The 2015-16 NHL regular season has been the year of the rookie through a month and a half. Multiple rookies are lighting up the scoring sheets, keeping pace with the best of the best.
Two phenoms held the majority of the hype coming into the season, in the most recent first and second overall draft picks, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. But representatives from the 2013 and 2014 NHL Drafts are also submitting their case for rookie of the year.
A couple of defensemen are also playing very well early on, as well as a few goaltenders who have been sharp, playing in backup roles. This year certainly seems to be a strong year for rookies, as the future of the NHL seems to continue to grow stronger with each passing year.
There are also some dark horses in the Calder Trophy race, who could come from behind to challenge, as noted in the 2015-16 NHL Calder Trophy Race – Darkhorses To Watch.
5 goals and 12 points in 13 games
The favourite before the campaign began, and the leader in the race after October. McDavid was awarded with the Rookie of the Month honours in October for his efforts with the Oilers. However, he took an unfortunate fall that had the entire hockey world holding their breath on November 3rd. It was announced that he fractured his clavicle and will be out for over two months, in the best case scenario. Regardless, McDavid was undoubtedly the most impressive rookie through one month. He took the league by storm and quickly found his stride, becoming the most noticeable player on the ice due to his outrageous acceleration and quick hands.
7 goals and 13 points in 14 games
Max Domi has outpaced the expectations placed upon him, as have his Arizona Coyotes, through 11 games of the year. Domi has a nose for the net and plays an intense game, never shying away from a puck battle. He found early chemistry with fellow rookie Anthony Duclair, and has continued his success with Martin Hanzel as well. Playing on a team that had very low expectations entering the season, Domi was given spectacular opportunities from the get-go. He gets substantial power-play time each night, and that has been a huge factor in his early success.
4 goals and 15 points in 15 games
The Blackhawks signing of Artemi Panarin remained relatively quiet through the offseason, which is very questionable. Panarin found great success in the KHL in 2014-15 as a 23-year-old, scoring 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games. That success has translated directly into the NHL through the first quarter of the season. Panarin has been lucky enough to find himself often lined up alongside Patrick Kane, offering him tremendous offensive opportunities each night. He leads all rookies in points thus far, and seems to be getting even stronger as the year wears on.
7 goals and 11 points in 15 games
The Rangers are extremely happy with the trade they made with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011, when they sent Ethan Werek to the Coyotes for Oscar Lindberg. The now 24-year-old cracked the opening night roster this season and has been a promising surprise through 15 games. Currently tied with Max Domi for the most goals among rookies, Lindberg hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s been so dominant that he is tied for the lead in goals and is second on the Rangers in goals, and points, respectively.
5 goals and 10 points in 15 games
The 2012 third round selection by the Blues has had an excellent start to his rookie season. Drafted out of the University of Alberta, the 6’5 defender has been an offensive force so far. Parayko leads all rookie defencemen in points, and in third in goals and fourth in points among the Blues. His +9 rating also ranks eighth overall in the NHL. Parayko has been effective at both ends of the ice and has very quickly worked his way up the depth chart. The 22-year-old looks like he could have a long NHL career.
6-0-2 with a 1.73 GAA and a .936 Save%
Mike Condon has benefitted greatly from a Carey Price injury early in the year. Playing in eight games thus far, the 25-year-old has looked like a solid starting goaltender, reminding fans of the Andrew Hammond run from last season. Condon’s .940 save percentage ranks third among goalies with at least 400 minutes played, and his 1.57 goals against average ranks second. With Price slated to be out for another week, Condon has the opportunity to further prove his worth, but he will be hard-pressed to find many starts once Price does return.
Who do you predict will win the Calder Trophy in 2015-16?
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Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.