Midseason NHL Rookie Watch for 2019-20
Since 1933, the Calder Memorial Trophy has been annually awarded to the NHL’s top rookie player as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Over the years, a number of players honored to receive this award have gone on to stellar NHL careers. Many have their names enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Among today’s active NHL players, such notables as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews have taken home this trophy.
For many of the former winners, the Calder Trophy became the only major NHL award they would receive. Most still had fine playing careers but would fall short of Hall of Fame recognition.
Here’s a look at at several former Calder Winners since 1998, including the year they won the award and what they’re doing today.
Andrew Raycroft, goaltender (2003-04). Though Raycroft appeared in 21 games over three previous seasons with the Boston Bruins, it was his 57-game performance in ’03-’04 that was considered his actual rookie campaign. He sported a record of 29 wins, 18 losses and 9 overtime defeats, with a 2.05 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
His rookie season was also Raycroft’s best as an NHL goalie. His performance declined as he bounced from the Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars. He subsequently spent two seasons in Europe before retiring in 2014. Today, he’s a volunteer goaltending coach with the University of Connecticut men’s hockey team and has appeared as a studio hockey analyst for NESN.
Barrett Jackman, defenseman (2002-03). A solid defensive blueliner, Jackman narrowly beat out Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Columbus’ Rick Nash for the Calder.
Jackman spent all but one of his 14 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, finishing his career with the Nashville Predators in 2015-16. In 2017, he returned to the Blues as a development coach.
Dany Heatley, left wing (2001-02). A 26-goal, 67-point performance with the Atlanta Thrashers earned Heatley the Calder. His career was nearly derailed following a car crash in Sept. 2003 that killed teammate Dan Snyder. He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide and received three years probation as part of his plea deal.
Dealt to Ottawa in 2005, Heatley enjoyed his best NHL seasons with the Senators, including two straight 50-goal performances in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2009, his performance began to decline. Following three seasons with the Minnesota Wild and a brief stop with the Anaheim Ducks, he finished his pro career in Germany in 2015-16.
Heatley’s been out of the spotlight since then. In 2017, a Calgary court awarded him $6.5-million in damages after companies run by his former agent defrauded him of over $11 million in bad real estate investments.
Evgeni Nabokov, goaltender (2000-01). In his first full NHL season with the Sharks, Nabokov sported a record of 32 wins, 21 losses and 7 overtime defeats, with a 2.19 GAA, .915 SP and six shutouts.
Nabokov spent 10 seasons with the Sharks, establishing himself among the league’s best goalies. With the Sharks unable to re-sign him for salary-cap reasons, he spent the 2010-11 season in the KHL. He returned to the NHL in 2011-12, going on to play three seasons with the New York Islanders and one with the Tampa Bay Lightning before retiring in 2015.
Nabokov returned to the Sharks in the fall of 2015 as their goaltending development coach and special assignments scout. It’s a role he continues to fill today.
Scott Gomez, center/winger (1999-2000). The native of Anchorage, Alaska had a memorable NHL debut season, winning the Calder Trophy thanks to his 70-point performance. He was also part of the Devils’ Stanley Cup championship run in 2000.
Gomez enjoyed his best seasons during his initial seven-year tenure with the Devils, helping them win another Cup in 2003 and posting a career-high 84-points in 2005-06. He went on to spend two seasons with the New York Rangers and three with the Montreal Canadiens but never again enjoyed the level of success as he did earlier in his career.
From 2012-13 to 2015-16, Gomez played for the Sharks, Florida Panthers, Blues and Senators, including a one-season return with the Devils in 2014-15. Retiring in 2016, Gomez was hired as an assistant coach in 2017 by the New York Islanders, a role he still holds despite the recent changes among the club’s coaching staff.
Chris Drury, center (1998-99) A 20-goal, 44-point performance with the Colorado Avalanche garnered Drury rookie of the year honours. Following four seasons with the Avs (including a Stanley Cup championship in 2001), he was traded to the Calgary Flames in 2002. The following year, he was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres.
Drury’s three seasons with the Sabres were his best, co-captaining them to two straight seasons with 110-or-more points (2005-06 and 2006-07), including two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. He went on to sign with the New York Rangers in 2007 and had two solid performances in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Injuries, however, began to take their toll. In 2011, Drury accepted a contract buyout and announced his retirement.
In 2015, Drury joined the Rangers front office. Since 2016. he’s been an assistant general manager and was also named GM of their AHL affiliate in Hartford in 2017.
