Rating the highest 20 Calder Trophy candidates for the 2022-23 NHL season

September 8, 2022

It’s that point of the yr once more. With one other hockey season across the nook (they actually have a method of creeping up on us, don’t they?), my annual take a look at the incoming rookie class returns for a fifth straight yr at The Athletic.

Nevertheless, we’re uncertain for a second consecutive season whether or not the previous draft class will produce rapid NHLers (solely Cole Sillinger graduated instantly out of the 2021 draft, and whereas Juraj Slafkovsky and Shane Wright shall be given each alternative to do the identical out of 2022, they’re not automated in the identical method {that a} Connor Bedard shall be a yr from now both), we’re poised for an additional robust rookie class — which has turn into the norm in a league that’s more and more trending youthful.

This listing differs from my annual prime 50 drafted prospects rating in that it has much less to do with projecting gamers into the future and extra to do with the place they’re at within the current. Right here, I’m contemplating issues like a staff’s depth chart, and a participant’s doubtless function, minutes and finally manufacturing inside them — and just for this season. Right here, I’m targeted extra on a participant’s potential counting stats (which, whether or not we prefer it or not, drive awards voting) throughout the context of their doubtless alternative and fewer alone evaluations of their expertise. That is meant virtually as a tutor for fantasy hockey managers to fill within the gaps that Dom’s fantasy projections have bother modeling for gamers who haven’t but hit the league.

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The standards for inclusion right here additionally differs from the one I take advantage of for my very own prospects work. In my different work, I don’t use the Calder Trophy’s definition of a rookie as a result of I discover it too inflexible in some methods (the 25 video games performed cutoff) and too free in others (the Calder’s age standards of under-26 by Sept. 15 of every season doesn’t align with what ageing curves inform us about when a prospect is completed being a prospect). Because of this, somebody like 23-year-old Avalanche signee Ben Meyers, who I might not usually think about a prospect, stays eligible for the league’s prime rookie award this season (and for this listing).

1. Owen Energy, LHD, 19 (Buffalo Sabres — No. 1, 2021)

There isn’t a participant on this listing who’s going to play extra — or be counted upon extra — than Energy will in Buffalo this season. We noticed it on the tail finish of final yr with the Sabres, when he averaged 22:05 in his eight video games in April (third on the staff in ice time throughout that interval). So the place an evaluation needs to be made about alternative and chance of success inside it for every of the opposite gamers on this listing, solely the latter have to be thought-about right here as a result of he’s going to play. There’s no cause to consider he gained’t achieve success, both, which is a reasonably spectacular factor to say a couple of defenceman who doesn’t flip 20 till the top of November. His play and statistical profile as a sophomore at Michigan signalled rapid success on the NHL degree. And possibly extra importantly, so did his play towards professionals on the males’s world championships (the place Crew Canada obtained higher the extra they performed him), the Olympics, and particularly down the stretch with the Sabres in these huge minutes when he carried out properly (the Sabres outscored the opposition 9-8, out-chanced them 75-57, and outshot them 87-63 with Energy on the ice at five-on-five, and he performed to a team-high anticipated targets for proportion of 56).

If he can proceed to drive outcomes, the factors he’ll should be within the Calder dialog will come. The one actual query mark is whether or not he’ll get the PP reps required to go from in-the-conversation to frontrunner-for-the-trophy. In his eight video games late final yr, the 7:43 he performed on the person benefit was properly again of the 27:28 performed by Rasmus Dahlin and even the 17:57 performed by Henri Jokiharju. They’re not going to prioritize him over Dahlin on PP1, however he must both be given Jokiharju’s minutes or take them if he’s going to go from the 30-point season I feel he can put collectively in his sleep to the 50-point one which gained Moritz Seider the Calder. Nonetheless, the mix of his observe report, the minutes he’s going to play and his expertise, ought to give Energy the preseason pole place within the race.

