As the 2019 NHL All-Star game nears, one rookie participant from the Vancouver Canucks is setting up the most one-sided Calder Memorial Trophy race in years.
The Vancouver Canucks are barely outside of a wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference as the All-Star break begins. Tied with the Colorado Avalanche at 52 points, Nathan MacKinnon and co. hold the tiebreaker, which pushes them into the final playoff spot
But the Canucks can thank rookie sensation Elias Pettersson for catapulting them into the thick of the playoff race. Unless the Swedish forward has a severe decline in production post-All-Star break, he is a lock to win the Calder Memorial Trophy for the NHL’s top rookie.
And at this point in the season, Pettersson is setting up one of the most lopsided Calder races in years.
His production proves that, as the All-Star forward leads all NHL rookies in goals and assists. Vancouver’s new franchise player has 23 goals and 22 assists in 40 games played, which includes a pair of five-point performances. Pettersson averages 1.13 points-per-game, the only first-year skater recording more than a point per contest.
The next closest rookie to the Swede is Colin White of the Ottawa Senators, who has 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 44 games. Tied with White in rookie points is Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin.
Needless to say, Pettersson has been the league’s best freshman this campaign. There has not been this large of a gap between the first and second-best rookies recent memory.
The 2017-18 campaign saw New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal capture the NHL’s top rookie honours. And he won it in a landslide. The Canadian forward earned 1,626 votes from the Pro Hockey Writer’s Association. Canucks forward Brock Boeser finished behind him with just 750.
Barzal racked up 85 points, which is tied for third-most by any first-year player since the 2005-06 season. But Boeser’s performance throughout the year was electrifying, especially in the second half the season. The second-year forward made it a two-man race, even though the stats and Calder voting numbers do not agree.
Prior to this season, the rookie races have always been competitive. They have usually featured two or three freshmen legitimately vying for the Calder Trophy. The last time there was a clear-cut top rookie may have been the 1990-91 campaign when Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings recorded 79 points in 77 games played.
Pettersson is unquestionably the NHL’s best rookie, and he’s the heavy favorite to be rewarded for it in June. And if he maintains this dazzling, do not be surprised to see the 20-year-old forward elevate into the Hart Trophy discussion for the leagues most valuable player.