Prospect Ramblings: Calder Power Rankings 009

Brayden Olafson

2020-02-14

 

Welcome back for another edition of the Calder Power Rankings. February has been another exciting month thus far, and some players are making major strides. It’s truly become the year of the defenseman, so in addition to glancing over Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, make sure you dig deeper into some of the blueliners who may be getting overshadowed by your Saturday night broadcasts!

 

For a look at any of the previous revisions of the Calder Power Rankings, check out the following links:


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1. D, Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (-) | 12-30-42

 

 

Earlier in the month, Makar broke the Av’s team record for points by a rookie defender, surpassing former Quebec Nordique, Bruce Bell for that glory. Colorado sits second in the Central Division standings with much of their sustained success owed to the 21-year-old. Since seeing his ice time peak at the end of November and having to sit out for a few games, Makar has been rested a little more on a nightly basis and plateaued around 20:30 minutes per night. He’s scoring at a rate higher than any rookie defender over the past decade, and the margin isn’t small. For scale, his points/60 rate is 28% higher than the next closest rookie blueliner, Erik Gustafsson. I think that means we can consider him a generational offensive rookie, but that’s as far as I’ll go for now.

 

2. D, Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (-) | 8-36-44

 

 

Perhaps his strongest two-week stretch of the season has Quinn Hughes seriously making up ground on Cale Maker, and indicating to fantasy owners that he still has plenty of room to grow. Despite Makar’s outlandish scoring rate, Hughes is every bit as impressive when put to the eye test. Perhaps it’s only a matter of not having the run support, but regardless, Quinn might still have a hard time earning votes over Makar.

 

3. G, Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (+3), 9-5-4, 0.926 SV%, 2.39 GAA

 

 

Late to the party, Columbus’ rookie goalie, Elvis Merzlikins had everyone fooled after his first few NHL games back in October. After a couple of month stint in Cleveland, Mirzlikins is back on the NHL scene with a vengeance. Since the beginning of January, the 25-year-old Latvian has been on another planet, with shutouts in a third of his 15 starts, a 0.948 save percentage, and a minuscule 1.61 goals-against average. At Christmas, it seemed unlikely that he would even be a part of these rankings, but now he could conceivably hold down this spot, and the starting role in Columbus until year-end. 

 

4. LW, Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (-) | 21-11-32 

 

 

The most criminally underrated rookie of the year award will almost certainly be awarded to Blackhawks winger, Dominik Kubalik. The Czech has been floated by his exceptional linemates from time to time, and falls a clear tier below the top-three players in these rankings, but has played more of an effective two-way game than most other rookies and has been a beast when it comes to putting the puck in the net. If you’re looking for an underrated goal scorer, Kubalik is the type of player to kick tires on. 

 

5. D, John Marino, Pittsburgh Penguins (+2) | 5-20-25

 

 

Believe it or not, John Marino has produced at an even-strength rate identical to that of Quinn Hughes. The Pittsburgh defenseman isn’t far behind Kubalik in terms of being underrated and has been shadowed out by an all-around strong rookie class. His lack of pedigree has been a burden on his recognition status, but it also makes his rise to fantasy rookie elite all the more impressive. After an ultra-productive November and December, Marino’s offense has slightly dried up, but has remained more or less consistent. 

 

6. D, Adam Fox, New York Rangers (-3) | 6-23-29

 

 

While Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes are tickling the rookie records of their respective teams, Adam Fox is quite a ways from doing so on Broadway. The 21-year-old blueliner had been on a consistent offensive roll since finding his groove in November, but like his former teammate Marino, has struggled to maintain his momentum. Coming from the ECAC, both could very well be suffering from the compressed and heavier schedule in the NHL, something that several other rookies will have already become accustomed to in their other development streams. 

 

7. D, Ethan Bear, Edmonton Oilers (+3) | 5-13-18

 

 

The year of the rookie defenseman continues with yet another young blueliner consistently teasing the top-10 in Ethan Bear. The Oilers rearguard plays in all facets of the game, and quite well. His physical style is respected in the Western Conference, and his steadfast defensive play has been a welcome and much needed addition to the previously Swiss Cheese Oilers blueline. The fact that he’s managed to contribute offensively on this kind of a scale is a testament to his maturity and newly realized competence of the Oilers’ development staff in Bakersfield. For multi-category leagues, Bear could easily be in the top-5 rookie rankings. 

 

8. C, Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (+2) | 11-24-35

 

 

Many would argue that Suzuki could potentially be one, two, or even three places higher in these rankings based on his recent success with the Canadiens, and in two weeks, I might very well agree. If Suzuki is able to maintain his recent offensive prowess, there’s no saying that he couldn’t finish top-5 in Calder voting, and make these rankings a little less defense-heavy. At 20-years-old, Suzuki is the youngest rookie on the list, and for some that might make more of a difference. 

 

9. G, Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals (-) | 16-4-1, 0.917 SV%, 2.38 GAA

 

 

The illustrious 1B role in Washington has been grabbed and held by Samsonov since early in the season. Initially, I was skeptical to include a “backup” goalie in the rankings, whatsoever, but Samsonov has proven over an extended sample size that he is capable of taking on a role much larger than what Washington may have to offer him. So despite a slight dip in his performance over the last two weeks, Samsonov is still worthy of a top-10 nod among rookies. In his perfect world, the Russian would fall into the lap of a team like Arizona, in which case he’d have a chance at owning the crease, much like Elvis. 

 

10. C/RW, Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes (-2) | 14-15-29

 

 

It’s been disappointing to see the change in offensive pace of the Hurricanes coveted rookie forward as the season has developed. A player who once looked like he might have been the best forward of this class has taken an abrupt turn in his play and as a result, his offense has dried up. Despite the downturn, Necas hasn’t been faulted by his coaches and is continuing to be deployed with relative consistency. With that being said, it’s also disappointing that his success to start the year didn’t result in an elevated offensive role. Stick around another year and Necas should find himself in a more favorable role. 

 

A few notable players who are vying for a spot in the next edition of the top-10 include:

 

Denis Gurianov

Joel Farabee

Sam Steel

Kaapo Kakko

 

Some notable players who’ve lost ground after being in contention for a spot in the top-10 earlier in the year include:

 

Emil Bemstrom

Alex Nylander

 

Make sure to check back in a couple of weeks for the next revision of the Calder Trophy Power Rankings. 

 

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@olaf1393

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