The 2021-22 NHL season is in full swing and several rookies have already jumped out as Calder Trophy contenders. To keep you up to date, we at The Hockey Writers have created the Calder Trophy Tracker, a veritable who’s who of the NHL’s top rookies this season. This will be updated and published monthly and will act as a set of power rankings for the award.
Last season, Kirill Kaprizov, Alex Nedeljkovic, and Jason Robertson were named the finalists for the award with Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild ultimately winning it. 2021-22 was supposed to be the year of Cole Caufield of the Montreal Canadiens. So far, that hasn’t been the case as he’s currently in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Laval Rocket after only one assist in ten games. With him struggling, the field is wide open for other rookies to snag the trophy. So without further ado, let’s fire up the tracker and take a look at where the race is right now.
10. Tanner Jeannot (Nashville Predators)
2021-22 Stats: 5 G – 4 A – 9 PTS
Another rookie off to a great start who is on the older side is Tanner Jeannot of the Nashville Predators. The 24-year-old winger played 15 games last season in Music City and scored five goals and seven points. This season he is producing at a similar pace with five goals and eight points in 15 games. Since coming into the league, he’s proven to be a useful bottom-six forward that brings physicality and a snarl to the lineup.
Jeannot has already gotten into two fights and leads the Predators in hits early in the season. He also plays regularly on the penalty kill and averages 13:58 of ice time per game. He might not be the sexy choice for the Calder Trophy, but if he keeps up the production and continues to bring the many intangibles he has to the ice, he deserves to be in the conversation.
9. Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks)
2021-22 Stats: 6 G – 6 A – 12 PTS
Expected to challenge Caufield for the Calder Trophy at the beginning of the season, Trevor Zegras hasn’t produced at the same rate he did at the end of 2020-21 when he recorded 13 points in 24 games. With the highest average ice time of anyone on this list, you would expect him to be racking up the points a little more. That being said, it’s not like he’s surrounded by established high-end talent.
Zegras is a playmaker, first and foremost. He needs a sniper to finish off his passes. At this point in the Anaheim Ducks’ rebuild, they really don’t have anyone in their lineup that can do that. Troy Terry is playing phenomenal hockey right now, but he’s unfortunately not playing with Zegras. He is stuck with underachievers Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique, who have not been consistent scorers in the NHL for a few seasons now. For him to succeed, head coach Dallas Eakins needs to get a goalscorer on his line. Once that happens, look for him to shoot up this list and dance with the likes of Raymond and Seider.
8. Michael Bunting (Toronto Maple Leafs)
2021-22 Stats: 5 G – 6 A – 11 PTS
Technically a rookie because of professional games played, Michael Bunting, even at 26 years old, could still win the Calder Trophy. Clearly the elder of the 2021 rookie class, he has settled in nicely with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a top-six winger. He might have a leg up on his fellow rookies playing in Toronto with the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner, but that shouldn’t discount the production and impact he’s made with his new team so far.
7. Cole Sillinger (Columbus Blue Jackets)
2021-22 Stats: 4 G – 4 A – 8 PTS
The next rookie to make our top ten is 18-year-old Cole Sillinger of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Selected 12th overall in the 2021 Draft back in July, he was probably the most surprising forward to make the roster out of training camp. Lauded for his impressive work ethic and two-way game, he recently made it past the nine-game tryout period and will be staying in the NHL for the rest of the season.
Sillinger’s best game came against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 3 when he scored two goals and recorded his first three-point night en route to a 5-4 overtime victory. The son of former NHLer Mike Sillinger could be a dark horse contender for the Calder if he can replicate that performance a few more times in the coming months.
6. Dawson Mercer (New Jersey Devils)
2021-22 Stats: 5 G – 6 A – 12 PTS
Another member of the talented 2020 draft class, Dawson Mercer made his debut in the NHL this season after a very strong training camp with the New Jersey Devils. Primarily playing on a line with Andreas Johnsson and Tomas Tatar, he has looked very slick, scoring five goals and 12 points so far this season. A lot of his goals have been of the highlight reel variety as his first goal was a one-timer on a 2-on-1 against Joey Daccord and his next two were quick dekes on Daniel Vladar and Joonas Korpisalo.
Mercer was a highly-touted prospect leading up to the draft because of his unique package of skill and intangibles. His two-way game is solid, he drives play with his relentless forechecking and he’s a great personality on and off the ice. Like Dahlen, he is an advanced stats darling with a 54.9 CF% and he’s only fallen below the 50 percent mark twice in 10 games. Most of his games have been between 60 and 80 percent, which is very impressive for a young guy in the NHL.