2. Matty Beniers, C, 19 (Seattle Kraken — No. 2, 2021)

I feel there are forwards on this listing who, within the prime of their careers, shall be extra productive than Beniers shall be in his. However as I pulled my hair over the half a dozen forwards that I thought-about slotting right here behind Energy, none felt like they have been going to have a higher alternative than he’ll in Seattle this yr (although a pair got here shut, and I’ll get to them momentarily). There’s an actual probability he’s the Kraken’s No. 1 centre this yr, and a good higher one which he’s at the very least a top-six pivot for them. Due to the best way he performs (quick, decided, two-way hockey), he’s additionally not going to have fairly as steep a studying curve as among the gamers under him right here. It doesn’t harm that he has already proven it, both.

Matty Beniers. (Stephen Brashear / USA Right now)

I don’t count on him to proceed on the nine-in-10, 74-point tempo he performed at in his introduction to the NHL within the spring, however I don’t assume a robust 50-point marketing campaign is in any respect out of the query. My greater concern with Beniers so far as the Calder Trophy dialog goes is {that a} 50-something-point marketing campaign would possibly get you nominated but it surely gained’t win the award, and I’m unsure the Kraken have sufficient expertise round him for him to supply a lot past that. Keep in mind: Jared McCann’s 50 factors led the Kraken in scoring final yr. Will Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand assist them rating extra? Completely. Will they be sufficient to show a superb rookie season for Beniers into a fantastic one? I’m much less satisfied. He’s a protected guess for the previous although.

3. Mason McTavish, C, 19 (Anaheim Geese — No. 3, 2021)

It’s onerous to not get carried away with McTavish’s efficiency on the world juniors — the place he seemed a lower above his friends and his performs screamed “neglect making the staff, that’s an impression NHLer” — and think about him a transparent frontrunner this yr. It’s even tougher when you think about his professional body, power and energy, his physicality, his NHL shot, and the entire different issues that ought to make his adjustment to the NHL degree a comparatively seamless one. However he may also need to deal with one thing that somebody like Beniers gained’t: depth at his pure place, centre. If the Geese are intent on taking part in Trevor Zegras at centre, he’s the No. 1 man there. They’ve additionally signed Ryan Strome, who has performed at a 66-points-per-82-games tempo over the past three seasons, presumably to be the second-line centre. I’d most likely wager McTavish is extra more likely to find yourself as a top-six winger than a top-six centre this season if he’s going to play in that sort of a task. And although I feel he’d slot in simply positive as a 3C behind Zegras and Strome if he can’t seize a top-six function, that’s simply not more likely to produce Calder-calibre numbers.

4. Cole Perfetti, C/LW, 20 (Winnipeg Jets — No. 10, 2020)

I feel there are doubtlessly two very completely different outcomes for Perfetti this season. If the Jets decide to taking part in him on one of many two power-play models, and because the sixth top-six ahead on a line with two of their established 5 of Kyle Connor, Nik Ehlers, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, I feel he’s able to working with it and placing collectively an enormous yr. My perception in Perfetti as a top-of-the-lineup participant is longstanding and undeterred. If, nonetheless, they deem a participant like, say, Mason Appleton, to be a greater match within the prime six, that will take him out of the Calder working altogether. His ability permits him to play with expert gamers and his smarts ought to allow him to raise them. I’m unsure he’ll have the identical impact taking part in with a Morgan Barron or a Jansen Harkins, per se. The excellent news is the Jets have talked fairly overtly about how they’re eager to make Perfetti an enormous piece of the puzzle this season, so I like his odds of getting a glance with the roster’s extra gifted gamers and hanging onto it. We will’t ethically gamble on odds for awards that we’ve a say in figuring out, but when I may, the early traces that Perfetti is getting look beneficial to me (particularly if Jets coach Rick Bowness begins speaking about him in the best way GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has of late as soon as camp begins).

5. Jack Quinn, RW, 20 (Buffalo Sabres — No. 8, 2020)

Quinn’s prepared. I’m assured he’s going to make the Sabres out of camp and stick. But when it’s assumed that Victor Olofsson, Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch are going to be three of the 4 wingers contained in the top-six, who will the final be? I feel there’s an actual probability it’s Quinn, however he’s not the one one with a case and Peyton Krebs confirmed flashes of being prepared for that sort of alternative final yr as properly (plus Krebs clearly has slightly extra NHL expertise). Perhaps it’s Krebs’ to begin, Quinn begins in additional of a depth function, and Quinn takes the job because the season progresses. That seems like a sensible situation. You’ve obtained to be there virtually from begin to end to make it onto Calder ballots although. I feel there’s a situation the place Quinn wins the job and holds it, too. But it surely’s not a positive factor. I feel this vary is honest, accordingly.

