Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was awarded Rookie of the Month of November, unsurprisingly, potting 16 points. Only Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri have ever bested that total among Edmonton Oiler rookies in a single month.
Edmonton certainly gets a lot of press. The “Oil Change” documentary, featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the team ran on TSN last season and is airing monthly on Sportsnet this season. There are a lot of curious eyes observing the Oilers and their young forwards. Along with Jordan Eberle and the now-injured Taylor Hall, the Oilers have become a very fun team to watch again.
Oddly enough, they play in the same division as another young, rebuilding team with a star rookie, but they don’t seem to be drawing as much press. The Colorado Avalanche may not have had as many wins at the conclusion of November (10 to 12) or points (21 to 26) but they’re near equals in goals for, and the inconsistency of the goaltending has been the difference between their current spot in the standings and a playoff spot as far as my estimation goes.
Oh, and Gabriel Landeskog, the former Kitchener Ranger, taken second overall in the draft, is really good, too.
I don’t necessarily want to take anything away from Nugent-Hopkins. He leads his team in points, is a plus-player, and has become an absolute force on the powerplay for Edmonton. But why is nobody talking about Landeskog? In fact, a google search for “Gabriel Landeskog Calder” will only get you about 100,000 google search results to “Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Calder” ‘s 3-million.
While rookies very seldom play what we call “tough minutes”, which can mean a high quality of competition or an elevated number of shifts starting in the defensive zone, this is more-or-less what Landeskog has done. Last night against St. Louis, Landeskog’s line with Milan Hejduk and Ryan O’Reilly was matched up at home against St. Louis’ top line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie.
Landeskog started in the offensive zone three times and the defensive zone five times last night, and was on the ice for four more shot attempts against St. Louis’ net than his own. He won his matchup in a tough circumstance, which is admirable for any player, not just a rookie.
If Nugent-Hopkins represents the Oilers’ new run-and-gun style of play, Landeskog more than certainly represents the Avs’ attempt to find focus on team defense. This is a team that traded away two first round picks for a young goaltender in Semyon Varlamov in the summer. General Manager Greg Sherman also traded away the promising Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk for the considerably more defensive, and less spectacular-looking Jay McClement and Erik Johnson last season.
So far, as a team, the moves have yet to pay off for the Avalanche. As I mentioned above, they’ve had shaky goaltending and find themselves conference in goals against, having surrendered 73 goals. Landeskog has been a blood clot when he takes a shift, however. He’s been on the ice for fewer than 2 goals against for 60 minutes of play and a little over 27 shots over the same span. The second measure leads the team, and his score-tied possession numbers are incredible. (For the stat-geeks who don’t have the time to load the page, his Fenwick Tied is 57.6%, which leads the team)
Due to the fact that he plays such a low-event style of play, he may not draw the accolades or be in consideration for the Calder Trophy at this point with ‘only’ five goals and six assists (he’s tied for 7th among rookies in scoring).
He does find himself, however, third among rookie forwards in plus/minus (+5) which has been very indicative of his play, and leads all rookies with shots. Along with Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Adam Henrique, he sees significant time on both the powerplay and the penalty kill.
Who knows. Maybe when his shooting percentage increases from 6.3% or his team goes on a variance kick and starts winning a few more games, the hockey world may begin to notice the kid’s season. If there was a rookie Selke award, I have to think Landeskog would more than certainly be the frontrunner at this point.