NHL rookie award won't be a Capital gain

January 29, 2006|By MARK KELLER

I'm calling it now: A few months from now, Alexander Ovechkin will be robbed.

The Washington Capitals forward leads all NHL rookies and is seventh overall in the league in scoring.

Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Sidney Crosby is second among rookies and 13th overall in scoring.

Ovechkin has a better plus-minus rating than Crosby, more power-play goals, a better shooting percentage and fewer penalty minutes.

None of those numbers will matter. Crosby will be named the NHL's rookie of the year.

Ovechkin was the first player taken in the 2004 draft. He was a no-brainer, a sure thing who was going to be a superstar no matter what team selected him.

But he lost what would have been his rookie season when the league canceled the 2004-05 season because of a labor dispute.


Enter Crosby, the next no-brainer, the next sure thing who was going to be a superstar no matter what team selected him.

The Penguins, owned by former next big thing Mario Lemieux, won a lottery for the first pick in last year's draft, thereby winning the rights to Crosby.

Even before that draft, Crosby was being tabbed as the man who was going to save the league and help it regain fans it drove away during the lost season.

Ovechkin practically had been forgotten.

Crosby now plays in Pittsburgh, which - though it is one of the smallest markets in the league - is one of the NHL's glamour teams, primarily due to the presence of Lemieux.

Ovechkin plays for Washington, long one of the league's unloved stepchild franchises.

Crosby is from Canada. Most Americans don't really consider Canadians foreigners (this general rule doesn't apply to Hagerstonians, many of whom think those traveling in from, say, Clear Spring should show their passports).

Ovechkin is from Russia. 'Nuf said.

No other player is really in the argument. It will come down to these two players.

Both play for lousy teams. Pittsburgh is slightly lousier, though the Penguins did beat the Capitals 8-1 Wednesday night. (Yeah, like that's anything new for the Capitals to lose to the Penguins.)

In the end, the hype Crosby has gotten since the day Pittsburgh won that draft lottery will result in enough support for the Penguins star to win the award.

And Crosby won't even have to wear a mask to get away with that robbery.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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