6. Kent Johnson, C/LW, 19 (Columbus Blue Jackets — No. 5, 2021)

Had the Blue Jackets hung onto Bjorkstrand, and had Alexandre Texier returned, Johnson would have been a particularly tough participant to fit right here with out seeing how camp performed out for him. Hell, even with out these guys the Blue Jackets’ prime 9 is extra crowded than that of, say, the Sabres in Quinn’s case or Seattle’s in Beniers’ case. We all know Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek shall be taking part in on the prime of the lineup on the wings. It seems to be like Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Cole Sillinger would be the top-three centres. However they’ve additionally obtained Kirill Marchenko, who has a whole lot of believers within the hockey world, coming in as a rookie, and Gustav Nyquist goes to play within the prime 9. That’s eight guys. Johnson makes it 9. Perhaps it’s so simple as that they usually have three balanced traces.

However who performs on the second line, presumably with reverse Voracek on the left wing? Does Johnson have a leg up on Marchenko and Nyquist for that spot? I’m unsure they even know the reply to that. Presumably, Gaudreau, Laine, and Voracek are going to take the three winger spots on PP1. That depth could be a double-edged sword, for positive. On one hand, Johnson will not be gifted the alternatives he’d get on a lesser staff. On the opposite, the alternatives he does get, even when it’s on the third line and second PP, will doubtless include extra gifted linemates than a few of these different rookies anyway. It’ll be fascinating to see the way it performs out. Johnson goes to be a top-line ahead long run. I’m very assured in that. However whether or not that occurs for him this yr seems like extra of a roll of the cube.

7. Jake Sanderson, LHD, 20 (Ottawa Senators — No. 5, 2020)

Senators head coach D.J. Smith has hinted at beginning the yr with a primary pairing of Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub, however there’s little else about their defence that’s pre-determined heading into the yr. That leaves a fairly large alternative for Sanderson to doubtlessly play top-four minutes as a rookie — if to not begin, then actually because the season progresses if he can meet the second, which he’s completely able to doing. That’s notably true on the left facet, the place neither Nick Holden (who’s now 35) nor Erik Brannstrom (who appeared to spherical a nook with Smith late final season however nonetheless has a lot to show) are clearcut top-four defencemen. So assuming good well being, Sanderson is well-positioned for a superb alternative on an improved staff.

There are not any issues about his skating, his bodily maturity or his capacity to defend. And whereas Brannstrom most likely has a leg up on PP2 responsibility, I don’t assume these minutes are a given both. In Sanderson’s best-case situation, I feel he’s the LD2 at five-on-five proper out of camp and established because the PP2 QB by Christmas. If that occurs, and he’s taking part in 19-plus minutes an evening, and he can get pucks into the fingers of their forwards, he’ll have a strong sufficient yr to be within the Calder dialog — even when that won’t fairly be sufficient to win it.

8. Alexander Holtz, RW/LW, 20 (New Jersey Devils — No. 7, 2020)

Holtz’s Calder case doubtless comes down, virtually totally, as to whether or not he performs with one in all Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier, particularly the previous. We all know that a few these spots on the wing within the Devils’ prime six are already spoken for. You don’t pay Ondrej Palat $30 million to not play him there. Jesper Bratt simply scored 73 targets. Yegor Sharangovich has performed at a 25-goals-per-82-games tempo via the primary two seasons of his profession. They’ve additionally obtained to choose whether or not they need to play Mercer because the 3C or use him as a wing (doubtlessly within the prime six).

