Since 1990, only three defensemen have won the Calder Trophy, the award given annually to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie.
It’s difficult for defenseman to be immediate contributors at both ends of the ice and play major roles in their team’s success due to the steep learning curve at the position and the challenging transition to a faster, more physical game. This also prevents them from putting up the stellar stats that, unfortunately, play a major role in the rookie of the year voting.
However, one defenseman building a strong case to be considered as a finalist for the Calder is Torey Krug, whose offensive brilliance and steady defensive play have helped the Boston Bruins earn a respectable 8-5-1 record despite some early struggles from the team as a whole. It’s important to note that only a month of the season has passed, and several guys will enter and fall out of the Calder race between now and April, but it’s hard to ignore Krug’s performance so far.
Here’s where he ranks among this year’s crop of rookie defensemen in several important statistical categories.
Those are some impressive statistics for a player who entered this season with only 18 games of NHL experience, playoffs included.
Where Krug has made the most impact for the Bruins is on the power play. His powerful shot from the point and ability to skate the blue line to find open shooting lines has allowed the Bruins to take captain Zdeno Chara away from that role and put him in front of the net where he can screen the goaltender. Krug is averaging 2:49 of power-play ice time per game, which ranks second on the team among defenseman. When he’s on the ice, the puck is moving, the team is being aggressive by firing shots on net and the scoring chances pile up. So it comes as no surprise to learn that five of the seven Boston goals with the man advantage were scored or assisted on by Krug.
Knowing when to join the rush as a fourth attacker is hard for young d-men, but Krug is very smart about when he goes forward, sometimes below the goal line, to get involved in the offense. His second goal against Buffalo on Oct. 23 was a fine example of this.
Like all players early in their development, there are areas to improve. In Krug’s case, he needs to be a little more careful with the puck in his own end because his eight giveaways lead all Bruins defensemen. With that said, his willingness to block shots, play a physical game and ability to break up opposing team’s scoring chances with good positioning proves he’s farther along in his defensive development than most 21-year-old defensemen early in their NHL careers.
As a strong two-way player who also excels on special teams, Krug has moved to the front of the pack in the group of most outstanding rookie defensemen this season. It will be challenging for Krug to win the Calder given the incredible amount of talented forwards who are likely to tally great offensive statistics for their resumes, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s in the conversation when the finalists for the award are voted on.
Krug’s remarkable play in the 2013 playoffs wasn’t a fluke.
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