The 2018-19 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Awards? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted but voting for the awards takes place when the regular season ends. There is no harm in getting our 2018-19 Calder Memorial Trophy predictions in now.
The Calder Memorial Trophy is presented annually to the “Player Most Proficient in His First Year of Competition” in the NHL for that season, as voted by the members of the PWHA. Today we take a look at what the 2018-19 Calder Memorial Trophy race could end up like.
2018-19 Calder Memorial Trophy
Rasmus Dahlin: 81 GP, 8 G, 34 A
Rasmus Dahlin was the first overall pick in 2018. He was expected to be an immediate impact for a struggling Buffalo Sabres defence. His mix of dazzling offence and defence was shown off in Sweden’s top league during the 2017-18 season and was highly anticipated as he made the transition to the NHL.
Dahlin didn’t disappoint. He was easily the best of this year’s rookie defensemen. While the Sabres had another year of defensive issues, Dahlin was one of the only bright spots. The rookie was the most consistent part of the Sabres defensive core. He became a sort of magic key for Buffalo, improving the play of any defenseman he played with.
Dahlin’s 42 points this season rank second in scoring for a defenseman prior to their 19 birthday. The only player to score more was Phil Housley, Buffalo’s now-former head coach, who scored 60. This could be an early bit of foreshadowing for Dahlin. Housley was an incredible playmaking defenseman whose offensive play was among the best in the league. He had six seasons of over 70 points, totalling 1232 points in 1495 career games. Dahlin has clearly shown he has a similar level of elite offence that made Housley great. Being mentored by the Hall-of-Fame defenseman is a very big plus as well.
Simply put, Dahlin is a clear star for the Sabres franchise. He has shown glimpses of the same playmaking ability that carried his head coach to the Hall of Fame. He was the best part of a Sabres team with a lot of pros and cons, with little issues through his first season. There is, without a doubt, a very bright future ahead for the Swede.
Jordan Binnington: 24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV%
Jordan Binnington was a sort of Cinderella story for the St. Louis Blues this year. After being overshadowed by veteran goalies, like Carter Hutton, and star prospects, like Ville Husso, goalie issues strongarmed the Blues into finally giving Binnington a shot at the NHL. The 25-year-old didn’t disappoint.
In his first five NHL starts, Binnington set a record of 4-0-1, allowing only six goals against. After facing a loss in his sixth game, Binnington went on to win nine straight as the Blues In those nine, he only let in 12 goals.
Binnington ended the season with 24 wins, the most of any Blues rookie goalie. In only 32 appearances this season, he was able to record five shutouts. This is a jaw-dropping stat, one that ranked him sixth in the NHL. Only three rookie goalies since 1967 have been able to record more shutouts.
The Blues found their starter for the future in the humble Binnington. He’s due for a hefty pay raise this summer and has a long NHL future ahead of him. His amazing stats make him an easy Calder contender. The only argument against Binnington becoming the 16 goalie to win the award is simply his games played. If he had started the year with the Blues, and played this well, there’d be no arguing his rookie-of-the-year worthiness.
Elias Pettersson: 71GP, 28G, 38A
In what has been a very exciting year for rookies, Elias Pettersson has stuck out. He scored 66 points in only 70 games this season, leading the Vancouver Canucks. It also led all rookies, by a margin of 21. While players like Dahlin and Binnington had historic starts to their career, nobody was able to truly challenge Pettersson for the rookie-of-the-year crown. He was magnificent all year.
Pettersson embodies a fast and highly skilled style of play. He’s dazzling to watch, flaunting amazing speed, shooting, and hands. His amazing numbers were accomplished despite ranking third among the team’s forwards in ice time with just over 18 minutes. As he moves into first-line minutes next season, one can only imagine how his numbers will also rise.
In Pettersson, the Canucks have found their player for the future. In the same way that the Edmonton Oilers have Connor McDavid and the Toronto Maple Leafs have Auston Matthews, the Canucks have Pettersson. He’s a clear generational talent, flaunting a game-changing skillset. He’s apart of what was an already young-but-skilled Canucks roster, featuring Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat. After Pettersson’s dazzling rookie season, the future looks very bright for the Canucks.