With the NHL Awards coming up, we here at The Point will break down the finalists for the six major awards, as well as select our winners before the NHL Awards Ceremony in Vegas today. We’ve gone through the Norris, the Vezina, and the Selke trophies so far, let’s take a look at the top rookies vying for the Calder Trophy.
The 1st overall pick last year, Rasmus Dahlin put on an impressive performance in his first season. He led all rookie defensemen in points and assists and finished second in goals. Dahlin is an elite skater who uses his wheels to get himself out of trouble. That speed makes him a dynamic player who can create offense from his defensive zone.
Dahlin showed flashes of being a truly elite defenseman that Sabres fans should be extremely excited about. His skill with the puck and possession driving ability make him exactly what teams are looking for in this age of the NHL.
While Dahlin starred on the blue line most of the season he did have a few long periods where he struggled to find his way. That’s to be expected from any rookie and the sky remains the limit for Dahlin but in the Calder conversation, he’s playing second fiddle to the other two candidates.
Stanley Cup Champion, Jordan Binnington, with the most playoff wins by a rookie goaltender but this award only counts the regular season. Making his first start January 7th, he immediately put his stamp on the league throwing up a shutout and giving the Blues some much-needed life.
Binnington was the catalyst behind a complete turnaround in the second half for the St. Louis Blues. His play was phenomenal, saving his team on average over one extra goal against every two games compared to league average goaltending.
The knock on Binnington though is that he only started a total of 30 games this season. That’s barely more than the 26 he started in the playoffs. Of those 30 games, he won 24, including five shutouts so there’s definitely an argument to be made that he had the biggest impact on his team.
Elias Pettersson this year was a stud. There’s no other way to describe him. He came out of the gates flying with a five-game point streak where he notched five goals and eight points.
Pettersson is only the 31st rookie to lead all first-year players in goals, assists, and points. He’s a great skater, possibly an even better playmaker, and he has a lethal shot that he used all season long to make goalies look silly. What might be the most impressive thing about Pettersson’s incredible season is that he was able to score so much without really attacking the dangerous areas.
He finished the season with a shooting percentage of 19.4 which is the 12th highest out of anyone who played at least 20 games. One of the reasons it was so successful is that he can let it rip so quickly and usually off a one-timer. He finished the season with the second most one-timers out of any rookies and the sixth most shots. He loves putting it on net and will pick a corner before the goalie has time to get set.
The Point Consensus Pick: Elias Pettersson
Both Dahlin and Binnington had spectacular seasons but in the end, we have to agree with the poll result and go with Pettersson on this. Regardless of whether or not you think Binnington had a bigger impact on his team, in the end, Pettersson was a constant threat all year long. Even though he battled injuries, he was the story in Vancouver from game 1 to game 82 and while he didn’t spark a turnaround from last place, he did give hope to a franchise in desperate need of it. Binnington might have been the best rookie in the second half but it won’t be enough to take the crown away from Pettersson.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)