Nonetheless, although, I feel there’s a clear path, with a robust preseason, for Holtz to earn a job there. And I don’t see any cause why Andreas Johnsson, Jesper Boqvist or Tomas Tatar ought to stand in his method. However by the identical token, I feel he’s going to need to earn it and his nine-game stint within the NHL final yr wasn’t inspiring even when his play within the AHL for a lot of the yr was. And if he performs properly early, possibly there’s even an urge for food to play him in Sharangovich’s spot on PP1 (Hughes, Hischier and Brett are presumably not going wherever there). He’s going to wish issues to fall good for him in ways in which among the gamers in entrance of him right here don’t, however I don’t assume 20-25 targets is out of the query in the suitable setting.

9. William Eklund, C/LW, 19 (San Jose Sharks — No. 7, 2021)

Eklund is getting higher odds in early Calder betting traces than I’m giving him with this placement. There’s an enormous opening at left wing with the Sharks, he didn’t look misplaced when he began within the NHL final yr, and although his season within the SHL didn’t wow hockey people, his professional expertise is an asset and his sport’s well-respected for its versatility. If he can discover some chemistry with one, or higher but two, of Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Logan Couture or Kevin Labanc, he’ll be well-positioned. My hesitation on Eklund has extra to do with the truth that the final forwards to win the Calder in a full season posted 66, 85, 69, 77 and 63 factors, and I simply don’t assume his sport has proven sufficient offensively to warrant that sort of projection. I gained’t be stunned if he scores 15-20 targets and 25-30 assists with the suitable linemates, however 40-50 factors gained’t get it completed (although it most likely will get him on ballots).

William Eklund. (Amanda Cain / NHLI)

10. Shane Wright, C, 18 (Seattle Kraken — No. 4, 2022)

Wright’s ambitions are clear. This isn’t a child who desires to do the post-draft season OHL-into-the-world-juniors factor. He desires to play full time in Seattle this season, unequivocally. And he thinks he’s able to. His actions mirrored that when he skipped the summer time world juniors. They’ll make room for him if he has a robust camp, too. Alexander Wennberg, Yanni Gourde and Morgan Geekie are NHLers however they aren’t precisely a Murderers’ Row. They’re stronger on the wing than down the center, so his place gained’t be a barrier. The larger query with Wright, I feel, is that if the Kraken are ready to make use of two of their 4 centre slots on rookies. It’s bizarre to say this a couple of No. 4 choose who has been on the scene for years, however I feel he would possibly shock some folks. If he does, although, will he outplay Beniers? And even when he does (which I might say is much less doubtless than the opposite method round), will they cut up votes and a focus?

11. Lukas Reichel, LW, 20 (Chicago Blackhawks — No. 17, 2020)

Reichel’s an interesting one in that there isn’t any NHL staff whose ahead group is thinner than Chicago’s, and any individual’s going to get to play with Patrick Kane earlier than they determine what to do with him. In the event that they choose slotting Reichel reverse Kane in an effort to put him in one of the best place to succeed offensively and be ok with himself, there’s clearly actual potential there. However the Blackhawks even have a call to make about whether or not or not they need Reichel to play a full 82 video games on a dreadful staff that’s making ready for fairly doubtless one of many worst seasons in franchise historical past. I’m positive he’s going to get an prolonged look, however there’s additionally actually some attraction to him taking part in out one other season in Rockford at an arm’s size from the tank. I feel there’s an final result the place he performs with Kane and actually succeeds. If he performs with anyone however Kane, although, his odds plummet.

12. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, 18 (Montreal Canadiens — No. 1, 2022)

I’m not fairly positive what to anticipate out of Slafkovsky’s post-draft season. He’s going to play NHL video games. There’s no query about that. He would possibly even play the total yr. They realize it’s of their finest curiosity to offer him each alternative to succeed. However as a result of he’s additionally eligible to play within the AHL, and since in addition they know that the lengthy sport must be the be-all and end-all with him, Laval looms massive too. Between Cole Caufield, Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Evgenii Dadonov and Brendan Gallagher, they’ve additionally obtained six wingers who make sense for top-nine roles — and motivation to place a few of them, too, in positions to succeed in an effort to place them as commerce bait on the deadline. In the event that they determine Slafkovsky’s able to play full time within the NHL, it’s going to be in a distinguished function — one that may place him for the Calder race. However I feel there’s an actual situation the place he performs a superb chunk of the season within the AHL to begin after which takes on a higher function post-deadline.

