by PuckStopsHere on 11/11/10 at 12:21 AM ET
At the end of October, I picked my first leader in the rookie of the year race as Michal Neuvirth of the Washington Capitals. Neuvirth is the wins leader in the NHL with nine. However, his other numbers are dropping. He currently has a .912 saves percentage and a 2.46 goals against average. This is a drop of .014 points in saves percentage and a rise of about 0.3 goals per game so far in November. Since Washington is a top offensive team, he is still winning, but it isn’t his doing.
There is a goalie only one win behind Neuvirth who I think is a better pick for rookie of the year because he is playing better than Neuvirth, posting better numbers and is more important to his team’s wins. He is Sergei Bobrovsky of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Bobrovsky has played in eleven games. He has eight wins in that time. He has posted a .926 saves percentage and a 2.19 GAA.
Bobrovsky is a Russian rookie who passed through the draft. He was eligible in the 2007 NHL entry draft and nobody selected him. He was clearly talented enough that he could have been selected, but with the uncertainty in the availability of Russian players, he wasn’t selected. Philadelphia signed him as a free agent last spring and he has stepped in and played well in the Philadelphia goal with Michael Leighton injured.
I think Bobrovsky is the start of a trend. A good number of undrafted Russian players who will become NHL capable are out there. While many may never leave the KHL, some may decide they want to come to the NHL and sign as free agents like Bobrovsky did and in many cases make immediate impacts. The trick is for teams to find the undrafted players with NHL talent who are willing to come to North America.
The NHL rookie of the year race is not only a race among goaltenders. The clear frontrunning position player is Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes. He has 15 points in 15 games. No other rookie has more than eight points. Despite his success, I think Bobrovsky has been a better player and more important to his team and should he keep it up is the most likely Calder Trophy winner at this point.
It is still early in the season and there is plenty of time for things to change, but we are getting some solid candidates in Bobrovsky, Jeff Skinner and Michal Neuvirth. At this point, Bobrovsky is the front runner. He is a very important part of the reason that the Flyers are in second place with 20 points.
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