As we approach Christmas, there's plenty to be jolly about. Especially when it comes to this year's exciting rookie crop. While all the hype surrounded Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, some other fresh faces have come in and taken the league by storm. While maybe no one is on last year's level that saw Buffalo blueliner Tyler Myers steal the show away from last year's top three picks John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene, there's probably more depth this season, making for an even more exhilerating race. Who will take home the Calder? Let's look at 10 hopefuls!
BATTLE CALDER TOP 10
1.G Sergei Bobrovsky, Flyers-Seemingly out of nowhere, the 22 year-old undrafted Russian netminder has been a godsend for first overall Philly, posting a 15-5-3 mark with a 2.44 GAA and a .919 save percentage. He's responsible for 68.2 percent of the Flyers' 22 wins which are tied for the league lead with Pennsylvania rival Pittsburgh. If goaltending was a question mark entering due to Michael Leighton on IR and Brian Boucher as the only proven guy, that's no longer the case. Ochenb xoposho to the Pyccku!
2.C Logan Couture, Sharks-While it's true the 21 year-old '07 first rounder got into 25 games last season, fact is he's become one of their most reliable finishers. Not easy to do when you're behind Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. Amazingly, it's Couture who's 17 markers pace a club that's underachieved thus far. In fact, the 17 tie him for fifth best in the league. His five game winners lead all rookies. He also has five power play goals (leads rookies) and his plus-eight is second best to teammate Ryane Clowe. It's hard to ignore the rookie scoring leader (17-7-24). If the Sharks make the playoffs, Logan's fingerprints will be all over why.
3.RW Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes-The most daunting thing about the seventh overall pick is that the former figure skater rose up the charts where the Canes scooped him up and haven't regretted it. The 18 year-old Markham, Ontario native has a gift, combining superb skating with a ton of skill. He victimized Henrik Lundqvist already with a highlight reel goal. For so long, it was just Eric Staal that teams had to worry about. Now, there's another talent who looks legit, giving them a nice 1-2 punch. Word of advice to defensemen. Don't get Skinned!
4.RW Jordan Eberle, Oilers-The 20 year-old '08 first rounder who the Oilers stole 20th overall should be quite familiar to puckers. He dominated the WJC scoring big goals for Team Canada, leading them to golds and a silver in last year's championship classic against Team USA. If not for Eberle's late heroics in regulation, current Cap rook John Carlson never gets to play ultimate hero. To think in one game, you also had Ranger freshman Derek Stepan, who led everyone in scoring. That's three top rookies. Keeping with Eberle who scored one of the best goals this season in his NHL debut, the speedy right wing who plays a like ex-Devil Brian Gionta has wheels to burn. His two shorthanded goals rank second to Boston first-year player Brad Marchand (3). For years to come, we'll be talking about Hall to Eberle and also triumverate member Magnus Paajarvi Svensson (4-10-14). Eberle is third in rookie scoring with nine goals and 13 assists with his 22 points right behind club leader Ryan Whitney.
5.D Kevin Shattenkirk, Avalanche-Somewhat under the radar with Cam Fowler getting most of the accolades in Anaheim, the 21 year-old from Greenwich, Connecticut has been one of the biggest reasons why Colorado is proving that last year was no fluke. Selected in the '07 first round 14th overall, Shattenkirk has really emerged since scoring a second straight game against the Rangers in a home win. During a brilliant stretch in which he recorded points in nine consecutive games, Shattenkirk netted 13 points (4-9-13) including four of his five goals. Since, he's been a consistent threat, aiding Norris candidate John-Michael Liles. His 19 points (5-14-19) pace all rookies- two better than Fowler.
6.G Anders Lindback, Predators-With top goalie Pekka Rinne going down, another unheralded Swede who was taken in the seventh round has gotten the chance to shine in Music City. This rags to riches story seems too good to be true for the 22 year-old goalie taken 207th overall two years ago. In his first season, Lindback's been brilliant winning nine of his first 13 starts between the pipes, helping lead Barry Trotz' latest surprise up a crowded West. Their 40 points are tied for fifth with Anaheim while trailing Detroit by four for the division. Lindback is 9-2-2 with a 2.27 GAA, .927 save percentage and two shutouts. That's more than half Nashville's 17 wins for an unknown. Though to hear rookie countryman and Devil Mattias Tedenby tell it, he really impressed at home in the Swedish Elite League. Could we have another Lundqvist? Rinne's hoping not.
