It’s finally time for the All Star Break which marks the halfway point in the NHL regular season. This time of the year means that the conversations about who’s winning what trophy are starting up.
The hot topic this year is the Calder Memorial Trophy. This is for Top Rookie.
We all hoped to see Edmonton’s Connor McDavid light up the world of hockey, but alas, he broke his collarbone early in the season and is down for the count.
NESN put out a nice article on the current ranking of candidates that you can read here
A possible dark horse of the race, Sam Bennett, is having himself a quiet party in Calgary, and managed to even have more excitement around him than the Flames' Johnny Gaudreau when he became the third youngest person since 1981-82 to score four goals in one game on January 13th against the Panthers. That's no small task to accomplish and it's not something you can forget. If this kid keeps going at this same pace for the rest of the season he would own the score sheet.
BUT the talks of the town are the ones who people get excited about every night, the players that make a substantial impact on their teams entire performance every single game. Nicholas Goss (wrote the previously linked article) put out ALMOST the same list that I was thinking of for the Calder Trophy, and I’ll be making his late December article more up to date to the way that I see fit.
If you didn’t feel like reading his list, he put it as such: 5.) Colton Parayko, 4.) Jack Eichel 3.) Max Domi 2.) Artemi Panarin 1.) Dylan Larkin
With no offense towards Colton Parayko, I don’t think he has a clear enough shot to win the Calder. Even though his ice time is averaging something like 19 minutes per game and is one of the leaders for +/- among NHL defensemen, which is amazing and admirable for his first year, I don't think he has a good enough chance. His case could be argued, but I really think he's more of a number 6 on my list based on who plays both ways on the ice well enough to be talked about.
There could be a good chance I could be proven wrong, though.
Max Domi is my number five. While he is third in rookie scoring (32 points) and has proven himself to be a hard-ass when he took a shot and an elbow to the face (in the same game), I don’t think he’s made a big enough splash. He’s third in scoring because aside from Duclair (5th with 25 points), he is the only competent forward on that team. But regardless this kid makes a difference out on the ice and makes his presence known.
Coming in hot at fourth is a Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere. I was introduced to him in the first Bruins-Flyers game and was enlightened by @BarstoolJordie, when he started to dedicate his blogs about him. After looking into his highlights and stat sheet I came to realize Jordie is pretty correct when referring to Ghost Bear as the Dark Horse for this race:
This guy makes impacts like you read about. I’ve been in a trance since I first saw him. He reads the opponents plays before they even start. He wins every chess match with the opponents’ forwards with no sweat and creates a fast break almost every time he touches the ice. While he’s missed a good portion of the season (he just wasn't dressed), the games he has been in he’s made HUGE impacts.
Jordie covers the in-depth stats in the above linked tweet, I urge you to take a look after you’re done here.
Coming in luke-warm at third is ya' boi Jack Eichel. He lit up the TD Garden in his first meeting with the Bruins and recorded a pair of goals and a pair of apples (assists). Since then, he has been just as good as he started and has changed the dumpster-fire Sabres to the trash-can fire Sabres.
He might not be lighting up the score board as well as the others, but he’s changing how the Sabres play as a team. He’s making plays that start in his zone and is basically quarterbacking the transition up the ice.
And he does stuff like this:
Second place was a tough choice, but I’m going with Dylan Larkin.
First teenager in fifteen years to make the Detroit Elder (get it?) Wing’s roster is nothing short of amazing, because Detroit has been a seasoned veteran type team for YEARS (fifteen, apparently, according to Nicholas Goss) and has been widely known for it.
Larkin came into the scene and took the ice like he was a seasoned veteran, himself. He ran train, made differences, read plays three steps ahead, dazzled the world and overall just lit up every rink he has entered; all while being a rookie.
First place is Artemi Panarin (Let’s call him Panera…..get it?).
This 24-year-old rookie is already considered a veteran and has had the time to mature before he took the reins of being an NHL player, but none-the-less, the NHL is a different ball game and he’s still a rookie. He was plopped on Patty Kane’s line and they have been Panera Bread and Butter ever since.
People will argue that anyone that gets put with Kane will always lead in points somewhere (yes Panera is leading rookie scoring), BUT this kid is making Kane score, too, so it’s not one sided. Panera moves around and reads plays seven steps ahead and dishes sauce to people you wouldn’t expect him to get the sauce to.
He is, in a sense, a mix of Toews and Kane together: he has the mindset to think of plays that could, and will, happen as well as the knowledge and skill to carry out those same plays.
If you want to take a look at where I got my stats and information from, just go here.
Do you get it?