Early Calder Trophy Race

Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

A way-too-early Calder Trophy race update is never a bad thing. The Calder Trophy is awarded to the player who is most proficient in their first year in the National Hockey League. This award has been given by the league since 1933, becoming the Calder Trophy in 1943 after Frank Calder’s death. He was the first president of the NHL, and had personally bought a trophy for the rookie who earned the title of “Best Rookie”. Just like any award, there are some big names on the list of winners. For example Terry Sawchuk in 1951, Bobby Orr in 1967, Martin Brodeur in 1994. Even more recently Alex Ovechkin, Gabriel Landeskog, Auston Matthews, and last year Kirill Kaprizov. It is never too early to look at the front runners for this illustrious trophy.

Cole Caufield, Forward for Montreal

Coming into this season Cole Caufield looked like a shoe-in. He posted impressive numbers in his ten games played at the tail end of last season, and gave an impressive performance in the postseason. If he had kept up that level of play it was difficult to imagine another rookie touching him this full season. However, the lackluster start for the Montreal offense definitely will not help his case. If they are unable to figure things out and get some points going, he may be in trouble. In just the first five games of the year he is yet to record a point. Obviously, come mid season when they are in better form things may be different. But all zeros on a stat line make it difficult to win an award.

Trevor Zegras, Forward for Anaheim

Trevor Zegras entered the league with some impressive abilities. He is known as a solid two-way forward, and can be lethal to defenses from the center or in a wingers position. His numbers at the tail end of last year show great potential: ten assists in twenty-four games. Opening this season he has added to his career totals with an assist. A big benefit for him is going to be his team play. Anaheim looks poised to really make a come back after a couple rebuilding seasons. Their roster shows a healthy mix of young individuals like Trevor, but also contains a solid veteran presence to teach the youngsters what it is like to play in the NHL. Look out for Trevor, it should not take him long to find his footing and start really pushing the young Anaheim team.

Spencer Knight, Goalie for Florida

Giving up only eight goals on ninety-nine shots against in four games played in last year’s regular season makes Spencer Knight a real contender for this trophy. In the playoffs the two games he played he had a .933 save percentage. Florida Panthers look solid to start this year. Spencer’s one game thus far was a solid win allowing just one goal. With an amazing team in front of him, Spencer very well could post some outstanding numbers this year and steal the Calder Trophy from the grasps of the forwards. This could be the first time since 2009 that a goalie wins the Calder, and just the seventeenth time in the trophy’s history. Even while sharing the net with Sergei Bobvroski, he should have enough games and gain more than enough experience to contend for the Calder.

Other Notables

These three have presented themselves as clear Calder Trophy race favorites. However, you can never rule out a sleeper in a sport as grueling as hockey. Moritz Seider and Alex Nedeljkovic of the Detroit Red Wings could both make a run this season. Alex is no stranger to this award, having come in as runner up last season while with the Carolina Hurricanes. He is still eligible as he did not compete in more than twenty-five games. Marco Rossi of the Minnesota Wild was sent down to their farm team, however if called up it could potentially be a second season in a row of a Wild rookie winning this award. With the likes of Joel Eriksson Ek, and Kaprizov on Minnesota’s offense, he very well could be on an explosive offense right away.

My Winner

My pick is Spencer Knight. His presence in the net and his team in front of him will allow him to post monster numbers and secure this award. He has an incredible mentor in Sergei, and the Panthers seem to have a winning formula. Obviously this will not be easy–there is a reason it is rare for a goalie to win. I feel as though Cole and the Montreal offense will continue to struggle through this year unless some major changes are made. Cole effectively is feeling the “sophomore slump.” It is unfortunate to see such an elite player go through that. Of course this is a very early calder trophy race, and nearly a whole season needs to work itself out before one rookie is crowned.

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