 goals. 16 goals. Keep in mind Nicklas Backstrom, Nathan Horton and Henrik Sedin haven’t scored that many all year long. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, 10 of those goals have come in the Islanders last six games. To put things in perspective, the Florida Panthers have scored a total of 12 goals in their last five games.

Grabner currently sits third in rookie scoring, 11 points back of Skinner for the league lead (among rookies). Couture has 36 points while Edmonton Oilers rookie Taylor Hall has 34.

It took Brad Marchand nine games to score his first goal of the season (and of his career too!). After 31 games this season, Marchand had tallied four goals and 12 points. Following the Christmas break, Marchand has scored 12 goals and 19 points in 23 games. Clearly a huge progression for the young Halifax native.

Although Skinner has a comfortable lead on the rest of the rookies (for now), players like Marchand and Grabner are really starting to come on. It’s also interesting to note that Marchand and Grabner, like Couture, have impressive plus-minus numbers (especially Grabner, who’s one of four Islanders with a plus rating).

Cheers to guys like Marchand and Grabner for making this race interesting. While I still think Jeff Skinner will end up as the 2011 rookie of the year, the race is truly on now.

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