Last week the NHL announced center Auston Matthews, winger Patrik Laine, and defenseman Zach Werenski, as expected, are the three finalists for the 2016-17 Calder Trophy.
Below I will look at the case each player has for the award before sharing my winner.
RW – Patrik Laine – Winnipeg Jets
Laine was nothing short of spectacular this season. He finished 2nd among rookies in goals (36), 2nd in points per game (.87) and finished 2nd in rookie scoring while firing more than 200 pucks on net in 73 games.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Laine’s game was his ability to create offense at 5v5. He scored 21 goals, which tied him for 13th in the league, and averaged more goals per 60 minutes than Vladimir Tarasenko, Brad Marchand, Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Ovechkin, to name but a few.
Laine was also a part of the best offensive line in the NHL this season.
C – Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs
For years the Maple Leafs have been searching high and low for a top-end center. Well, they have finally found their man.
In Matthews’ first NHL season he finished 2nd to Sidney Crosby in goals with 40, led all rookies in points with 69, finished 8th in the league in shots with 279, and was the only player in the NHL to record at least one shot in every game.
If that isn’t enough to impress you, Matthews led the NHL with 29 goals at 5v5 and averaged more 5v5 points per 60 than the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Artemi Panarin, Joe Pavelski and Taylor Hall, among many, many others.
Matthews was also a possession driver and the best player on a team that made the playoffs.
D – Zach Werenski – Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets, like the Maple Leafs, surprisingly made the playoffs this season and Werenski’s play was a huge reason why.
Werenski stepped right into the lineup and skated almost exclusively alongside Seth Jones on the top pairing all season long.
Werenski averaged a hair under 21 minutes per night and put up 47 points, a higher total than all-stars like Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, and Shea Weber.
The Blue Jackets, a 100+ point team that featured no shortage of talented players, were much better with their rookie defenseman on the ice than without him.
This is one of the best rookie crops I’ve ever seen. All three of these guys are fantastic and, heck, a legitimate Calder case could probably be made for three or four more rookies.
With that said, I have to go with Auston Matthews. Scoring goals is harder than ever in today’s NHL and he led the league in 5v5 markers and finished 2nd overall. Enough said.
Numbers via datarink.com, stats.hockeyanalysis.com, and hockey-reference.com.
Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)