13. Marco Rossi, C, 20 (Minnesota Wild — No. 9, 2020)

My perception in Rossi isn’t any secret. I feel he’s prepared for the NHL problem and I’m trying ahead to seeing what he does with it this season. There’s additionally alternative available with the Wild down the center. He doubtless gained’t begin in a top-six function, although, and that point spent within the backside six could forestall him from significantly working his method into the Calder race. I really assume his defensive aptitude and the roundness of his sport virtually work towards him being instantly positioned in an offensive function. High prospects who don’t have his dedication to being above the puck, or his power, or his faceoff acumen are sometimes positioned greater within the lineup in an effort to achieve success. Whereas I’ve full religion that Rossi will get there (prime six, PP1, and many others.), he’s additionally the sort of participant who can play all over the place in a lineup.

14. Logan Thompson, G, 25 (Vegas Golden Knights — undrafted)

The Golden Knights’ internet is perhaps extra open for competitors than another staff within the league, and whereas Thompson is the least skilled (20 NHL video games), youngest (25 years previous), and lowest-paid ($766,667) of their trio with Adin Hill (74 NHL video games, 26 years previous, $2.175-million) and Laurent Brossoit (106 NHL video games, 29 years previous, $2.325-million), I feel he’s one of the best goalie of the bunch and I like his odds of taking on the very least a cut up of the begins because the season progresses. That will not be sufficient to win the Calder, however Jeremy Swayman was on my poll when he and Linus Ullmark performed to a 41-41 cut up of the video games in Boston final season with a .914 save proportion. I feel Thompson’s able to placing collectively that sort of yr.

15. Shane Pinto, C, 21 (Ottawa Senators — No. 32, 2019)

Right here’s the factor about Pinto and the Calder: I’m as assured in his NHL readiness as I’m in anybody not named Owen Energy on this listing, however third-line centres don’t win rookie of the yr. I consider he’s going to slot in properly behind Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle, put the damage within the rearview mirror, and start to ascertain himself as a strong — and possibly sometime glorious — two-way centre. I may see him placing up 20-20-40, or one thing in that vary. However his ceiling, given Ottawa’s depth, is a bit more restricted than that of a lot of the gamers in entrance of him. His worth could properly find yourself greater than a few of them due to his faceoff prowess, his defensive play, and his capacity to kill penalties, however these issues don’t normally get the eye they deserve from voters.

16. Vitali Kravtsov, RW/LW, 22 (New York Rangers — No. 9, 2018)

The oldest non-goalie on this listing, it seems to be like Kravtsov, who turns 23 in December, is lastly going to get his alternative to play in a top-nine function with the Rangers this season (even when it’s doubtless on the third line). My view of Kravtsov right this moment is what it has been, roughly, since they drafted him: That he wasn’t a star prospect, that he shouldn’t have been a top-10 choose, however that he initiatives as a superb NHLer who provides a line a little bit of a special dimension along with his size and B-plus degree ability. I count on him to have an honest season and set up himself as a full-time NHLer. I don’t assume he’s going to blow anybody away, but when he can play top-nine at five-on-five and PP2, he’s obtained 40 factors in him. He makes this listing on the off probability that he both performs his method into the highest six or somebody within the prime six will get injured and he takes benefit.

17. Simon Edvinsson, LHD, 19 (Detroit Crimson Wings — No. 6, 2021)

Edvinsson is a superb prospect and he’s going to be an enormous piece of the Crimson Wings’ future. However as is the case with Slafkovsky, his eligibility for the AHL may play towards him. He additionally didn’t promote the hockey world on his rapid readiness to take a job on Detroit’s improved blue line along with his play on the world juniors (although his sickness there was additionally clearly an element). I feel he’s completely able to taking part in within the NHL for the total season, and he could properly play his method into doing simply that. I gained’t be stunned if he progresses from third-pairing utilization to second-pairing utilization because the season progresses if he makes the staff out of camp, both. However the Crimson Wings, and Steve Yzerman, are all in regards to the lengthy sport with their prospects and that may make Grand Rapids an enormous a part of the dialog.