Sergei Samsonov, winger (1997-98). Teammate Joe Thornton was the Bruins’ highly touted rookie that season but it was Samsonov who took home rookie of the year honors with 22 goals and 47 points. From 1997-98 to 2005-06, the skilled left winger enjoyed his best seasons with the Bruins. Those years included back-to-back seasons with 70-or-more points in 2000-01 and 2001-02.
With the Bruins rebuilding in 2005-06, Samsonov was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers, tallying 15 points in 24 playoff games helping them reach the ’06 Stanley Cup Final. Over the next five seasons, he played for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers before retiring in 2011.
In 2014, Samsonov rejoined to the Hurricanes in their scouting department. He’s now their director of forwards development.
Game recaps plus updates on Corey Perry, Auston Matthews, Alex Pietrangelo & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Connor McDavid scored a goal and set up three others to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 7-2 beatdown of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Matt Benning, Mark Letestu and Jesse Puljujarvi each had a goal and an assist for the Oilers.
Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 32-save shutout performance backstopping the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov picked up his 21st goal and 42nd point of the season, giving him the league lead in both categories. Earlier in the day, the Blues placed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (lower body) on injured reserve, though he’s expected to return to action next week.
Sean Couturier potted the game-winning goal late in the third period as the Philadelphia Flyers overcame a 2-1 deficit to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. The Leafs were playing without center Auston Matthews (upper-body injury) for the second straight game, leaving some to wonder if he suffered a concussion during Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.
Alex Stalock made 16 saves in relief of injured Devan Dubnyk as the Minnesota Wild edged the Calgary Flames 2-1 in a shootout. Dubnyk left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. An update on his status is expected later today.
Taylor Hall scored twice as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Los Angeles Kings 5-1, snapping the latter’s eight-game winning streak. Hall also left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury and will be evaluated today.
Patrick Kane scored in overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks nipped the Florida Panthers 3-2. Struggling Blackhawks forward Richard Panik was a healthy scratch from this game. After netting 22 goals last season, he went goalless in 21 straight games.
Cam Ward made 22 saves to pick up his 300th career victory as the Carolina Hurricanes ended their five-game losing skid with a 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
Evgeny Kuznetsov collected three assists to lead the Washington Capitals to a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Capitals defenseman John Carlson scored his first goal in 15 games. Avalanche rookie center Alex Kerfoot missed the game with a leg injury and is listed as day-to-day.
The Buffalo Sabres tallied three times in the second period and held on for a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, handing the latter their 12th loss in their last 13 games. Benoit Pouliot, Kyle Okposo and Evander Kane were the goalscorers for the Sabres.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: More bad news for the injury-ravaged Anaheim Ducks, as winger Corey Perry is listed as “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury. This comes just as linemate Ryan Getzlaf returned to action following a five-week absence.
THE ATHLETIC: Kent Wilson rejects talk of the Calgary Flames possibly relocating to Houston if unable to reach agreement with the city of Calgary over a new arena. He points out no one is saying the Flames can’t get a new arena in Calgary, noting the current dispute between the team and city is merely over how much public funding will go into the project. Wilson also points out the Flames, and the league, would have difficulty justifying a move out of one of the top hockey markets in North America.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t fully dismiss the notion of relocation, but I agree with Wilson that such a tactic would be a difficult move for the Flames and the league. Unless the current ownership sells the franchise to an outside interest – and according to co-owner Murray Edwards, the Flames aren’t for sale – the club should remain in Calgary. Ultimately, I think the team and the city will eventually hammer out a deal for a new venue within the next couple of years.
THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is in Russia meeting with KHL goalie and Caps prospect Ilya Samsonov in hopes of convincing him to play in North America next season. Samsonov is considered one of the best goalie prospects in the world and was selected by the Capitals in the 2015 NHL Draft.
SPORTSNET: Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at the age of 49. His NHL career stretched from 1987 to 1999 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers. He had 384 points in 637 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Zalapski’s family, friends and former teammates and associates.
