The Capitals Alexander Ovechkin, left, beat out Sidney Crosby for the rookie of the year last night at the NHL Awards Show.
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Alexander Ovechkin hadn't even received the Calder Trophy when he proclaimed Evgeni Malkin as his heir apparent.
"He's an unbelievable player," said Ovechkin, who scored 52 goals during his first season with the Washington Capitals. "I think, next year, he'll win rookie of the year."
If so, Malkin, a Penguins prospect, isn't likely to have to overcome the kind of competition Ovechkin faced. He beat out Penguins center Sidney Crosby, a 102-point man as an 18-year-old, and Dion Phaneuf, a 20-goal scorer as a rookie defenseman with Calgary, to win the Calder.
Ovechkin modestly insisted that Crosby or Phaneuf deserved the Calder, but voters from the Professional Hockey Writers Association decided otherwise.
Ovechkin got 124 of 129 first-place votes and earned 1,275 points in the balloting. Crosby, who received four first-place votes, had 831 points (thanks mostly to 95 second-place votes) and Phaneuf got 580. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, not a Calder finalist, received the other first-place vote.
Other trophy-winners named during the NHL's annual awards show at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts last night:
Hart (most valuable player) -- Joe Thornton, San Jose.
Norris (defenseman) -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit.
Vezina (goalie) -- Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary.
Adams (coach) -- Lindy Ruff, Buffalo.
Selke (defensive forward) -- Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina.
Lady Byng (sportsmanship) -- Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit.
Pearson (top player, chosen by NHL Players' Association members) -- Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers.
Masterton (perseverance) -- Teemu Selanne, Anaheim.
Clancy (humanitarian) -- Olaf Kolzig, Washington.
Malkin won't make his NHL debut until this fall, but he was a major topic of discussion before the event now that Russia has agreed to participate in the transfer agreement negotiated between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
That agreement, which has yet to be formally signed by the parties, clears the way for Malkin and other Russian players to come to North America.
"It will be nice to have him in our uniform," said Crosby, who has faced Malkin in several international tournaments. "With his speed and skill, he's definitely ready.
"Obviously, there's always a little bit of a learning curve, but I can't see it being very long with him. He's played against men over in Russia for a few years now, so I think he's used to bigger, stronger guys. Really, the transition should be good."
While Ovechkin and Malkin have forged a strong personal relationship, Ovechkin expects Crosby and Malkin to create a formidable professional partnership in coming seasons.
NOTES -- Crosby, Ovechkin, Phaneuf, Lundqvist, Brad Boyes of Boston and Ottawa's Andrej Meszaros were named to the all-rookie team. ... Crosby received two fifth-place votes for the Hart and finished third in the All-Star voting for center. ... Sergei Gonchar of the Penguins got one fifth-place vote for the Norris. ... Barring trades, the Penguins will have choices Nos. 2, 32, 65, 116, 125 and 185 in the draft tomorrow.
Dave Molinari can be reached at 412-263-1144.