And the nominees for the 2017 Calder Memorial Trophy are……. Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
(I did a write up on Awards Predictions a little over a week ago, which included more in-depth discussion on the Calder Trophy. You can read it here)
The Calder is awarded to “the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition”, so the best rookie. Matthews, a center, is 19 years old. Laine, a winger, is also 19 year old, although it should be noted that he turned 19 after the conclusion of the season. Werenski, a defenseman, is also 19.
Auston Matthews scored 40 goals and 69 points in 82 games this season, both tops amongst rookies. He lead his team in goals, points, time on ice per game (among forwards), and shots on goal. He was the only player this season to record a shot on goal in every game. Matthews also had the most goals and points for a rookie in Maple Leafs history.
Patrik Laine scored 36 goals and 64 points in 74 games this season, both second among rookies. Due to missing nine games with a concussion, Laine didn’t play the whole season, and so he finished with the highest points per games among rookies this year with 0.88, compared to Matthews’ 0.84 (not including Samuel Henley of the Colorado Avalanche, who only played 1 game). Laine’s 36 goals are a franchise record for the Winnipeg Jets/former Atlanta Thrashers. His 64 points are the most a rookie has had since the Thrashers have relocated to Winnipeg. Laine lead his team in goals and tied for third in points this year. He also finished third in time on ice per game among forwards on his team, and second among all rookie forwards in time on ice.
Zach Werenski scored 11 goals and 47 points 78 games this season. His 11 goals are a franchise record for rookie defensemen, while his 47 points are a franchise record for any rookie, forward or defenseman. He finished 13th league wide in defensive scoring. Werenski also lead all rookie defensemen in shots on goal with 188, which is also tops on his team among defensemen.
And the winner is……
Auston Matthews. While Laine had the edge in points per game, and Werenski played a harder position, it’s hard not to give the award to the rookie leader in goals and points. Not only did Matthews lead all rookies in goals, but he was tied for second league wide in goals. It is a rarity for a player to score 40 goals in a season, and Matthews did just that. His hot streak at the end of the year where he scored 9 goals and 14 points in his final 13 games really solidified the Calder for him, and it’s been a long time since a rookie who hasn’t lead in goals or points (as a forward) hasn’t won. Matthews will take home the Calder Trophy this year, and this will likely not be his last award win.