This season, the NHL has had a very, very strong group of rookies. A handful of 60 point scorers and a couple of defencemen playing huge, huge minutes for their teams has made it a tough crop. That's a crop that's finally been boiled down to three, one of whom will be named the NHL's top rookie for the 2014-15 season.
Let's take a quick look at how they compare:
Gaudreau and Stone led all rookies in scoring, ultimately tying one another with 64 points over 80 games each. They just beat out the Nashville Predators' Filip Forsberg, who led in scoring for most of the season, but fell off at the end with a measly... 63 points over 82 games.
Wow, tight rookie crop.
Ekblad wasn't even the highest scoring defenceman, as the Dallas Stars' John Klingberg had 40 points to his 39, and over 65 games, rather than Ekblad's 81. He even averaged 21:50 of ice time, so his minutes were just as meaningful as Ekblad's, and more productive. He was 22 this season, though, as opposed to this being Ekblad's 18-year-old year.
Very, very tight rookie crop.
But we're now left with just three. Via War on Ice, let's take a quick look at how their circumstances played a part:
Ekblad played big minutes as an 18-year-old, but he was the most sheltered of the three, playing the weakest competition and starting very frequently in the offensive zone.
Gaudreau played much more difficult competition, but he was also sheltered by taking most of his starts in the offensive zone. With Gaudreau, it was probably more about putting him in the best place to score - he was the second highest scorer on his team, after all - rather than a need to protect him.
Stone, meanwhile, faced the most difficult competition of the three, and wasn't sheltered nearly as much as his co-finalists. Despite his circumstances, he still managed to be his team's second highest scorer as well.
All three were positive puck controllers compared to the rest of their teams, with Ekblad taking the cake. Gaudreau was the only Calder finalist to have an actual CF below 50%, though, having played on a poor puck possession team all season.
With such a tight Calder crop, it all likely boils down to each finalist's story. Take your pick:
Ekblad: Only 18 years old, he immediately stepped into the NHL, playing huge minutes for the Panthers on their top pairing, and scoring a heck of a lot along the way. The Panthers almost made the playoffs.
Stone: With his team seemingly down and out, Stone was part of a massive charge in getting the Senators to overcome the odds and make the post-season. He also scored a heck of a lot along the way.
Gaudreau: Considered too small all his life, Gaudreau constantly denied his critics again and again and again by not only making the NHL, but becoming an impact player roughly five or six games into his first full season. He was crucial in bringing what was considered one of the worst teams in the NHL to the playoffs.
Yeah, we know which story's our favourite. Go Johnny go.