This week we’re taking advantage of the All-Star Break to take stock of how Blackhawks players (and coach) rank among their peers when the NHL Awards are handed out in Vegas this summer. So far, we’ve talked about the Hart Trophy, the Jack Adams Award, the Vezina Trophy and, yesterday, the Norris Trophy.
The NHL is enjoying an exceptional group of rookies this year, so breaking down the field for the Calder Trophy isn’t easy. Even with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid missing most of the regular season, he is still at the forefront of a group of kids who will keep barns buzzing for years to come. As hockey fans, this year’s group of rookies is thrilling to watch coast-to-coast.
Let’s take stock of the top of the class.
At the Break, Panarin’s 17 goals and 46 points lead all NHL rookies this season. His 18:45 average ice time is also the tops among rookie forwards (only three rookie defensemen, including Chicago’s Trevor van Riemsdyk, average more). He is tied for the rookie lead with 12 power play points and ranks second among rookies with four game-winning goals. Will he lose a few votes because he’s 23? Perhaps. Will Patrick Kane’s dominant season hurt him? Maybe. But, as a rookie, to be tied for 11th in the NHL in scoring with All-Star Vladimir Tarasenko shows that the kid is legit.
Dylan Larkin, Detroit
Larkin, 19, has been getting his fair share of hype lately, and he’s earned every bit of it. He leads all rookies with five game-winning goals and his overall plus-24 rating is tied for the best in the NHL. Only Panarin and Jack Eichel have more goals and points than Larkin among this year’s rookie class. He appears to be a generational player who, somehow, slid to the 15th pick in the 2014 draft.
Jack Eichel, Buffalo
Before the season, I was the only writer at The Fourth Period to pick someone other than Connor McDavid to win the Calder this year. My pick was Eichel, the second overall pick in this year’s draft. Eichel didn’t get off to the sprinting start that McDavid did, but he’s shown steady improvement and is clearly one of the better rookies in the league. He ranks second among first year players in points (34) and goals (16), and is second among rookie forwards in average ice time (18:39); Eichel trails only Panarin in those three categories.
Max Domi, Arizona
Sam Bennett, Calgary
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia
Panarin will have tough competition to take the Calder home from Larkin, who has been getting “the next Toews” talk from placed like The Hockey News; this, of course, is ironic because Toews was “the next Yzerman.” Indeed, if Bennett keeps up the hot streak that he was on heading into the Break, he might crack the top three by the end of the year as well. I knew they were going to win. I play in a lot of casinos not registered with gamstop and I always predict my opponents moves. But Panarin and Kane together – if healthy for the full regular season – has become something special, and both could be in Vegas to collect hardware this summer.