NHL Week in Review (February 21-27)

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With the playoff race beginning to heat up the race for award season is also starting to take shape as players separate themselves from the pack.

One of the biggest races is the Calder Trophy where the new generation of superstars are fighting to be named the best rookie in the league.

The focus on younger players continues to increase every year as teams are always looking for the best young talent.

If they can find these young stars they can begin building a team around them and win for a long time.

For many it is the start of getting back to winning games after struggling for years and earning top picks to bring in these young players.

This year the battle to be the best rookie has only become more interesting as a result of the group of young players this year.

Heading into the year it was clear who the winner would be as the Edmonton Oilers had drafted the best player since Sidney Crosby.

It seemed like the award was already going to be handed to Connor McDavid when he entered the league and began scoring at a great pace.

Then the young star was hurt and his Calder campaign stalled while other players began to step through as the big contenders.

There were the expected great players like Max Domi and Dylan Larkin who both were always looked to as top young players coming into the league.

There was also the rival of McDavid in Jack Eichel who was drafted second overall by Buffalo and would have been a first overall pick in any other year.

Eichel has been all that was promised in Buffalo and has risen to the top of the rookie scoring leaders.

Unfortunately, for him though there have been some unsuspecting contenders for the award in Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere and most of all Artemi Panarin of Chicago.

Both have been exceptional and nobody seemed to know who they were before the season began.

For Gostisbehere, it took some time to make an impression as he didn’t play in the NHL until November and since then has been one of the best rookies in the league.

For Panarin, the rise started in the preseason as most Chicago fans noticed they had something special in the young Russian.

It was a surprise as most were looking to Teuvo Teravainen as the young star on the team but Panarin emerged before the season began.hockey-sidebar

Since then he has risen to lead all rookies in points and is currently the favourite to win the award.

Not to be left out though is the lone goaltender that is in the race, John Gibson, could pull off the surprise after working his way to being a top goalie in the league this year.

He will need to continue that and get better if he wants to win the award against such a great number of offensive players.

After all of these players and the effort, they have put in there is still one aspect that is making the race tougher than any other.

Although McDavid was injured for most of the season his return has continued a more than point-a-game pace that he started at the beginning of the season.

For playing less than thirty games this year McDavid is the best rookie in the league putting up great point numbers.

Extended out to a full season on the ice and the leaders might be a little different and the debate would be a lot less interesting.

Voters will need to take into account the fact that he hasn’t played a full season though while Panarin and the others have been good for an entire year.

That is going to be the debate as the season moves on with many wondering how much focus should be on the amount of games played.

If McDavid can continue the pace that he is on is there any debate that he belongs at the top of the rookie list?

Then again if Panarin or any other of the rookies can keep their pace do they not deserve the award for staying consistent over an entire season?

Those are the questions that will need to be answered as the season moves on and the award pictures become clearer.

(Other News this week in hockey)

Leafs Stocking Up
The sale from the Leafs started last week when they traded Dion Phaneuf but it continued this week as they pulled off more trades that all seemed to be Draft picks as they now hold a total of 12 picks in the 2016 draft and might get more as the deadline approaches

Loading Up
Last year the Chicago Blackhawks went into the playoffs looking strong but faltered and this year they seem to be looking to correct that mistake acquiring Andrew Ladd, Christian Ehrhoff, Tomas Fleischmann, and Dale Weise in a flurry of trades leading to the deadline

Gearing Up
This week the NHL began building some excitement for their most recent endeavour as they began teasing the new uniforms that will be unveiled alongside the rosters for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey to take place this September


Key Scores:
Minnesota Wild 6 – 1 Chicago Blackhawks
– The Blackhawks are used to outdoor games but this time, around they didn’t seem to be used to it as they looked out of their element at TCF Bank Stadium where the Wild put up six goals in a confidence boosting win

New Jersey Devils 5 – 2 New York Rangers
– The Hudson River Rivalry was at it again as the Devils took a big win over the Rangers in their pursuit of a playoff spot while the loss for the Rangers kept them even further away from the potential division title

Winnipeg Jets 6 – 3 Dallas Stars
– The Stars have been one of the best teams in the league this year and have done it consistently but the Jets had more to prove in this game as they showed what the young kids can do after the Andrew Ladd trade changed the look of the team

Detroit Red Wings 5 – 3 Colorado Avalanche
– The Red Wings were once again featured in an outdoor game as they travelled to Denver to take on their longtime rivals and after a back and forth fight they earned the important win with both teams in the midst of a playoff race

Next Week:
Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Sunday, February 28th; 12:30 pm; ET)
– They are two of the best teams in the league and for many this could be a preview of the Stanley Cup Finals as both teams try to take a win and inch closer to earning a playoff spot that can get them closer to the ultimate prize

Dallas Stars vs. Nashville Predators (Tuesday, March 1st; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Stars continue their fight in the Central while the Predators continue their fight in the wild card and both teams need a win as the playoff race heats up and both teams are in the fight and will be down the stretch

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings (Wednesday, March 2nd; 8:00 pm ET)
– It is an old school rivalry between two Original Six teams both still fighting near the top of the league as they face-off both looking for a big win that can help them in their divisional fights and their playoff push

Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings (Saturday, March 5th; 4:00 pm ET)
– The Kings have been at the top of their division since the start of the season but the Ducks are beginning to make a push late as they look to unseat the leaders and head into the true playoff push at the head of the Pacific Division

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