Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, or let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.
This week, I wanted to take a quick look at the Calder trophy race, and which prospects are likely to take home the trophy at the end of the 2021-2022 NHL season. The last time I checked in on the most likely Calder candidates was back when I was writing The Journey over at DobberHockey, which Ben Gehrels has taken over wonderfully in the last few months. A couple of things have changed since, and that’s what we’re here to break down.
Lucas Raymond Cleared for Return
In case you’ve missed every scout’s anguished screams on Twitter over the last few weeks, Lucas Raymond missed a couple of Red Wings games due to a positive COVID-19 test. He was released from the NHL’s COVID protocol on December 30th, and returned to play the next day against the Washington Capitals. He was kept off the scoresheet in that game and the next against Boston, bringing his season total to a rookie-leading 28 points in 33 games.
That’s right, Raymond still leads the NHL’s rookies in scoring despite his absence and two scoreless games. That’s how impressive his season totals are. Not only that, but he sits three points clear of second place, and has earned a first-line spot next to Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin due to his impressive pace and puck skills. Very few prospects manage the offensive zone like Raymond does, and despite many scouts doubting how quickly he’d be NHL-ready (myself included, I’m not afraid to admit that I predicted Raymond would play a full AHL season before making his NHL debut), he has proved himself to be not only a top NHL prospect, but a top NHL player.
The intricacy and level of layered play-reading that Raymond has displayed so far in his very young NHL career makes me believe that the Red Wings have their premier offensive weapon for the next 20 years. Sitting two points behind Larkin in team scoring, the dynamic Swedish winger has displayed the ability to run his team, and doesn’t seem anywhere close to slowing down. There are so many of his tremendous plays that haven’t resulted in goals, that I feel confident saying that Raymond isn’t a bushfire. He’s the real deal.
Trevor Zegras: If Fireworks Wore Skates
This kid is going to change this sport for the better. Zegras’ “Dish-igan” against the Buffalo Sabres back in early December is a sign of a shift in the NHL’s culture towards a more light-hearted, fun-first game that’ll attract a lot more new fans to the sport. The prospect even had renowned actor Michael B. Jordan talking about his assist on his Instagram page to millions of followers, which cannot hurt the game’s visibility in any way.