I veered astray to comment on the NHL’s award voting geography curiosity but am back on track with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s do one more award for the season and then try to wrap 2013 up with a bow in the next post, shall we?
Beyond the Most Valuable Player award, I wanted to go out of my way to recognize what I deem to be the team’s rookie of the year. Unlike my MVP, Vinny Prospal, this one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: The Dark Blue Jacket CBJ Rookie of the Year is Dalton Prout.
There wasn’t a ton of rookie talent competition for Prout in 2013. Cam Atkinson put in 27 games last season, so he wasn’t eligible using the “must play less than 25 games in the prior season to be considered eligible” standard that the National Hockey League uses for awarding their rookie of the year award, the Calder Trophy.
In fact, the only real competition was Tim Erixon. Erixon played in 31 games for Columbus this season, notched five points (all assists) on the year and wound up with a plus-4. In comparison, Prout played in fewer games (28), scored a goal in addition to his six assists and was plus-15 on the campaign. Thanks for playing, Tim.
Prout arrived in Columbus on March 1st and never left. I’m not going to say that his arrival was the magic ingredient to fire up the Blue Jackets’ season-ending 19-5-5 streak, but it would be foolhardy to say that Dalton Prout was not a contributing factor.
Then there’s that plus-minus score. A plus-15? PLUS-15? We haven’t seen a plus-minus that high in Columbus since the CBJ’s playoff season of 2008-09, when Jan Hejda piled up a plus-23. And Hejda wasn’t a rookie.
Prout logged 468.65 minutes of 5-on-5 time, with another 26.4 of 4-on-5 (penalty kill) and 1.12 of 5-on-4 (power play). That’s 496.17 minutes across 28 games, or 17.72 minutes per game. Those aren’t your normal rookie third pairing/occasional healthy scratch numbers. Those are big boy minutes, with the minutes ramping up real quickly once Prout broke into the roster. In fact, I see eight games where Prout pulled more than 20 minutes.
To be clear, I’m awarding Prout as top rookie and not top defenseman. I acknowledge that he’s not going to win the NHL’s Norris Trophy for top defenseman any time soon. But for being a rookie, he was an incredible contributor and has a bright future ahead of him.
So, for his defensive contributions leading up to his plus-15 rating and his ability to crack the lineup and pull top-two pairing minutes almost immediately, I can’t see how one cannot give Dalton Prout the CBJ rookie of the year award.