The 2015-2016 NHL season has seen many first year NHL players produce on their respective teams. The Calder Trophy Race is coming down to the wire here, and there are a lot of rookies worth mentioning. The oldest of the bunch, Artemi Panarin who’s 24, is having a great season playing on a line with the NHL’s leading scorer Patrick Kane. Panarin has posted 19 goals and 35 assists (54 points) through 58 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s been really impressive in transitioning from the KHL’s style of play to the NHL. Hawks GM Stan Bowman will likely focus on resigning the young Russian in the offseason.
He may not be leading the rookies in points, but my Calder Trophy pick is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers. “Ghost” as they call him, has been fantastic for the Flyers, quarterbacking their power play. The Union graduate has posted 31 points in 37 NHL games, and will continue to get big minutes for the Flyers the rest of the season, and years to come.
Another NCAA alumnus is right in the mix for the Calder, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings. Larkin, the Michigan product, has benefitted from playing along side veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for parts of the season. Larkin’s most impressive stat in my opinion is his plus 24 rating. Most rookies struggle on the defensive side of the puck early in their careers, but Larkin has flourished. He also has an impressive 38 points through 56 games.
Do not think I forgot about the 1st and 2nd overall picks of the 2015 NHL Draft in Connor McDavid and Jack EIchel. The two came into the league as “true freshman” and many people forget how few draft picks can make that transition at such a young age. Compare them to Artemi Panarin, who is 5 years older than the youngsters, but is still considered a NHL rookie. I’d imagine that Eichel and McDavid would be competing for the league’s scoring title year in and year out 5 years down the road. Both made their team’s rosters right out of training camp and have performed well. Eichel has 38 points through 57 games, while McDavid has 24 points through 20 games after missing most of the season due to his collarbone injury. Had McDavid played the entire season, his points per game suggest he would have ran away with the Calder Trophy, but he is playing catch-up instead.
Honorable Mentions: Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Sam Reinhart, Nikolaj Ehlers, Sam Bennett, Colton Parayko, John Gibson, and Connor Hellebuyck.