5. Anton Lundell (Florida Panthers)
2021-22 Stats: 3 G – 4 A – 7 PTS
Joining Raymond and Mercer from the 2020 draft class is Finnish forward Anton Lundell. Selected 12th overall by the Florida Panthers, he has made it known to everyone in the NHL that he’s here and here to stay. Currently on a hot streak that includes three goals and five points in his last four games, he has been one of the many reasons why the Panthers are undefeated in regulation right now.
Rarely used on the power play, but heavily used on the penalty kill, Lundell hasn’t only shown his prowess in the offensive zone, but in the defensive zone as well. Usually, young players struggle in the faceoff dot early on in their career, but he is excelling with a very solid 49 percent success rate. There were even two games where he won over 60 percent of his faceoffs. Only seven games into his NHL career, he’s already trusted with key defensive responsibilities as he leads all forwards in shorthanded ice time with an average of 3:18 per game.
4. Jonathan Dahlen (San Jose Sharks)
2021-22 Stats: 7 G – 2 A – 9 PTS
Already traded twice in his career since being drafted 42nd overall in 2016 by the Ottawa Senators, Jonathan Dahlen has finally arrived in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks. After a dominant 2020-21 season in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Timra IK where he scored 25 goals and 71 points in 45 games, he is playing top-six minutes with Logan Couture and Timo Meier in his rookie season. With seven goals and nine points so far, he is showing everyone why he was a highly-rated prospect in 2016.
Dahlen isn’t only putting up points, he is driving possession as well. According to Natural Stat Trick, he has dropped below the 50 Corsi-for percent (CF%) benchmark only twice in 11 games and he has posted three games with a CF% of over 70.
3. Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche)
2021-22 Stats: 3 G – 5 A – 8 PTS
Not like the Colorado Avalanche needs more young stars, but they have one in 20-year-old Bowen Byram who they drafted fourth overall back in 2019. It was his potential that led them to trade Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils in the offseason and give him a chance to become a regular on the team in 2021-22. So far, he’s taken that opportunity and ran with it as he’s now one point behind Seider in points and leads all rookie defencemen in goals with three.
The former Vancouver Giants standout isn’t just playing limited minutes either, as he is second only to Samuel Girard and Cale Makar in average ice time. After dominating the Western Hockey League (WHL) with a career that saw him post 46 goals and 150 points in 188 games, he seems to be ready to take the next step and become a top-four defenceman in the NHL.
2. Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings)
2021-22 Stats: 2 G – 11 A – 13 PTS
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 one of, if not the best defenceman the Red Wings have on their roster. Recently named Rookie of the Month by the NHL after eight points in the month of October, Seider has already broken the record for most points by a rookie defenceman in his first 10 games and is currently tied for third in defence scoring. He is also trusted by his head coach Jeff Blashill as he is second only to Filip Hronek in average ice time with 22:26 per game. After his first NHL goal and overtime winner on Saturday, the sky’s the limit for him as he could have some votes for the Norris Trophy this year along with the Calder.
1. Lucas Raymond (Detroit Red Wings)
2021-22 Stats: 8 G – 12 A – 20 PTS
Currently leading all rookies in points and goals, Lucas Raymond has been everything and more for the Detroit Red Wings so far this season. He already has his first NHL hat trick under his belt and his first four-point night after scoring three against the Chicago Blackhawks and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury.
To say Raymond has been a surprising addition to the Calder Trophy proceedings would be a massive understatement. Coming into the 2021-22 season, it wasn’t even a sure thing that he was going to make the Red Wings roster let alone play consistently on the first line and first-unit power play. If anything, he was going to get sent down to the Grand Rapids Griffins to hone his craft and dominate there before making his mark in the NHL. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t look like he needed any refinement in the AHL after all.
Rookies On The Cusp
- Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks)
- Drew O’Connor (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- Arthur Kaliev (Los Angeles Kings)
- Phil Tomasino (Nashville Predators)
- Seth Jarvis (Carolina Hurricanes)
- Vasily Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks)
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That does it for the first edition of the 2021-22 Calder Trophy Tracker. Who will be at the top in December? Will Raymond hold onto the lead or will Seider end up overtaking him? Stay tuned for the next update to find out, and as always, if you disagree with who’s on the list, let us know in the comments below!
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.