NHL teams can take a look at a young player for nine games, before returning the player to the AHL or Juniors or an international team without burning a year off the prospect’s initial entry contract. It is why this week, where most teams are hitting the nine and ten game mark on the season, makes a perfect time to check in for the first look at where the race for the Calder Trophy stands.
Without a doubt, this NHL rookie class is one of the most talented and hyped in years – with superstars-in-waiting in the form of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel gobbling up headlines. While McDavid and Eichel may be the most well-known names in this rookie class, they face stiff competition for rookie-of-the-year honors from an incredibly deep field of talent.
So it was a tough call on whether to put Domi in the top spot or the hands-on favorite Connor McDavid. Domi has been spectacular for the surprisingly competitive Arizona Coyotes. In 10 games Domi has tallied four goals (2nd among rookies), six assists (1st among rookies) for a total of 10 points (1st among rookies). McDavid has similarly studly early season numbers. What sets the two apart is that Domi’s team wins while the Oilers struggle, and the Coyotes do so with less talent on paper than the chocked full of first round draft picks in Edmonton.
Look McDavid was the #1 overall pick, billed as a once-in-a-generation player – a guy who has drawn comparisons to Lemieux, Gretzky, and Crosby. He has not disappointed. He leads all rookies in goals (5) and points (10). The kid is on pace for 80+ points. As I mentioned above, it was tough to pick between Domi and McDavid and frankly at the end of the year I expect McDavid to be the undisputed #1 on this list.
Last year, as the lowly Coyotes were busy in the midst of a fire sale, Coyotes GM Don Maloney swung a trade with the New York Rangers – giving up the talented 28-year-old defenseman Keith Yandle. One of the pieces the Coyotes got in return was top prospect Anthony Duclair. Duclair put up 50 goals in the Q two years ago and became a household name in Canada as part of their gold-medal winning World Junior’s team last year. Ten games into this season, he brings back optimism to a moribund Coyotes franchise. Duclair is tied with McDavid for the goals lead among rookies with five and is firing at a ridiculous 41.7% shooting percentage.
Pre-season, Ehlers was my somewhat below-the-radar pick to challenge McDavid and Eichel for the Calder. Just nine games in and Ehlers isn’t disappointing. The Dashing Dane has tallied four goals and three assists for the Jets and has taken some pretty sick shots from long distance – showing he is a threat to score from almost anywhere in the offensive zone.
A week ago, Lindberg would have been even higher on the list. The 23-year-old Swede netted four goals in his first three games and had tongues wagging all across the Big Apple. Lindberg has slowed down since that hot start, but has still impressed tying McDavid and Duclair for the rookie lead with five goals. At 23, and with considerably more hockey experience behind him thanks to his time in Sweden, Lindberg entered the season NHL ready and looks to be a key component for the Rangers if they are going to make another deep run in the playoffs.
The 19-year-old Larkin played his way beyond the nine game tryout. Larkin, a Michigan native, is giving Red Wings fans hope that their playoff streak will remain intact.
Jack Eichel isn’t even the best rookie on his team right now, that honor goes to Reinhart (for the moment).
Injuries on the blue line in St. Louis have opened the door for Parayko, who has made the most of the opportunity.
McCann has four goals in seven games, will the Canucks be able to send this guy back to Juniors or has he forced his way onto the roster?
Won’t be this low on this list for long.