Vancouver Canucks blueliner Quinn Hughes should be considered the favorite for the Calder Trophy over Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar.
The Vancouver Canucks are leading the Pacific Division with 64 points, and it’s thanks in large part to rookie defenceman Quinn Hughes, who’s on his way to earning a Calder Trophy nomination.
Hughes has been the focal point of a rebuilt Vancouver blue line that has quickly developed as one of the NHL’s best. The 20-year-old comfortably leads all Canuck defencemen with eight goals and 38 points, and he’s played a major role on a power play that ranks seventh in the NHL at 23.5 percent.
Entering the All-Star break, Hughes was behind Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar in the scoring race. The latter entered Saturday with five more goals and one more assist. The Professional Hockey Writers Association listed Makar first on the Calder Trophy ballot at midseason, with Hughes at No. 2 (Victor Olofsson of the Buffalo Sabres was third).
But Hughes has elevated his game more and more in each passing week, and he had by far the best game of his young career in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win against the New York Islanders. Hughes played 21:06 while picking up two goals, including the game-winner in the extra frame.
Through the first two games of the road trip, Hughes has recorded three goals and an assist. Hughes has also tallied four goals and as many assists in his last eight games. Without his production, Vancouver probably wouldn’t be first in the division.
Hughes and Makar are both defencemen, but it’s safe to think that the Calder Trophy winner will go to the player that finishes with more points. But the voters will surely look at the overall impact the player made on his team, and that’s where Hughes has the advantage.
This isn’t to take anything away from Makar, but he is on a team that was just one game away from the Western Conference Final a year ago. Hughes, on the other hand, joined a rebuilding team that’s now in great position to win their first division title in seven years.
If Hughes holds off Makar in the rookie defencemen scoring race, that should be enough to win the Calder Trophy. And if he can guide Vancouver to the Pacific Division? That would certainly clinch the award for Hughes, one year after teammate Elias Pettersson came away with the honours.