This weekend we’re looking ahead at the NHL’s individual awards. On Saturday, we examined the Vezina and Norris Trophies. Earlier today we discussed the Selke. Now, let’s talk about the kids. Who will win the Calder Memorial Trophy?
Unlike the other individual awards we have talked about this weekend, there is no precedent for the Calder Trophy; the rookie of the year obviously can’t repeat.
When trying to look forward at a rookie class, there are three things to look for when trying to identify a potential Calder candidate:
- a good player in a great situation
- a good player on a great team
- a good player with the green light to put up big offensive numbers
Last year’s three finalists met those criteria. Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher found himself in a great situation with the resurgent Canadiens. Chicago’s Brandon Saad had a very good season on the best team in the league. And Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, who won the Calder after posting 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 48 games, played a big role on a terrible Panthers team.
Which players could find themselves in one of those scenarios this year? Rather than listing three potential winners, let’s ditch the format for one of our prediction pieces and look at five candidates for the Calder.
1. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Scheifele, the seventh overall pick in 2011, will likely fit into the same scenario that Gallagher did last year. After a spectacular three seasons in the OHL that saw him put up 84 goals and 133 assists in only 158 games, he’ll jump into a top-six role with the Jets. No, Winnipeg won’t shock the world and finish with as one of the top three teams in the Western Conference, but there are some talented veterans in the Jets’ lineup that could help him excel.
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon was the top overall pick in the 2013 Draft, and could fit into the role of either a producer on a bad team or a good player in a great situation. The Avs have been trying to figure it out for much of the last decade, and still don’t have much on defense. He’ll certainly have the green light offensively, and will be surrounded by talented young players. If Colorado can get out of the cellar, MacKinnon could emerge as a Calder finalist.
3. Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars
Nichushkin is a fascinating player to consider for the Calder. He’ll join a team that failed to make the playoffs last year, but one that made significant changes over the summer to improve. The tenth overall pick in the 2013 Draft is a big kid (6-4, 205) who will enter a lineup in Dallas that added offensive firepower in Tyler Seguin and a couple responsible veterans in Shawn Horcoff and Rich Peverley. This could be a case of a big, strong prospect coming into a great situation.
4. Seth Jones, Nashville Predators
It isn’t very often that a defenseman wins the league’s top rookie award; if Jones wins it this year, he would be only the third defenseman since 2000 capture the Calder and the first since Tyler Myers in 2010. But he’s a high-profile player on a young, rebuilding Nashville team that should afford him plenty of opportunities to produce. Jones will also have a fantastic mentor in Shea Weber.
5. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
If there’s a youngster positioned to follow in Huberdeau’s path to the Calder (big points on a terrible team), it might be Forsberg. The 11th overall pick in the 2012 Draft by the Capitals, he was dealt to Nashville last year for Martin Erat at the deadline. He’s a smooth skater with a ton of offensive ability, and he’ll have the green light to shoot all day on a Nashville team desperately searching for offense.
The Winner: Mark Scheifele
Scheifele is a big-time prospect could put up big-time numbers for a Jets team on the cusp of a postseason berth. If he can hang on to a top-six role with Winnipeg, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to contribute.
It is worth noting that there isn’t a significant Calder candidate likely to break into the Hawks’ roster to start the season, but all five of our potential finalists will play in the Central Division. There is a lot of good talent coming up in the league, and some potential superstars developing on teams the Blackhawks will battle for a division crown over the coming years.