Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The Calder Trophy Tracker is back, and there has been quite a bit of movement after two months of the season. Hot starts have faded away while other players have begun to kick it into gear now that they’ve become comfortable in the NHL.
The rookie of the year race is starting to become more clear as the top few names truly separate themselves. The top two are in a tier of their own at the moment with the next couple of players on their heels. The pack chasing them is going to have their work cut out for them but they certainly aren’t out of it just yet. There is plenty of the season left to capture the NHL’s top rookie honor.
The Kraken’s first-ever draft choice is currently their third-leading scorer with 20 points. He currently leads the rookie scoring race by a wide margin, six points clear of the next closest rookie (Cole Perfetti). He has been Seattle’s best player on a fairly regular basis, playing a mature game that translates to success at both ends of the ice already in his young career.
The former Michigan Wolverine star has been able to play the center-ice position effectively as a rookie, using his speed and high-pace game to dictate play. His transition ability through the neutral zone is already an asset at the NHL level. Unlike most rookies, he hasn’t had to be insulated or sheltered in a major way, earning the trust of the Kraken coaching staff. He’s exceeded expectations to this point after coming into the season as the favorite for the Calder.
The Vegas goaltender has established himself as one of the league's most reliable through the first quarter of the season. Thompson’s play thus far has him right on the heels of Beniers for the clubhouse leader for rookie of the year.
Among netminders with at least eight games played, Thompson currently sits eighth in save percentage (.921), sixth in goals-against average (2.44), second in shutouts (2) and he’s played the ninth most minutes among all goalies in the league.
Thompson plays behind one of the league's best teams in Vegas, which certainly helps. The fact that he’s come in and locked down the crease has been a dream come true for the Vegas front office after starter Robin Lehner was sidelined for the year after off-season surgery and the cap restraints being as tight as ever. If Thompson continues his impressive play, he may just unseat Beniers by the new year.
Sanderson has quietly been the Senators’ top blueliner to start the year.
He brings a level of stability and consistency that is rarely seen from a 20-year-old. The poised young American has found a bit more of an offensive touch as he’s become comfortable in the NHL, gaining confidence as a puck carrier and showing more efficiency as a distributor.
Sanderson's calling card going into his draft year and coming out of college was his defensive game. Although he’s arguably been one of their top defenders in his own end, defense has been the weakest point of a well-rounded game so far. If he can continue to improve his defensive game as expected, he certainly has a shot at climbing up the rookie ladder and into more serious Calder conversations.
Perfetti currently sits second in rookie scoring with 14 points as he has found his role with the Winnipeg Jets.
He is being given ample opportunity, playing with the Jets’ top players and showing he is up to the task. Perfetti hasn’t quite found his goal-scoring touch as of yet, but he is showing his vision on the ice by facilitating for his linemates.
Perfetti has been one of the streakier rookies to start the season, but he ended November with a run of six points in his final five games, including a three-assist night to end the month.
Perfetti is one of the most intelligent offensive prospects around the NHL, and his high IQ is beginning to show more often in The Show as well.
The season has gone about as expected in Arizona. A team that is greater than the sum of its parts but still very much in the cellar of the NHL with a shot at the first-overall pick.
One of the reasons they’ve been better than expected at times is that Matias Maccelli has been a legitimate NHL contributor right away, recording 13 points in 18 games.
The young Finn has been a difference-maker for the Yotes thanks to his playmaking ability and the puck skill that allows him to open space up for himself. Maccelli plays with creativity, and even though he was scratched at one point earlier this month, he remains one of the league's most under-the-radar rookies.
If he was playing in a bigger market, he likely would have a bit more hype around him.
Owen Power has slowly but surely improved with every game this season.
He leads all rookies in ice time this season, and despite his offensive totals yet to reach eye-popping levels, he has driven play at a very high level. He ranks as the top rookie in most advanced statistical categories, which could mean the offensive breakout is just a matter of time.
His defensive play has been up-and-down, but he is finding his footing in that regard while being one of the most effective transition players from the back end in all of hockey. Power shows flashes of the immense potential that made him the Sabres’ No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL draft.
It might not be long before we see Power moving up the Calder tracker.
Welcome to the party, Fabian. The Devils’ rookie has played in 18 games and has 12 points already, good for third in points-per-game amongst rookies with at least 10 games played.
He amassed 10 points in November, second only to Beniers among rookies. While many rookies got off to hot starts and faded after the calendar flipped to November, Zetterlund picked his game up in a major way, even earning some time in the top six.
The 23-year-old Swede has been a welcome addition to the Devils' lineup as they have been the league’s best team to this point. Zetterlund is a hard worker who can dish for teammates and finish on his own when given the chance.
He isn’t the most dynamic player at the NHL level, but he’s finding success as a highly effective complimentary piece on a talented Devils team.
The rugged Canadian center has been bounced back and forth from center to wing and back, looking most comfortable at his natural position of center.
McTavish has a wicked shot but hasn’t been put in positions to succeed. There have been some questionable coaching decisions in Anaheim this season, and the deployment and opportunities provided to young players like McTavish have been chief among them.
McTavish plays a smart two-way game and has improved many of his perceived weaknesses, such as his skating, bringing them up to the NHL level. His physicality and skill blend well, giving him a unique upside if he’s given the ice time that he should get on a team doing as poorly as the Ducks.
While he remains a depth scorer averaging 14 minutes per game, Peterka has found a way to contribute in a fairly consistent manner.
He remains a top-five rookie scorer and is one of the most effective forecheckers among all first-year players. Peterka plays with pep and pace, forcing opponents to make mistakes in their zone and creating off of that.
Peterka is a high-motor winger who likely won't ever be the most skilled player on the ice, but his speed has made a big difference for the young German.
He is a pest through the neutral zone as well, doing all of the little things that coaches ask of their young players when they aren’t scoring the way they would like. Peterka should be able to continue contributing to the scoresheet purely due to his work ethic and speed, two elements that can be lethal in today’s NHL.
The Senators’ October goal-scoring leader was one of the league’s hottest forwards to start the season, but his play cooled off in a major way.
His two points in November coincided with the Senators’ rough month of play. Pinto is doing an excellent job of finding ways to contribute away from the scoresheet, but it hasn’t been enough as the Sens miss his goal-scoring, which was riding a ridiculously high 42 percent shooting percentage.
While regression was surely coming, the fact that it hit this hard caused Pinto's fall down the rookie ladder. He also hasn’t been able to find his game as a playmaker – recording just two assists on the season thus far.
It’s tough for a young center to be asked as much as the Sens have asked Pinto, pushing him into the top six and asking him to help drive play with Alex Debrincat and Drake Batherson.
Honorable Mentions: Kent Johnson (CBJ), Arber Xhekaj (MTL), Kaiden Guhle, (MTL), Wyatt Johnston (DAL), Calen Addison (MIN), Dylan Guenther (ARI), Jack Quinn (BUF), Pyotr Kochetkov (CAR)
The Calgary Flames have the quality to live up to high expectations as a potential Cup contender. But as Adam Proteau writes, the results aren’t there.
Hockey Canada reported more than 900 cases of on-ice discrimination, but there are likely more that went unreported, according to experts and advocates.
Stan Fischler and friends rank the best backups, preview the Rangers’ weekend, analyze the hit on Bryan Rust that led to an overtime goal and more.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today to get the best features and analysis from the NHL and beyond. If you’re already a subscriber, click on the My Account button to sign into your account to renew your subscription, make a payment, redeem a gift, update your payment method and much more…
Calder Trophy Tracker: Beniers and Thompson Lead the Top 10 NHL Rookies – The Hockey News
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports