The Calder Trophy is one of the NHL’s most difficult awards to predict. There are so many factors to consider, including what role will be given to young players, what support an organization has around a given rookie, and how quickly that young man can adapt to the NHL. It’s hard to precisely evaluate all those factors and create a clear list of “favorites.” In fact, last year’s eventual winner, Moritz Seider, started the season as a +1150, a longshot, to say the least.
With that said, there are certain factors that make someone a favorite. Age plays a major role. A player who has developed longer can enter the league with more experience and more size. Draft position is also significant, as top picks are obviously viewed as better prospects. And there’s no minimizing the “hype” factor. So it’s no wonder that Mason McTavish, who tore up this summer’s World Junior Championship (WJC), and Owen Power, 2021’s first-overall pick, are equal favorites for this year’s award (+400), with the Seattle Kraken’s Matty Beniers not far behind.
But what about the rest of the field? Who among the longshots has an honest chance at taking this year’s trophy? Let’s take a closer look, using the odds from SportsBettingDime as our guide.
Kent Johnson – Columbus Blue Jackets
While McTavish stole many of the headlines at this summer’s WJC, Kent Johnson’s performance shouldn’t be overlooked. He scored three goals with six assists and netted the golden goal in overtime to push Team Canada past Team Finland in the tournament’s final game.
Now, Johnson is expected to move onto the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he’ll join exciting offseason arrival Johnny Gaudreau and re-signed goal scorer Patrik Laine on a team that is looking to gain respect in the Metropolitan Division. But while the Blue Jackets now have lots of talent on the wings, they have few obvious answers at center. And that could be Johnson’s path to an explosive rookie season. If he can find chemistry with either Gaudreau or Laine and score a lot of points with their assistance, he has a pretty obvious path to rookie notoriety. Remember: Seider was not much less of a long shot than Johnson now is at the start of last season.
Marco Rossi – Minnesota Wild
This season, everyone should be rooting for the Minnesota Wild’s Marco Rossi. The 2020 ninth-overall pick out of Austria has all the makings of a future NHL superstar. But he lost the entire 2021-22 season due to complications from COVID-19. He tried to compete at the 2021 WJC, but fatigue kept him from performing at his peak. And for precautionary reasons, he stayed off the ice for the rest of the season.
Now fully healthy, Rossi will join a Minnesota Wild team in salary cap hell, who will need big contributions from affordable players and players on entry-level contracts (ELCs) like Rossi. And he joins an offense that was fifth in goals per game last season, with a lot of support to help him get up to NHL speed quickly. The environment for Rossi couldn’t be better, and the heartstrings-tugging back story can’t hurt with the voters. He is certainly one to watch in Calder Trophy voting.
Shane Wright – Seattle Kraken
There’s nothing better than a good revenge story, and that’s exactly what Shane Wright has on his mind entering the season after this summer’s draft. Analysts believed Wright would be the first overall pick for years approaching the draft, but in the final hours, Juraj Slafkovský snuck ahead of him. That alone might have been enough to motivate Wright, but then he watched the New Jersey Devils and the Arizona Coyotes both pass on him as well. The Kraken swooped in at four, probably thrilled to see such a talented player slide that far. But the disappointment was clearly written on Wright’s face.
The Kraken need a lot of help on offense, and Wright should join the roster as a rookie this season. The concern will be whether he has enough support to score at a high level, especially if Beniers gets work ahead of him in the lineup. But Wright will certainly be playing with fire, and that might be enough to give him an edge. He certainly has a shot at the Calder Trophy if he can play like the player long viewed as a first overall pick.
Logan Thompson – Vegas Golden Knights
It’s actually surprising that Logan Thompson is still considered as big of a longshot as he is. With Robin Lehner set to miss the entire season, Thompson looks poised to be the Vegas Golden Knight’s starting goalkeeper. And if last season’s preview is any indication, he has the chops to be a strong NHL goalie.
It’s some wonder why a player with such an obviously significant role isn’t more of a favorite in these odds. Maybe it’s because a goaltender has not won the Calder Trophy since Steve Mason did in 2008-09. Goalies always have some struggles winning non-goalie awards, but if Thompson is a solid backstop for the Golden Knights and helps them return to the playoffs, he will deserve pretty serious consideration for the Calder Trophy.
Who is Your Rookie to Watch?
We’ve named our favorite longshots for the Calder Trophy, but who will you be keeping your eyes on this season? Who have we not put on our list that deserves more consideration? Let us know in the comments. The Calder Trophy picture is always difficult to predict, but there is no question that some rookies will amaze during the 2022-23 season. Let us know who you think will take the top spot.
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Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.