Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Brock Boeser (Van)
Runners Up: Matthew Barzal (NYI) Clayton Keller (ARI) and Mikhail Sergachev (TB) Charlie McAvoy (BOS)
What a year for rookies this season has been! Brock Boeser, who started out the year as a healthy scratch for the Vancouver Canucks, has become their go-to-guy for scoring the big goal. Boeser’s 22 goals in 42 games has him tied for fourth best in the NHL. Only Auston Matthews and Alexander Ovechkin have scored this many goals this quickly in their NHL career, and, even on that note, Boeser is out producing Auston Matthew’s Calder-winning rookie season. He leads the Canucks in scoring, has become their trigger man on the powerplay and has seen his TOI rise considerably in the last 15 games. Needless to say, if Boeser can replicate the same season as 2016-2017 Auston Matthews, he’ll easily take home the Calder.
Matthew Barzal looks to be another special player on the rise for the New York Islanders. Drafted by the Islanders 16th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Barzal quickly cemented himself this season as the Islanders`second line center behind franchise centerman John Tavares. His presence down the middle has turned the Islanders from a one line team to an offensive powerhouse, as he has posted an insane 47 points in 46 games playing alongside Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier. Many believe that the Calder race is between Boeser, the goal-scorer, and Barzal, the playmaker, but many discount the success of Barzal due to the fact that he plays on a much stronger team. Barzal deserves credit in his own right because he is producing regardless of Tavares` presence, but is not as heavily checked as Boeser is right now in Vancouver. Barzal is no slouch when it comes to goal scoring either, potting 16 goals already half way through the season, so expect an extremely tight race between these two budding superstars.
Clayton Keller has been a favourite of mine since I saw him play for Boston College last year. The 19 year-old forward started the year off on fire, posting a point-per-game in his first 10 games. Sadly, all the offense seemed to dry up after that point and the Arizona Coyotes went on a to lose 11 straight games to start the season. On top of that poor start, the Coyotes are currently in the midst of another losing streak (6 games) and sit dead last in the NHL. In spite of their horrendous transition game and underperforming scorers, Keller leads his team in points, by a wide margin, with 32 points in 41 games. His vision, Hockey IQ and passing prowess make him the lone bright light in the desert right now, and warrants some consideration for the Calder trophy considering playing for the Coyotes is a handicap in itself points wise. Look for him to finish the season in the 60-point range.
Mikhail Sergachev is making Marc Bergevin look silly this season, as the 19-year-old rearguard was traded this past summer for wing… er… center Jonathan Drouin. Sergachev wasted no time making the Lightning’s starting roster out of camp and penciling himself on the 2nd pairing, behind a Norris-caliber defenseman in Victor Hedman. The young Russian exploded right out of the gate and has brought the offensive vision and transition game that Tampa sorely needed on their second pairing. Currently sitting at 26 points in 42 games and 5 game winning goals to boot, Sergachev has more points than anyone on the Canadiens roster right now. Furthermore, his minutes continue to rise, as coach Jon Cooper continues to rant and rave on his maturity and defensive awareness for his age. Sergachev’s bomb from the point, his speed, size and vision make him a total package and a surefire candidate for rookie of the year. He’s got one of the best teacher’s in hockey playing above him on the depth chart and the biggest chip on his shoulder for his unexpected trade. Expect a big second half from Sergachev.
Boston’s Charlie McAvoy is the prototypical top-4 defenseman every team dreams of having on their roster. He utilizes his speed, smarts and size to separate his opposition from the puck and is able to make quick breakout passes for quick counter attacks. Drafted 14th overall in 2016 by the Boston Bruins, McAvoy came into the Bruins lineup during the 2016-2017 playoffs and overtook Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in ice-time by the end of their series with Ottawa. This season, Charlie has picked up right where he left off, putting up 24 points in 43 games and a +16. He has cemented himself as the most valuable defenseman on his team and is consistently used on the powerplay and penalty kill. His possession stats are excellent, as he utilizes his speed to quickly enter the opposing zone with possession. A very strong second half of the season could see him rise on this list, as he continues to improve his game as the season progresses.