The 2021-22 NHL season has come to an end and several rookies impressed throughout as Calder Trophy contenders. To keep you up to date, we at The Hockey Writers created the Calder Trophy Tracker, a veritable who’s who of the NHL’s top rookies this season. As the months went by, we saw the rankings change a few times, but one German defenceman and one Swedish forward hailing from the Detroit Red Wings consistently hung out at the top.
2021-22 was supposed to be the year of Cole Caufield of the Montreal Canadiens. Even though he’s been absolutely on fire since the hiring of Martin St. Louis behind the bench, it has been Moritz Seider’s time to shine. He has been everything and more for the Red Wings and is now leading the way as the winner of the award. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at who makes up the big five before the nominations and ultimately the winner are announced in a couple of weeks.
April’s Rankings: 1. Moritz Seider; 2. Anton Lundell; 3. Lucas Raymond; 4. Michael Bunting; 5. Tanner Jeannot
5. Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks)
After being left out of the big five in our last update in April, Trevor Zegras has returned with four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in the final five games of his rookie season. Coupled with Michael Bunting’s injury and Tanner Jeannot’s six-game point drought, he has locked down the fifth spot in the final edition of the tracker. Bunting and Jeannot are both in the playoffs, but that doesn’t matter now, since the awards are for performances in the regular season.
By now, everyone knows Zegras is one of the most exciting (and polarizing) players in the NHL. Throughout his 75-game rookie season, he was part of a plethora of highlight reels, including a couple of Michigan goals and even a Michigan assist that saw him flip the puck over the net to a waiting Sonny Milano who batted it out of the air and into the net. In his short time in the NHL, he has arguably become the most marketable player the league has right now. The Anaheim Ducks’ social media team must be salivating at the prospect of having him in Orange County for the next decade or so that’s for sure.
With Ryan Getzlaf now retired, Zegras will be the face of the Ducks for the foreseeable future. Alongside Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale and coming attractions Olen Zellweger and Sasha Pastujov, they will be a fun team to watch in a Pacific Division that already includes Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Matthew Tkachuk. Not to mention future stars Matty Beniers, Quinton Byfield and William Eklund. People that call the Pacific one of the weakest divisions in the NHL won’t be calling it that in the near future, I can tell you that right now.
4. Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens)
Thanks to an insane run after St. Louis took over behind the Canadiens’ bench that saw him score 22 goals and 35 points in 37 games, Caufield has entered the top five for the first time this season. Better late, than never right? The 5-foot-7 dynamo was electric under the tutelage of another undersized player in St. Louis, showing everyone why he was unanimously chosen by our Prospects Corner panel to win the Calder at the outset of the 2021-22 season.
Playing mostly with Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson, the 21-year-old Mosinee, WI native quelled any concerns Canadiens fans had about his future with the franchise. The combination of St. Louis’ free-wheeling style of allowing him to do what he’s good at, scoring goals, and putting him in a position to succeed on the top line and top power-play unit did wonders for him.
“I think (St. Louis) trusts me. He’s putting me out there in situations to succeed and I’m playing with two great players too so that helps. He trusts my game and I think that’s the biggest part for me. I just gotta keep playing the right way and it’ll keep going like that.”
Caufield’s second half of the season was a stark contrast to the one goal and eight points in 30 games he had under Dominique Ducharme where he saw 14:42 of average ice time and a stint in the American Hockey League (AHL). With St. Louis, his ice time increased to 18:17 and he ended up finishing with 23 goals and 43 points, good for fifth in rookie scoring and only one back of Tanner Jeannot for the lead in goals. He even recorded his first NHL hat trick against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in the final game of the season, albeit without several of their stars in the lineup. I think that deserves some love in the Calder race, even though he won’t end up winning it.
3. Lucas Raymond (Detroit Red Wings)
Finally eclipsed by Bunting and Zegras in points after leading the charge for almost the entire 2021-22 season, Lucas Raymond was the bee’s knees for the Red Wings this season. Next to Seider, he’s probably their best player and a big reason why they didn’t finish in the basement for yet another campaign. His skill and maturity in the NHL at 20 years old have been impressive as he continuously led the attack from the top line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin. He didn’t lead his position in ice time like Seider, but he was amongst the leaders with 18:09 per game. He is, of course, also a fixture on the power play.
Raymond wasn’t supposed to contend for the Calder Trophy at the beginning of the season, but yet, here he is. Finally passed by his teammate Seider and Calder/Selke Trophy contender, Anton Lundell for the top two spots on this tracker, he has surpassed all expectations people had of him at the beginning of 2021-22. Even when the Red Wings were bleeding goals and out of the playoff race, he was still racking up the points and finished his rookie season with an impressive 23 goals and 57 points in 82 games. He was a minus-32, but that’s more an inditement on the team he was playing on rather than his defensive skills.
