It can be a player who has made a name for themselves by exceeding expectations, or a player who has done just what we all hoped for, and that hope was pretty great. What are the conditions? Simply put, they must still be eligible for the NHL Calder trophy next season. Sorry Mikael Backlund, you're ineligible.
Last year's winner, Mitch Wahl, had a relatively disappointing season. Though when you only play 17 games, it's hard to have a great one. Who were the other nominees last year? Ryan Howse, Gaelan Patterson, and Greg Nemisz, none of whom really appeared to take a step forward this year. Still, we'll plug on and pick some more top prospects to talk about after the jump.
1. Ryan Howse again.
Earning his second straight nomination, Ryan Howse is both a great and flawed player. He has a beautiful shot, years ahead of where it should be...and nothing else. He went 51-32-83 this year, a small improvement from last year's 47-25-72. And while it is an improvement, it also shows a player who failed to capitalize on his last year in junior when offensive minded players generally put up gaudy stats.
2. TJ Brodie.
Brodie impressed in training camp this past year. Really impressed. So much so that he initially made the team before being sent to Abbottsford for the remainder of the season where he led the team in points per game (0.5) and was tied for second overall in scoring (5-29-34: the leader had only one more point and nine more games). However much of the season was spent on developing his missing defense, and while it's certainly come leaps and bounds from where it was in the preseason, Brodie still doesn't quite have NHL caliber defending capabilities except in a limited role.
3. Max Reinhart
The third and final runner-up nominee is one of my personal favorites, and I had a hard time not giving him the fake trophy. Max Reinhart, in his post-draft year of junior turned into an incredibly complete player (relative to other junior players, at least). With good vision, a sense of the ice, and an ability to transform mediocre players into near-team leaders, Reinhart could end up as the 1st line center Flames fans have been dreaming of for years. Granted, that's some time down the road, but what he's shown so far is good. And more importantly, he's turned it up in the WHL playoffs: with a line of 14-8-22 in 15GP, the MAXWELL DEMON has been terrorizing opponents. And he's been doing it from the second line while Cody Eakin has been doing decent on the first. (You can read a brief interview with Max here)
Finally, the winner of the 2010-11 Kris Chucko Award of Incredibleness is....
The first round draft pick we were all terrified of a few years ago when Darryl Sutter passed over some quality available forwards, Tim Erixon has really blossomed into a complete defender in Sweden this year, playing tons of minutes in the SEL against professional men. Erixon is a very capable two-way defender who will likely transition to the NHL this next season in what will probably be a 3rd pairing position.
He's defensively sound, and a playmaker on the power play. He can transition into and out of the neutral zone with the puck, and he can skate. He's not a big hitter, but he makes lots of smart little plays that remove the necessity of hitting regardless. But mostly, he can read the ice. He can read plays. He's rarely out of position, and while those are mostly shutdown defenseman qualities, there's also this :
Tim Erixon Amazing Goal (via NickeB68)