The three finalists for the 2009-10 Calder Memorial Trophy for top rookie are Tyler Myers of Buffalo, Matt Duchene of Colorado, and Jimmy Howard of Detroit.
The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
To be eligible for the Calder, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. Also, a player must not have attained his 26th birthday by Sept. 15th of the season in which he is eligible.
The winner of the trophy will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, to be held in Las Vegas on June 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.
Here is a closer look at the finalists.
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
C - COLORADO
+/-: 1 | PIM: 16 | PP: 10
Among all NHL rookies, Duchene was first in points and shooting percentage (13.3), tied for first in goals, second in assists (31) and power-play goals, fourth in shots on goal (180), and fifth in games. The native of Haliburton, Ontario was third on Colorado in scoring behind Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart, and Duchene's 55 points are the second-highest total by a rookie in Avalanche history, trailing Stastny's 78 in 2006-07.
On Dec. 2, Duchene became the first 18-year-old in the NHL with consecutive multiple-goal games since Radek Dvorak of Florida accomplished the feat in November 1995. Duchene scored twice at Tampa Bay and twice at Florida, and joined T.J. Hensick as the only rookies in Avalanche history to post back-to-back multi-goal games.
After totaling 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and a minus-9 rating in his first 25 games, Duchene had 45 points (21-24) and a plus-10 rating in his last 56 contests. On April 6, he scored the game-deciding shootout goal to defeat Vancouver and clinch Colorado's first postseason berth since 2008.
"He's had some ups and downs, but he's staying committed and he's working hard," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "He had a stretch where he put in some points mainly because of his hard work. You have to work before you bring that skill out and for Matty that's the key, to make sure that his foundation is his work ethic and then his abilities will come out."
Duchene was the NHL's Rookie of the Month for December (5-8-13 in 14 games), and the NHL's Third Star of the Week for Nov. 30-Dec. 6 (4-2-6 in four games).
Previous Calder Trophy winners in Quebec-Colorado franchise history include Chris Drury (1998-99), Peter Forsberg (1994-95) and Peter Stastny (1980-81).
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
G - DETROIT
SV%: .924 | GAA: 2.26 | SO: 3
Howard, 26, previously appeared in nine games over the previous three seasons, but came into his own in 2009-10, finishing with a record of 37-15-10, a 2.26 goals-against average, a 924 save percentage and three shutouts. His save percentage and GAA were fourth and fifth best, respectively, in the League.
He started 25 consecutive games, the longest run by a Wings goalie since Tim Cheveldae in 1991-92, and a highlight was a 51-save performance in a 2-1 victory at Los Angeles. Howard became the fourth goaltender in franchise history to win 30 or more games in his rookie season, joining Terry Sawchuk, Roger Crozier and Glenn Hall.
"There's been a lot of times this year that we needed him, especially when we were struggling to find a rhythm," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "He was always there, giving us a chance to win, regardless of the way that we played."
Howard was the NHL Rookie of the Month for March (12-2-1, 2.24, .918, 1 SO), the NHL Second Star for March, and the NHL Second Star of the Week for March 22-28 (4-0-0, 1.22, .958, 1 SO).
He is bidding to become the sixth player in franchise history to win the Calder, joining Roger Crozier (1964-65), Glenn Hall (1955-56), Terry Sawchuk (1950-51), Jim McFadden (1947-48), and Carl Voss (1932-33). The last Red Wings player to place in the top three in Calder balloting was Henrik Zetterberg in 2002-03 (second).
Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
D - BUFFALO
+/-: 13 | PIM: 32 | PP: 3
He made his NHL debut on Oct. 3 and became the 16th youngest player (19 years, 245 days) to play for the Sabres in a season-opening game. There were several highlights along the way -- named the NHL Rookie of the Month for January with 10 points in 14 games; four points (1 goal, 3 assists) on March 10 vs. Dallas; and a five-game point streak from March 16-24.
Myers finished the season with 11 goals and 48 points, a plus-13 rating, and 32 penalty minutes, placing fifth on the Sabres in scoring. Buffalo was 8-1-1 when Myers scored a goal, and 29-7-1 when he recorded a point.
He led the Sabres in ice time in 58 of 82 games, averaging 23:44 for the season with a single-game high of 28:32 on Dec. 16 at Ottawa.
"At the start of the year, I never expected to be in the position I am now, but as the year has gone on I have felt more and more comfortable and less surprised with the way I'm playing," Myers told NHL.com before the close of the season. "I think it's just that I'm figuring out that I'm able to not only play but contribute and produce at this level."
Previous Calder Trophy winners from Buffalo include Tom Barrasso (1983-84) and Gilbert Perreault (1970-71). The last Sabres player to place in the top three in Calder balloting was Ray Sheppard in 1987-88 (second).
Contact Rocky Bonanno at email@example.com