When the NHL announced the three finalists for the 2013 Calder Trophy, awarded for the league’s top rookie, there was one name missing for Oiler fans – Nail Yakupov. The Russian sniper was not named one of the finalists for the award despite a late charge in the season that saw him tie for the league in points amongst first year players. Was Yakupov snubbed? Upon further review, it would appear that he was.
The three players that were nominated for the Calder award are Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens, Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks. All had fine seasons, some more impressive than others. Huberdeau tied Yakupov atop the rookie scoring race, each with 31 points in 48 games. Gallagher had 28 points in 44 games while Saad recorded 27 points in 46 games. So far you might be saying that nothing really stands out that could make the argument that Yakupov was snubbed. Let’s look a little deeper.
The former first overall pick in last year’s draft, Yakupov led all rookies with 17 goals and had a shooting percentage of 21.0%. The next closest was Gallagher with 15 goals and a shooting percentage of 12.8%. Huberdeau had 14 tallies and Saad scored 10 times. Two points for Yakupov.
As far as assists, Yakupov was a few behind both Huberdeau and Saad who each finished with 17 while Gallagher had 13 helpers. For this we’ll give the points to the Panthers and Habs’ rookies.
The critics feel that Yakupov wasn’t consistent enough and they use the fact that 15 of his points were scored in the month of April over the final 14 games. However, he was the only of the four we’ve mentioned that recorded a hat-trick and led them all with 6 power-play goals. Two more points for Yakupov.
Aside from the three-goal game on the final day of the regular season, Yakupov had two other multi-goal games. Huberdeau had two, Saad one and Gallagher never scored more than one goal in any game. Point Yakupov.
When it came to multi-point games, Huberdeau led that category with 7, Yakupov with 5, Gallagher with 5 and Saad with 4. It worth noting however that Yakupov’s first multi-point game didn’t come until April 1st, something that could add to the inconsistency argument.
But Yakupov was the only one who put together a 6-game point streak, two games longer than Saad’s best and three better than what both Huberdeau and Gallagher accomplished.
Furthermore on the inconsistency note, Yakupov never went more than four games without recording at least one point, the same as Gallagher. Interestingly enough Huberdeau went five straight games without a point twice in the season while Saad didn’t record his first point until the 9th game of the season. In fact, Saad had only 3 points in the first 18 games. Suddenly inconsistent play may not fall under Yakupov’s name.
There was the plus/minus where Yakupov was a decent minus-4 on the season. Saad ran away with this category with a plus-4, but keep in mind he does play for the Blackhawks who scored a plethora of goals this season while giving up the fewest. Gallagher was a plus-10 while Huberdeau was a minus-15.
So when you dig into the numbers it’s hard to say that the three finalists are the best representative of the top rookies for the 2012-13 season. Nail Yakupov played well enough all season long to at least be nominated. So who would I bump in favor of Yakupov? To me the final three nominees should be Yakupov, Huberdeau and Saad (for his tremendous play in the second half). I do think that Jonas Brodin of the Minnesota Wild deserves to be in the conversation, further adding to the conclusion that the finalists may not be the right choices. Especially Yakupov. He was snubbed, plain and simple.