2. Anton Lundell (Florida Panthers)
Since he returned from an injury on April 2 where he missed almost a month of game action, Lundell picked up right where he left off. He had four goals and six points in 13 games and continued to be the efficient two-way forward he’s been all season long. Not only did he center a uber-third line with Sam Reinhart and Mason Marchment, but he also played on the power play and was one of his team’s top penalty killers. As a line, they combined for 70 goals and 176 points along with a crazy plus/minus of plus-87. Lundell wasn’t a passenger offensively either as he had 18 and 44 of those respectively. Not to mention a plus/minus of plus-33, which of course, led all rookies.
All in all, the former 12th overall pick in 2020 was nothing short of amazing this season, even though he missed some time because of injury. So much so, that it’s kind of hard to believe that he didn’t go ahead of Byfield or Alex Lafreniere at the top of the draft.
On a team with another Finnish two-way force in Aleksander Barkov, Lundell has proven that he can hang with the big boys in the NHL and then some. The Panthers were tops in the Eastern Conference by a wide margin, finishing with the Presidents’ Trophy, and he’s one of the reasons why. Not only did he play almost 16 minutes a night for one of the best teams in the league, but he also logged the second-most average shorthanded ice time amongst rookie forwards. In fact, he finished tied for seventh – amongst forwards with at least 40 games played – in the entire NHL. He also contributed a shorthanded goal and four shorthanded points – again leading all rookies. What’s more impressive is that only six other rookies recorded shorthanded points this season, and Lundell had four of the 11.
As mentioned before, Lundell was also an astounding plus-33 and drove the play with a solid 56.0 Corsi-for percentage (CF%). Not too bad for a guy that hasn’t turned 21 yet, right? Imagine what he will be like at 25 or 30. If he doesn’t win the Calder, I’m sure multiple Selke Trophies are in his future. Heck, he probably will get some votes this season. All I have to say is, that Patrice Bergeron better look out because he might be coming for his mantle very soon.
1. Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings)
All Moritz Seider has done since getting drafted is make Red Wings’ general manager Steve Yzerman look like a genius. Surprisingly selected sixth overall in a class that included highly touted prospects like Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom, and Cam York, Stevie Y decided to swing for the fences and pick a guy from Germany that was ranked by many to go in the second round.
Turns out Yzerman knew what he was doing because Seider is now the best defenceman the Red Wings have on their roster, and arguably one of the best young blueliners in the NHL as well. He has already broken the record for most points by a Red Wings rookie defenceman in his first 10 games and finished fourth in rookie scoring with seven goals and 50 points (tied for 19th among all defencemen). He was also trusted by his head coach Jeff Blashill as he led the entire team in average ice time with a whopping 23:03 per game.
Four out of Seider’s seven goals were game-winners and he’s started to develop a sense of confidence only seen in veteran blueliners. In fact, he dominated stretches of play and even killed almost an entire penalty himself. That’s not just impressive, that’s insane.
Seider has all the tools of an elite top-pairing blueliner. Surprisingly only 21 years old, the future could be filled with not only a Calder Trophy but a few Norris Trophies as well. So, it’s really no surprise that he finally eclipsed Raymond in the race for this season’s award. Only 12 defencemen have won the award in the history of the NHL with five of those currently residing in the Hall of Fame. So, it takes a special kind of defenceman to win it, especially in a rookie class that includes so many exciting forwards. It’s not easy to play defence in the NHL in normal circumstances, let alone as a 21-year-old rookie.
The way Seider can control a game from the blue line has not been seen in Motor City since the days of Nick Lidstrom, and that’s saying a lot. At the end of the day, he should be the winner of the Calder, just because of the sheer domination he showed at arguably the most difficult position in the game of hockey. Well, next to the goaltender of course.
- Michael Bunting (Toronto Maple Leafs)
- Tanner Jeannot (Nashville Predators)
- Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild)
- Seth Jarvis (Carolina Hurricanes)
- Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks)
- Dawson Mercer (New Jersey Devils)
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That does it for the Calder Trophy Tracker for the 2021-22 season. I think it’s safe to give The Hockey Writers’ final prediction for the Calder, and it goes to Seider. We will see if he actually wins it when the awards are given out after the 2022 Playoffs.
See you next season when we unveil a new set of rookies in the 2022-23 Calder Trophy Tracker!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.