7.C Derek Stepan, Rangers- Where would the Rangers be without the heady 20 year-old from Hastings, Minnesota who started with a bang becoming only the third player to post a hat trick in his NHL debut. The gritty American with superb vision and instincts was selected in the '08 second round 51st overall. He starred for both Wisconsin and Team USA, doubling as the captain that led our country to its second WJC. After his hat trick, D-Step hit a rough patch that saw his ice time dwindle under John Tortorella. But he's worked his way back up, earning more responsibility including playing the right point on the power play. Locked in a three-way tie for fourth in rookie scoring with 19 points (9-10-19), Stepan already is his team's best center. Look for him to see more time with struggling star Marian Gaborik. Once USA 'mate Chris Kreider gets here, the Rangers will become a lot more interesting.
8.LW Taylor Hall, Oilers-It's taken some time for the first overall pick to settle in. Once he has, the talented 19 year-old who's living a dream playing in his hometown for the rival Oilers, has been as advertised. His 10 goals trail only Couture with all of them coming since Oct.28 when he finally found twine at Columbus, also recording his first two-point game. Hall owns five multi-point contests including a career high three assists and a plus-three rating in a recent 6-3 home win over the Blue Jackets. He also had his first two-goal game in Toronto. A night he won't soon forget. Four of his 10 have come this month with over half since over the last 13 contests. The top pick will only get better along with a new crop of Oilers who will put the franchise back where it belongs. Beware Colorado and Vancouver!
9.D Cam Fowler, Ducks-When the gifted scoring defenseman was passed over by a slew of teams including the Rangers who went for more rugged Dylan McIlrath, most curious observers couldn't fathom why. After all, this was a player who impressed at the WJC, showing off his gamebreaking speed and playmaking ability on a deep USA roster that won it all. Ironically, gold medal winning teammate and goalie Jack Campbell was taken by Dallas before Anaheim finally allowed the 12th overall pick to exhale. Considering that a great player in Scott Niedermayer who retired that he reminds us of, maybe it was a blessing in disguise, giving Fowler extra incentive. Nobody's saying he'll fill those big shoes but the 17 points (3-14-17) with seven on the power play along with 40 blocked shots is a nice start for the Michigan kid. Imagine what he, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan can do. Yikes.
10.G Michal Neuvirth, Capitals-Entering the year, the 22 year-old Czech who was selected in the second round four years ago was expected to split time with incumbent Semyon Varlamov. Having impressed with nine wins and a .914 save percentage in 17 appearances (16 starts) last season with the injury prone Varlamov in the press box, you can't say he's inexperienced. With his teammate again missing significant time, Neuvirth (pronounced New-worth) is largely responsible for the Caps hanging in despite a brutal stretch that was just snapped in Ottawa with the goalie making 24 stops in a comeback win. Of the club's 19 victories, he's won a lucky 13- accounting for 68.4 percent. With Varlamov finally healthy, it'll be interesting to see how Bruce Boudreau uses the young duo. Our guess is he'll go with the hot hand in what's suddenly not a given they'll win the Southeast.
That concludes our first series of rookies. Many other first-year players are deserving of inclusion. So with that, our honorable mentions.
11.LW Bryan Bickell, Blackhawks-9-9-18, 17 PIM, 17 hits
12.LW Tyler Ennis, Sabres-7-9-16, 16 hits, 78 SOG
13.D P.K. Subban, Canadiens-2-9-11, 2 PPG, 33 PIM, 49 hits, 35 blocked shots
14.D John Carlson, Capitals-3-12-15, +6, 32 PIM, 70 blocks, 32 hits
15.LW Magnus Paajarvi, Oilers-4-10-14, 55 SOG
16.C Alex Burmistrov, Thrashers-5-8-13, +3, 23 PIM, 30 hits, 55 SOG
17.C Jake Dowell, Blackhawks-4-9-13, +8, 40 PIM, 46 hits, 18 blocks
18.C Brad Marchand, Bruins-4-8-12, 3 SHG, +5, 34 hits, 53 SOG
19.C Mark Letestu, Penguins-6-9-15, 2 PPG, 28 hits, 73 SOG
20.C Tyler Seguin, Bruins-5-6-11, +2, PPG, 54 SOG
21.LW Mattias Tedenby, Devils-4-4-8, 2 PPG, 4 PPP, 10.5 Pct.
22.RW Michael Grabner, Islanders-7-3-10, 16 hits, 9 blocks, 47 SOG
23.C Phillippe Dupuis, Avalanche-3-7-10, +6, 19 PIM, 52 hits, 10 blocks
24.C Kyle Wilson, Blue Jackets-4-5-9, 10 PIM, 12 hits
25.RW Evgeny Dadonov, Panthers-2-4-6 in 6 GP, +6, 10 SOG