I’m pretty sure anyone who follows my work is aware of my stance on the Calder race (or lack thereof). I rambled back in March that Elias Pettersson had walked away with it, and that as impressive as Jordan Binnington has been, his totals weren’t on par with previous goalies who had earned that award.
But now that the top three names have been announced, I want to dig into the candidates and honorable mentions to see how special their years really were:
Miro Heiskanen, DAL
82 GP, 12 G, 21 A, 23:07 aTOI, minus-14
Underrated stat: 4 GWG
Probably the biggest snub on the ballot was Heiskanen. He played 2 more minutes per game than Dahlin, and did so well enough to make his team playoff-worthy (that’s not a knock on Dahlin, that’s credit to Dallas and the kid for being so competitive with such big minutes going to a rookie). The last rookies to have over 23 minutes TOI and play 80+ games were Tyler Myers (09-10), and Drew Doughty (08-09), Toby Enstrom (07-08), and Duncan Kieth (05-06). Not bad company. His bad plus/minus rating might have killed him among the older voters who still value the stat, but this is a side effect of getting hard match-ups in a tough league. He more than pulled his weight given his clutch goal scoring. He will be a Norris contender sooner than later and its a shame he missed out on the Calder ballot.
Brady Tkachuk, OTT
71GP, 22 G, 23A, 214 SOG, 75 PIM
Underrated stat: 5.4 CF% rel
Lots of people called Ottawa fools last year when they risked giving Colorado Jack Hughes in order to select Tkachuk. But the kid delivered and now that the pick they gave up isn’t top-two, the decision was absolutely the correct one. He stepped in a top-six forward, drove play despite the team being terrible, and was among the top-25 puck deflectors in a league where its not easy to get to the net. There have been 6 other players to top 45 points and 75 PIMs as rookies since the lockout, and they all turned into fantasy hockey multi-cat tanks – Matthew Tkachuk (16-17), Grabovski (08-09), Dubinsky (07-08), Malkin (06-07), Crosby (05-06), Phaneuf (05-06). At the end of the day, he just wasn’t as dynamic at Pettersson, or hit milestones as impactful as the d-men did.
Rasmus Dahlin, BUF
82 GP, 9 G, 35 A, 21:09 aTOI, minus-13
Underrated stat: Combination of every possible fantasy category
The 2nd-highest scoring 18-year-old in history, and the only one since 2014-15 to hit 25 points. If you take age out of the equation and just consider him as a rookie, he falls down the list to the 9th-highest rookie d-man scorer since the ’05 lockout (still not bad). But regardless of any individual number, Dahlin’s most impressive characteristic is that he does everything. 20 PPP, 97 hits, 66 blocks, 34 PIMs, 177 SOG, 4 GWG)… this kid is more than just a point-producer, and he’s not even on a decent team right now. Imagine his fantasy potential as he develops, learns the league, and Buffalo works towards scoring more overall…he’s gunna terrorize your pools.
Jordan Binnington, STL
32 GP, 24 W, 0.927 SV%, 5 SO
Underrated stat: Streak of winning 11 times in 13 game, while starting in 13 of 15 games in a row
I don’t want to regurgitate my previous column too much here, but here’s the summary: When Steve Mason won the Calder, he had 61 GP, 33 W, and a 0.916 SV% (plus 10 shutouts!). When Andrew Raycroft won the Calder, he had 57 GP, 29 W, and a 0.926 SV%. Binnington has the save percentage to compete with these names, and made a really good push in the wins department too. Unfortunately, his total starts number is far lower, and this may have (rightfully) cost him votes. That being said, his unreal performance down the stretch out-lasted the label of “hot” or “streaky”. He was unstoppable for 3 months, so good that if he had played the full season and was even just average to start, he would probably be a Vezina nominee.
Elias Pettersson, VAN
71 GP, 28 G, 38 A, 144 SOG, plus-3
Underrated stat: 12 PIM
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Instant #1 centerman. Led his team in points despite missing 11 games. His points-per-game was the 8th-highest since the ’05 lockout, but every player ahead of him except one had more powerplay points to boost their totals. So fast and skilled at disrupting puck plays, that he took only 6 penalties all season despite seeing top opposition. Lady Byng award probably in his future. Not the best on faceoffs, but hey, he’s only 20.
No NHL first goals to announce this week…with playoffs in Round 2 our opportunity to see players scoring their first is all but closed.
2 weeks ago I tried to figure out why there was a historically low number of rookies in the playoffs this season. Update on the count: we’re up to 28 rookies to make an appearance. 22 shy of last year’r mark. What the heck?
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the start of NHL Round 2, end of AHL Round 1, and varying rounds of CHL action!
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