Updates on the Red Wings, Capitals and Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland must clear over $1.3 million in salary-cap space to make room for Andreas Athanasiou’s new one-year, $1.387 million deal before it becomes official. Options include trading center Riley Sheahan ($2.075-million cap hit), who was linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins during offseason trade chatter. They could also demote forward David Booth ($700k) in conjunction with another player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Wings will make their move – be it trade, demotions or maybe a combination of both – at some point in the coming week. They want to get Athanasiou back in the lineup as soon as possible.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes it’s time for the Washington Capitals to mortgage some of their future for immediate help on the blueline. The Caps are in “win-now” mode but are trying to make do with journeymen (such as Taylor Chorney) and untested youngsters (Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos) to replace departed veterans Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk and Nate Schmdit. They’re also missing Matt Niskanen, who’s currently on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
Larkin thinks they should peddle highly touted goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov, who has no chance of supplanting Braden Holty as the Caps starter, along with some “B-plus pieces”. He suggests they target Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, anyone of the Vegas Golden Knights or Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan disagrees with Larkin. He doesn’t believe history will be kind to the Capitals if Samsonov goes on to become a top goaltender elsewhere in the league, especially if they only get back a short-term return. He also points out moving Samsonov won’t help the cap-strapped Capitals bring in assets that helps them right now. While Regan acknowledges the Caps need to improve their defense, trading away a potential franchise goalie seems shortsighted.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Larkin and Regan both raise good points. Right now, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan isn’t under pressure to make a major move. Finding a suitable trade partner this early in the season isn’t easy. as he and his peers are still evaluating their rosters. As long as the Caps remain on the happy side of .500 and hold a playoff berth, MacLellan will make do with what he has until Niskanen’s return in early-November.
Over the course of the season, however, the Capitals GM could be forced to go shopping for more experienced depth. As Regan points out, however, doing so also means shedding salary as the Caps are pressed against the $75 million cap ceiling. Trading young assets won’t help them in that regard. It’ll be interesting to see how MacLellan handles this.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie appearing Friday morning on Montreal’s TSN 690 examining some Canadiens-related trade chatter. Acknowledging colleague Darren Dreger’s report on Thusday speculating the Pittsburgh Penguins might have interest in Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk, McKenzie notes the Pens had some interest in the young Habs forward in the past and maybe, in the right circumstances, could look at him in the future.
For now, however, McKenzie doesn’t think it’s a front-burner issue. He notes it would be a mistake to assume Galchenyuk is the only forward the Penguins have an eye on. Since the summer, the Penguins have been in the market for a third-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Two problems with the Galcheyuk-to-Pittsburgh speculation. One, the Penguins carry just over $2 million in cap space and must either convince the Habs to pick up part of his $4.9 million annual cap hit (which they won’t do without getting something worthwhile in return) or ship out a salaried player or two as part of the return. Second, Galcheyuk hasn’t proven himself as an NHL-caliber center, especially in a third-line position where he’ll be required to play a more defensive role, something he hasn’t excelled at with the Canadiens.
McKenzie also took note of recent reports observing Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin scouting some New York Islanders games. He doesn’t think there’s anything new there and scoffed at the notion Bergevin was pursuing John Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders aren’t trading Tavares right now, if at all. And even if they were, the Habs don’t have the assets to land him. The Isles aren’t going to just give Tavares away. They’ll seek a king’s ransom. If the Habs harbor any hope of acquiring Tavares, they’ll have to wait until next July when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, provided he hasn’t re-signed with the Isles by then.
Nichols also cites Dreger’s Friday appearance on Buffalo’s WGR 550 where the subject of the Canadiens came up. He said he’d had a couple of teams ask him if he felt the struggling Habs could reach the stage where they might consider trading captain Max Pacioretty. While Dreger admits they could at some point reach that stage with any player outside of Carey Price, he doesn’t feel the Habs have reached it with Pacioretty.
Dreger speculates the Habs winger could be a good fit with teams in “win-now” mode such as Anaheim or Los Angeles. He also thinks the New York Rangers “would probably move heaven and earth” to get Pacioretty if he ever become available. Pacioretty is signed through 2019 and lacks no-trade protection.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Canadiens decide to go into teardown mode Pacioretty could be shopped. But I don’t see that happening this season. Next summer? Perhaps, depending on how this season shakes out and if there’s any changes in the Habs front office by then.
Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman appearing on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 expressing doubt the Canadiens have sufficient assets to acquire Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene.
SPECTORS’ NOTE: I’ve been saying this for months. Based on the Avs’ reported asking price (young, established top-four defenseman with a left-handed shot, a top prospect and a high draft pick), the Habs lack the assets to outbid other interested clubs. Unless Avs GM Joe Sakic lowers his price, forget about Duchene getting dealt to Montreal.