In our latest roundtable, we’ve decided to take a look at which rookie deserves the Calder Trophy the most at the halfway mark in the regular season.
The Calder Trophy is awarded to the best rookie. In the past few seasons, the Calder Trophy has been awarded to Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Artemi Panarin of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche.
This season, there have been many rookies who have looked impressive. Several of our contributors and editors have voiced who they believe is most worthy of winning the Calder. So, let’s check out their roundtable submissions.
Elias Pettersson is far and away my favourite for the Calder. Two five point games in his rookie season as well as a point per game average above 1.00 at the midway point of the season? It’s hard to argue any other rookie this season has put forward such an aggressively dominant performance. There’s also something to be said for the way he’s given hope to a Vancouver fanbase that had just lost the Sedin twins to retirement.
The last defenseman to win the Calder was Aaron Ekblad in the 2014-15 season, but this year I believe two of the three finalists will be blue-liners. Behind Pettersson, I have Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars, and Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres. Heiskanen is logging hard and heavy minutes in Dallas so far this season, averaging around 23 minutes of ice time a night while his most common defense partner is Roman Polak. Rasmus Dahlin is putting up points as well as logging around 20 minutes of ice time a night.
So while I believe Dahlin and Heiskanen should be in the conversation, Elias Pettersson has stolen the hearts of the media. Short of some kind of catastrophe, I can’t imagine any other rookie generating the kind of well deserved hype that the beloved ‘Dekey Pete’ has to date.
The obvious choice for the Calder Trophy this year is the outstanding Vancouver Canuck Elias Pettersson. His stats so far this season are off the charts having scored 22 goals and 20 assists, with a total of 42 points. The 5th overall draft pick in the 2017 shows the hockey prowess of a season pro. At only 20 years old, the Swedish centerman seems like a slam dunk for the Calder Trophy this year. In fact, according to NHL.com writer Mike Morreale, 20 NHL staff writers took a vote and Pettersson came out with a perfect 100 points, scoring first place among all 20 writers.
But I’m more of an underdog girl. Yes, Pettersson has a 99.7% of winning it this year, however I think it should go to Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars. The Stars have had a bit of drama recently (we all remember the comments by CEO Jim Lites) but Heiskanen has been consistently strong for this team the whole season. Watching the Devils/Stars game on 1/2 really cemented to me how talented a defensemen Heiskanen is. He scored 2 goals that night, which led to a 5-4 win over the Devils. Like Pettersson, he doesn’t play like a rookie, he skates and has the poise of a seasoned pro. Yes, some of his stats aren’t as impressive as Pettersson, but in overall contribution to a team I think Heiskanen is better.
There are many great rookies to choose from for the Calder. I only see defensemen and forwards having a chance at this award.
Dahlin was taken by the Buffalo Sabres in 2018. He currently has 5 goals and 21 assists for 26 points and a 52 FF% in 45 games.
Jokiharju was taken in 2017 by the Chicago Blackhawks. At the moment, Jokiharju has 0 goals and 12 assists for 12 points and a 52.7 FF% in 36 games.
Heiskanen was taken in 2017 by the Dallas Stars. He currently has 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points and a 49 FF% in 48 games.
Pettersson was taken in 2017 by the Vancouver Canucks. He currently has 22 goals and 20 assists for 42 points and a 51.1 FF% in 38 games.
Tkachuk was taken in 2018 by the Ottawa Senators. He currently has 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points and a 51.3 FF% in 37 games.
Kotkaniemi was taken in 2018 by the Montreal Canadiens. He currently has 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points and a 56.4 FF% in 49 games.
So who do I have winning the Calder? I have Elias Pettersson winning the Calder with Rasmus Dahlin and Jesperi Kotkaniemi being 2nd and 3rd respectively.
I think the Calder Trophy race may not be the foregone conclusion that most people believe it to be. I do believe that Elias Petterson is still the favorite to win the award, but I am going to give you a few rookies to watch down the stretch.
Miro Heiskenen D, DAL-
Defenseman often progress more slowly at the NHL level. Heiskenen has adapted his game at an unbelievable pace. At just 19 years old, he is already playing over 23 minutes per game. He has 9 goals and 11 assists.
Brady Tkachuk LW, OTT-
Many of us wondered whether Tkachuk would go back to the NCAA this season, as most thought the Senators would be a very bad team. He decided to start his career early, and is playing very well. He has 11 goals and 12 assists.
Colin White C, OTT-
Another Ottawa rookie that is giving Sens fans plenty to be excited about is Colin White. He was playing extremely well before his injury. White is expected to be out through the All-Star break, but he’s managed to put together a solid rookie season. To date, he has 11 goals and 15 assists.
While there may be some argument to one of Rasmus Dahlin or Miro Heiskanen winning the coveted award, I feel that Elias Pettersson is the runaway favourite. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only obstacle between Pettersson and the Calder Trophy is … himself. Specifically, his durability and ability to stay healthy. The electrifying centre has already missed 11 games this season, more than 20% (22.45%) of the season thus far. I’m stopping short of calling him the glass man, but it is concerning. Despite this apparent physical fragility, he still leads the Canucks in scoring with 42 points, including a team-leading 22 goals. I wouldn’t be surprised if his goal-scoring plateaus for the rest of the season, he is currently riding an unsustainable 27.8% shooting percentage, but if he can remain healthy, I still anticipate him to record a 65+ point season. Quite the achievement, and a big reason why Vancouver are well and truly in the playoff race, only trailing Dallas on a tiebreaker for the final wildcard spot.
While it might be Gritty (the Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot)’s first season, he unfortunately doesn’t qualify as a potential Calder Trophy winner.
But, I do believe that the Calder Trophy will be awarded to a Philadelphia Flyer. If Carter Hart can continue to be dominate in the net, I believe that he’ll hoist up the Calder at the NHL Award Ceremony.
In 12 games played, Hart has a record of 6-5, a 2.66 goals against average (GAA) and a .918 save percentage (SV%). He’s also been outstanding when the Flyers are playing 5v4 or 5v3 hockey. To date, he owns a 1.000 SV% when the Flyers are down a man or two.
Unfortunately, goaltenders don’t win the Calder Trophy often. Since the 2000-2001 regular season, only three goalies (Evgeni Nabokov, Andrew Raycroft and Steve Mason) have taken home the trophy. Yet, if Hart continues at this pace, he could win the trophy. All eyes will be on the young Philadelphia net-minder going forward.
stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, eliteprospects.com