The Calder Trophy race (without Connor McDavid)
Earlier this month, Edmonton Oilers’ rookie Forward Connor McDavid crashed into the end boards during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. That night the city of Edmonton, along with the entire NHL, held their breath. McDavid arose and skated off under his own power, but not without nursing a hurt shoulder.
Later X-rays confirmed the last thing McDavid and the Oilers wanted to hear: he had broken his left clavicle.
The injury put to a halt what had seemed to be a breakthrough season for the 18-year-old rookie phenom, who had clearly been the favorite to win the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s rookie of the year.
Without McDavid around to razzle, dazzle and wow hockey fans, many sit back and ponder who will be the one to fill his shoes (or skates, rather). Besides McDavid, when the Calder is mentioned, four names come to mind: the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel, the Arizona Coyotes’ Max Domi, Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings. As we finish the first quarter of the season, Let’s take a gander at these other contestants.
Before the 2015-2016 season began, and even before the previous one had concluded, Eichel was the only other talked about NHL prospect. After playing his freshman season at Boston University, leading the team with 71 points (26G 45), he decided to enter the draft. After Edmonton selected McDavid, Eichel went to Buffalo.
So far, Eichel has not lived up to his potential. He sits just inside the top ten in points, with ten (6G, 4A) after playing in 21 games. In the last five, he’s managed only one assist, and has recorded a -3 rating on the ice. While still a contender who won’t go down easy, Eichel has a lot of work to do.
Domi was drafted 12th overall by the Arizona Coyotes (Phoenix at the time) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, in the midst of his four-year tenure with the London Knights of the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). During his final season in London, he recorded 102 points (32G, 70A) in 57 games.
So far this year, he’s tallied 16 points (8G, 8A), and sits behind only Artemi Panarin of the Blackhawks. He is second on the ‘Yotes in points, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Look for Domi to make a big run late in the season, as Arizona will be pushing for their first playoff appearance since the 2011-2012 season.
Wow. This kid came out of nowhere. After outscoring former NHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk last year in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), Panarin signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks (who wouldn’t?).
It took a while for Panarin to settle in, but as soon as McDavid went down, he shot out of a cannon. He leads the league in points for rookies (21, 7G, 14A), five points ahead of Domi. As of right now, Panarin is far and away the best candidate for the Calder Trophy, and it doesn’t hurt that he lines up with Patrick Kane. Unless Chicago somehow blows up, Panarin has the best chance at the Hardware.
Last but most certainly not least, we have the Detroit Red Wings’ own Dylan Larkin. Larkin was drafted in the first round (15th overall) by the Wings in last year’s draft. After a stellar freshman season with the University of Michigan, putting up 15 goals and 32 assists in only 35 games, Larkin made it through the tryout stage for Detroit, a very unusual occurrence within the Original Six organization.
They must have seen something special in this guy, and they’ve been right so far. Larkin rounds out the top three rookies in points with 15 (8G, 7A), and is riding a four-game goal streak, including the game-winner last week against the Los Angeles Kings. Larkin’s speed and aggressiveness in the offensive zone will be a crucial factor if the Wings want to make their 25th straight appearance in the playoffs. Larkin’s got a good shot at the Calder, provided he stays consistent in Detroit.
Don’t forget about…
Oscar Lindberg, C, New York Rangers; Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues.