by PuckStopsHere on 10/25/08 at 12:24 PM ET
Over the past few days, I have been picking the early leaders for the various NHL awards. Yesterday when I picked Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens as the best defenceman so far, a commenter Kevin from Pittsburgh suggested that Alex Goligoski a defenceman with two points so far should be considered for the best defenceman and is the leading candidate for rookie of the year. I disagree.
At this point in the season, I pick Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks as the rookie of the year.
Versteeg leads all rookies with seven points so far this season. He is second in rookie +/- (behind Los Angeles’s Drew Doughty) with a +4 rating. Versteeg is third in scoring on the Blackhawks and leads his team in +/-.
What is interesting is that Versteeg is not one of the players who have been listed among the pre-season looks at the best rookies. He comes from off the radar of the people who have been pushing NHL prospects. He was drafted in 2004 by the Boston Bruins and traded to Chicago in 2007 for Brandon Bochenski (a trade that now looks like a steal for Chicago). Last season, he spent most of the year in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, scoring at near point per game rate. He played thirteen NHL games with limited opportunity last season. This year, he is getting a chance to play on the Chicago top line and doing very well.
At this early point in the season, Chicago is looking a team that might repeat as the home of the rookie of the year. Patrick Kane won last year. Jonathan Toews was a runner up last year. If Versteeg wins it this year it gives Chicago a great group of young players who have had great rookie seasons. Chicago is clearly a team on the upswing.
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