It’s time for the first edition of The Hockey Writers 2022-23 Calder Trophy Tracker! As we approach the Christmas break and the end of 2022, there have again been a number of impressive rookies who have come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Last season it was Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, and Trevor Zegras dominating the headlines. Now it’s Matty Beniers, Logan Thompson, and Mattias Maccelli’s turn to do the same.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at who makes up the big five for December.
5. Shane Pinto (Ottawa Senators)
Selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2019 Draft, Shane Pinto had a five-game goal streak to start the season to get himself into the spotlight early on. He’s slowed down since then with only five goals in 23 games, but his 10 goals still rank second behind Beniers’ 11. Somewhat of a surprise contender for the Calder Trophy, the 22-year-old has built a reputation this season as a high-volume shooter (62 shots – tied with Mason McTavish for the league lead among rookies) and a threat on the power play from the left flank. Known for his lethal shot and intense work ethic, he has emerged as a cornerstone piece of Ottawa’s rebuilding effort and could be their second Calder winner since Daniel Alfredsson won it in 1996 on the strength of 26 goals and 61 points.
Related: Senators’ Pinto Is a Frontrunner for the Calder Trophy
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Limited to only five games last season due to a shoulder injury, Pinto used the offseason to get stronger and more prepared for what he hoped was going to be a bounce-back season in 2022-23. So far so good, as he is on pace to shatter the 26 goals that Alfredsson had in his rookie campaign and record his first 20-goal season since 2017-18 when he put up 34 for the Selects Academy AAA U18 team.
I think I put a lot of work in the summer, I took care of my body a lot…I was really looking forward to this year especially because of last year, I was hurt.Shane Pinto
The Senators might not be doing so well as a team this season (last in the Atlantic Division with a 13-14-2 record), but on a roster full of young stars in Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, and others, he’s hung with them step for step. He might even be considered part of the core group at this point.
4. Cole Perfetti (Winnipeg Jets)
The Winnipeg Jets have bounced back nicely from their drama-filled 2021-22 season and offseason that saw them miss the playoffs and hire a new coach for the second time in a calendar year. While Rick Bowness deserves a lot of credit for turning this team into a contender again, rookie Cole Perfetti should be congratulated for his role in it as well. With six goals and 18 points in 29 games, he’s become a key contributor to the Jets’ top six and has found a home alongside former captain Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Touted for his hockey IQ and playmaking ability, Perfetti has heated up as of late with two goals and eight points in his last 10 games and is showing everyone why he was a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft. He’s not up there with the top goalscorers like Pinto, Beniers, and Wyatt Johnston, but given that he scored 74 goals over two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Saginaw Spirit – and the fact that he’s only 20 years old – should give Jets fans hope that the goals will eventually come. If that happens, expect his name to rise on this tracker in the coming months.
3. Matias Maccelli (Arizona Coyotes)
Next up is the surprising 22-year-old Maccelli, the only fourth-round pick this season to be a strong contender for the Calder Trophy. He might not win it, but just to be mentioned in the same breath as top-10 picks Beniers and Perfetti and ahead of first-overall pick Owen Power and third-overall pick Mason McTavish should be a victory in itself. Selected 98th overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2019 Draft, the Finnish dynamo is currently only three points behind Beniers for the rookie points lead and paces all rookies with 18 helpers.
Maccelli has also been a presence on the power play with eight points; all while playing an average of only 2:09 (seventh among forwards). When compared to the rest of the league, that’s eighth among rookies. Yet he leads all first-year players in power play points.
In addition to his offensive exploits, Maccelli has garnered praise from his head coach for his work away from the puck – something that is usually a weakness of younger players. “It’s his compete level and his engagement defensively,” Arizona coach Andre Tourigny said. “He takes pride in defending. He takes pride in playing well in the zone. He’s taking pride in blocking shots. He’s not perfect, no one will ever be, but he tries to be, and I appreciate that.”
All in all, I don’t think he was the rookie that many people had tagged as a Calder Trophy candidate from the Coyotes. That probably belonged to Dylan Guenther, who has been impressive in his own right but is nine points back of Maccelli.
2. Logan Thompson (Vegas Golden Knights)
Now we come to the only goaltender on this list, Logan Thompson of the Vegas Golden Knights. Thrust into the starting role after Robin Lehner was ruled out for the season, he has done a masterful job of solidifying a crease that many people thought was going to be the downfall of the Golden Knights in 2022-23. Like Pinto, he’s come back down to earth since the start of the season, but he still holds a respectable 2.62 goals-against average (GAA) and .918 save percentage (SV%) and leads all rookie goaltenders with 14 wins.
Surprisingly in his 21 starts, Thompson has never had a “really bad start” (RBS), which is given out when a goaltender finishes a game with a SV% under .850. He is also eighth in goals saved above expected (GSAA) with 8.51 – notably ahead of 2022 Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin (8.12).
Counterparts Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers and Pyotr Kochetkov of the Carolina Hurricanes may be nipping at his heels, but his consistency this season puts him slightly ahead of them right now. That might change in the next tracker, but considering he’s been the undisputed starter in Vegas for the entire season so far, and Skinner and Kochetkov have just recently emerged, gives him the edge in this race.
1. Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken)
Finally, we have the favorite before the 2022-23 season even began, 2021 second-overall pick Matty Beniers. Leading all rookies with 11 goals and 23 points in 29 games, he has been everything and more for a Kraken team that has surprised everyone and is currently third in the Pacific Division. Showcasing everything that made him a coveted pick in the 2021 Draft, from his high hockey IQ and mature two-way game to his playmaking, intense motor, and speed through the neutral zone, he has arguably become one of the NHL’s top pivots at only 20 years old.
Related: Seattle Kraken’s Beniers Making a Strong Case for Calder Trophy
So much so, that Yanni Gourde compared Beniers to a former teammate in Tampa Bay. “He reminds me a little bit of Brayden Point the way that he skates through the middle of the ice with the puck, heads up, and always with speed. It’s fun to watch” (from ‘How Matty Beniers became a Calder frontrunner — and changed the Kraken’s fortunes’, The Athletic, 12/15/22).
High praise indeed. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol has also been impressed with Beniers’ game and how he’s adapted to the NHL at such a young age. “He’s ready for the physical challenge of being in the NHL as a centerman every day…But the thing that really stands out is his confidence and his readiness maturity wise. That’s what makes him a good player on a daily basis.”
All in all, Beniers has proven already to be a two-way force in the NHL. That’s not something you can usually say about a player who just turned 20 years old. Yes, he still has things to improve on like faceoffs and being trusted on the penalty kill, but that will come with time. Along with the Calder (which is his to lose at this point), I have a feeling a Selke Trophy or two is destined to be alongside it in no time, too.
- Jake Sanderson (Ottawa Senators)
- Wyatt Johnston (Dallas Stars)
- Mason McTavish (Anaheim Ducks)
- Calen Addison (Minnesota Wild)
- Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres)
- Jack Quinn (Buffalo Sabres)
That does it for the first edition of the 2022-23 Calder Trophy Tracker. Check back in January to see any changes and let us know in the comments who you believe should be in the top five.
All stats are from NHL.com, Hockey Reference, and Elite Prospects and are current as of Dec. 16, 2022