18. Wyatt Johnston, C, 19 (Dallas Stars — No. 23, 2021)

I feel Johnston’s odds of constructing the Stars are barely greater than his odds of not for a few causes:

1. Their depth guys aren’t owed something. All due respect to Joel Kiviranta, Jacob Peterson, Tanner Kero, Marian Studenic and 33-year-old Luke Glendening however they’re not protecting a first-round pick of the lineup if he’s prepared (or at the very least they shouldn’t).

2. It’s NHL or OHL, and out of doors of going to Halifax for the world juniors in December (which he may nonetheless do even when he’s with the Stars) or pursuing a Memorial Cup, he doesn’t have rather a lot left to show there.

He’s additionally — like Rossi — not a top-six-or-bust participant and that versatile, reliable sport provides him a higher probability to play in a wide range of roles in a lineup and work his method up. Given his age, the Stars’ historical past of not leaning into taking part in children his age, and the truth that he’s coming off of an offseason again damage, although, nothing is assured with Johnston. That retains him decrease right here by default.

19. Nick Robertson, LW, 20 (Toronto Maple Leafs — No. 53, 2019)

The Leafs have some critical cap gymnastics to do in coaching camp, and relying on a wide range of situations, Robertson might be a benefactor or a sufferer of it. There’s a situation the place the Leafs don’t carry further forwards to begin, there are fewer jobs in consequence, and Robertson’s waiver exemption makes him a straightforward demotion. There’s additionally a situation the place they bury some guys and he makes himself engaging on the left wing. There stays a gap of their top-six on the left facet, too. Assuming Michael Bunting stays on the Leafs’ first line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Sheldon Keefe and his workers have a call to make as soon as and for all about whether or not they like Alex Kerfoot with John Tavares and William Nylander (the outcomes have been combined). In the event that they determine to maneuver Kerfoot as a part of their cap gymnastics, abruptly Robertson would possibly turn into a favorite for enjoying alongside these two (provided that it’s most likely protected to count on Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and Calle Jarnkrok to kind a checking third line in Toronto). If Robertson wins a top-six job, he’s going to supply by advantage of the expertise round him. However like I mentioned: Loads has to go proper for him for that to occur.

20. Kirill Marchenko, RW/LW, 22 (Columbus Blue Jackets — No. 49, 2018)

There are a whole lot of people across the hockey world who’re followers of Marchenko’s sport and consider he’s prepared to leap proper into the NHL in his first yr in North America. There’s a little bit of a crowd forming at ahead with the Blue Jackets although, even after transferring Bjorkstrand and dropping Texier for the yr. Add in that he’s waivers exempt they usually can transfer him between the NHL and AHL freely, and I feel there are good odds he performs at the very least one stint with the Monsters. No person — not me, not the Blue Jackets — shall be stunned if he makes the staff out of camp and doesn’t go away the lineup, although. He simply seems to be like an NHLer (in measurement, in ability, in observe report).

Honourable mentions:

Stuart Skinner, G, 23 (Edmonton Oilers — No. 78, 2017)

Dylan Holloway, C/LW, 20 (Edmonton Oilers — No. 14, 2020)

Philip Broberg, LHD, 21 (Edmonton Oilers — No. 8, 2019)

Jakob Pelletier, LW, 21 (Calgary Flames — No. 26, 2019)

Ben Meyers, C, 23 (Colorado Avalanche — undrafted)

Noah Cates, LW, 23 (Philadelphia Flyers — No. 137, 2017)

Jack Drury, 22, C/LW (Carolina Hurricanes — No. 42, 2018)

Thomas Bordeleau, 20, C (San Jose Sharks — No. 38, 2020)

Justin Barron, RHD, 20 (Montreal Canadiens — No. 25, 2020)

Jordan Harris, LHD, 22 (Montreal Canadiens — No. 71, 2018)

Kaiden Guhle, LHD, 20 (Montreal Canadiens — No. 16, 2020)

Calen Addison, RHD, 22 (Minnesota Wild — No. 53, 2018)

(High picture of Owen Energy: Timothy T. Ludwig / USA Right now)