NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his overtime goal against the Winnipeg Jets at the Prudential Center on November 5, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Jets 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Today, the NHL announced the finalists for the 2011-12 Calder Trophy, awarded to the league's most outstanding rookie in the regular season. The vote by the Professional Hockey Writers Association has yielded three names: Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, and New Jersey's Adam Henrique. That's right, the Devils have a player up for an award. Congratulations to Henrique for this news.
If you saw any part of this season, then you probably know how much of a pleasant surprise Henrique's emergence was for this season's team. When Jacob Josefson got hurt, the team looked really thin at center and it was still an open question as far as who should center Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Peter DeBoer and the coaches gave Henrique a legit shot with both ace wingers and Henrique rewarded them with plays, points, and penalty kill success. It wasn't until Travis Zajac did he get moved away from the Parise-Kovalchuk duo and he hasn't been completely lost without them. You can still see him aggressively kill penalties to some success. Henrique helped fill in what looked like a large hole at center and contributed to the team's comeback 2011-12 season.
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I'm very pleased his strong rookie season has not gone unnoticed by the larger media. Then again, it's hard to ignore Henrique finishing third in rookie scoring, falling behind both Landeskog and Nugent-Hopkins by just one point. Matt Evans turned out to be prescient when he stacked Henrique up against other top rookies in the NHL back in March. He's definitely in the mix. According to this post about the news by Tom Gulitti, Kovalchuk thinks he should win. I have my doubts whether he should win the trophy. Either way, it's a big honor just to be a finalist.
Incidentally, Henrique is the only one of the three finalists who didn't immediately jump into the NHL. Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog went #1 and #2 respectively in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He's also the only one of the three to be on a team that made the playoffs. Edmonton was horrible again while Colorado was competitive until the final few weeks of the season. While Landeskog was excellent (he definitely was NHL ready after all) and Nugent-Hopkins' season was a silver lining in the dark Tambellinimbus cloud over the Oilers, Henrique's performances helped the Devils to keep playing beyond early April. I think that adds to Henrique's appeal, though I don't think it'll be enough to give him the Calder. We'll see.
One more thought: I wonder if this news will give Henrique a shot of confidence. He hasn't done a whole lot in these playoffs. In four games, he has two shots on net, he only has one assist because Kovalchuk re-directed one of his passes in Game 2, he's been above zero in Corsi but not exactly high in it (about +2, +3 a game), and he's been beaten badly at the dot, winning only 16 out of 42 draws. I'd like to see him (and his linemates Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson) assert themselves more on the ice in the coming games. I know he can make a larger impact and this nomination is proof that many others know he can do that at this level. Let's hope it happens.
Do you think Adam Henrique will win the Calder Trophy? If not, who deserves it more: Landeskog (my pick) or Nugent-Hopkins? Are you just pleased that he's been named as a finalist at all, or do you really want him to win it? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Henrique in the comments. Thank you for reading.