The Calder Trophy is annually awarded to the most outstanding rookie in the NHL. Unlike other awards, a player literally has one chance to win it. Essentially, the winner is decided by a poll conducted through those involved in the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association.
Throughout the NHL season, the “Rookie race” is one of the most intriguing storylines in the league. In some years, dark-horse names play their way into Calder Trophy contention. We saw that with Shayne Gostisbehere in 2016 and Zach Werenski in 2017.
With a new season of NHL hockey is just around the corner, let’s take a look at a list of players who should be considered as early candidates to win the Calder trophy in 2017/18.
Early Calder Trophy Candidates:
Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
Clayton Keller is a skilled, dynamic player with the ability to put up big numbers. Despite his small stature (5’10″, 168lbs), his craftiness, speed and hockey sense make him a very effective hockey player. Keller is creative with the puck and always seems to create opportune scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.
According to scouting reports at the Hockeywriters.com, “He is hard to separate from the puck and can do dangerous things with the stick, similar to his NHL-comparison – Patrick Kane.”
In 31 games with Boston University last season, Keller scored an impressive 21 goals and 24 assists. That gives us good reason to believe he will give the Coyotes an extra weapon on offense next year.
The 7th overall pick of the Arizona Coyotes will come into training camp with a good chance to make the team. If he has time to play with talented players like Derek Stepan or Max Domi, don’t be surprised to see Keller be a front-runner to win the Calder Trophy.
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy was the 14th overall pick of the Boston Bruins back in the 2016 NHL Draft. McAvoy decided to end his college career with Boston College last spring and signed his entry level contract with the Bruins shortly after.
After a series of events, he ended up suiting up for the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. Despite having zero prior NHL experience, McAvoy looked like the Bruins’ best defenseman on numerous occasions.
Heading to training camp this fall, he should be able to lock up a roster spot on the team’s top-two pairing. Being a great puck-moving defenseman, with plenty of offensive upside, Charlie McAvoy should lead all rookies in ice-time and have plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers in Beantown in 2017/18.
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils selected Nico Hischier, with the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL entry draft. Hischier is projected to be a top-line center in the NHL and should be a franchise cornerstone for the Devils for years to come.
The former Halifax Moosehead is a nifty offensive player with superb hockey IQ, passing ability and owns a lethal shot. Depending on how he performs at training camp, Hischier might be the Devils’ number one center on opening night.
With the potential to play with an elite scorer in Taylor Hall, and a decent finisher in Kyle Palmieri, Hischier can become one of New Jersey’s top scorers next season. With very little competition for minutes at center ice, Hischier is almost guaranteed top-six minutes in 2017/18.
Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia Flyers
Nolan Patrick is one of the best prospects the Philadelphia Flyers have had in years and could turn out to be the team’s future franchise center someday. He had a spectacular junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings, amassing 205 points in 163 games.
The 2017 second overall pick of the Orange and Black, is coming into a pretty good situation. The Flyers have a solid core intact, featuring the likes of Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier. Which essentially means Patrick has a good chance to play with linemates that will make his job easier.
Patrick is a highly skilled and all-around player, with excellent two-way play and is capable of generating his own offense. Given that it is his rookie season, the Flyers might move him to the wing to give him time to adapt to the NHL. This might work to benefit Patrick as playing with skilled players like Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds should give him a nice boost statistically.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser had a short but productive run with the Vancouver Canucks last season. He played nine games for Vancouver and showed his offensive potential, by scoring four goals and five points.
After spending another season at the University of North Dakota, Boeser should be one of the most NHL-ready rookies to come into the league this fall. The Canucks are in the middle of a major rebuild and will likely be in favor of youth movement and development.
A player like Boeser will likely get a shot on the team’s top-two lines. If Boeser can solidify a top-six winger spot with a center like Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter, he has potential to be the Canuck’s leading goal scorer next season. Besides that, it makes him a likely candidate to lead all NHL rookies in goals.
Joel Eriksson-Ek, Minnesota Wild
Out of everyone on this list, Joel Eriksson-Ek is the most experienced NHL player eligible to win the Calder Trophy next season. The 20th overall pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2015 has already played 15 NHL games with the Wild last year.
He got off to an impressive start, scoring five points in his first five NHL games. Unfortunately, his form stagnated later on and the Wild did not want to burn a year on his entry-level contract, so he was re-assigned back to Färjestad BK in Sweden.
He is a big strong center, who has excellent vision with the puck. Eriksson-Ek should be able to solidify a top-nine spot with the Minnesota Wild next year. If everything pans out, he could have a breakout year for the Wild in 2017/18.
Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders
Josh Ho-Sang is a dynamic offensive player with incredible hands, along with game-breaking ability. Limited to only 21 NHL games with the New York Islanders last season, he is still eligible to win the Calder Trophy in 2017/18.
Ho-Sang has plenty of untapped potential in the NHL. He should be able to make the Isles squad right out of training camp and play somewhere on the team’s top-nine. As the season progresses, it is possible for him to break into the team’s top-six and see time with John Tavares.
He has shown glimpses of brilliance and has potential to be a 20-30-goal scorer in the NHL some day. On this list, he is my pick to be the Shayne Gostisbehere or Zach Werenski of 2018, with the possibility of finishing the season as a Calder Trophy finalist.
Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets
Evgeny Svechnikov, Detroit Red Wings
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
Do you agree with this list of Calder Trophy Candidates? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to vote in the poll.
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