There’s a question that gets asked still around the league and it wouldn’t be asked if the player they were asking about wasn’t such a phenomenal talent. The question at hand is whether or not Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid can win the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.
McDavid has been out since suffering a broken clavicle against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 3rd and as of today has missed 31 games for the Oilers. He is expected back after the 2015 All Star Game in Nashville and many are curious how he’ll respond once he’s back.
The Edmonton Oilers with all the players in their rich history have never been able to have a player win the Calder trophy. None of the previous three 1st overall picks before McDavid did, nor have Hall of Fame players like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri or Grant Fuhr held the honour.
It’s one trophy that’s always alluded the Oilers and their rookies.
There is one correlation that is very telling about the eventual Calder winner, it’s almost always the leading scorer.
With very few exceptions to the rule it’s almost always the rookie leader for scoring that wins the Calder. The exceptions are outlined as Aaron Ekblad (2013-14), Tyler Myers (2009-10) and Steve Mason (2008-09). Both defenseman in Ekblad and Myers jumped seemlessly from junior to becoming top-pairing defenseman for their respective teams, a feat that is almost unheard of.
The other was Mason who stood on his head and did what very few rookie goalies do and jumped into a starting role and dominated. The rest of the field since the 2004-05 lockout have all been leading scorers.
Here’s the full list:
2014-15 – Aaron Ekblad (Florida) – Jumped from junior to NHL No.1 defenseman, 39 points in 81 games.
2013-14 – Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado) – Led rookies with 63 points.
2012-13 – Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida) – Tied with Nail Yakupov to led rookies with 31 points
2011-12 – Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado) – Tied with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to led rookies with 52 points.
2010-11 – Jeff Skinner (Carolina) – Led rookies with 63 points.
2009-10 – Tyler Myers (Buffalo) – Jumped from junior to NHL No.1 defenseman, 48 points.
2008-09 – Steve Mason (Columbus) – Junior to NHL No.1 goalie, 2.29 GAA 0.916 SV%.
2007-08 – Patrick Kane (Chicago) – Led rookies with 72 points.
2006-07 – Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) – Led rookies with 85 points.
2005-06 – Alexander Ovechkin (Washington) – Led rookies with 106 points.
So what exactly does this say about McDavid’s chances?
Current NHL Rookie Scoring Race
If there is one thing McDavid has going for him that’s keeping this conversation alive it’s that his PTS/GP average of 0.92 is the best among his rookie class. The only player that comes close to replicating the same PTS/GP average is Chicago forward Artemi Panarin at 0.87. The next closest players are Arizona forward Max Domi (0.74), Phildelphia defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (0.70) and Detroit forward Dylan Larkin (0.69) then there’s a dip.
Back in October on paper everyone was projecting it would be a two-headed race between the two top picks from the 2015 NHL Draft in McDavid and Jack Eichel (Buffalo) but if there is anything we’ve learned in years past, the rookie scoring race can become a crap shoot at best. Panarin has been lights out this season mainly due to pencilling in with Patrick Kane who leads the entire NHL in scoring with 63 points in 45 games.
Related: Artemi Panarin Defines Yeast Mode
McDavid has already missed 31 games with a broken clavicle and is expected to be back after the All-Star Game in Nashville. He currently sits 27 points back of Panarin with the biggest obstacle being a mire difference of just a 0.05 PTS/GP average.
Here’s a look at the top rookie scorers to show what the field looks like in front of McDavid.
Projected NHL Rookie Scoring Race
Edmonton still has six games remaining before the All Star break in schedule which means that if McDavid returns for February 2nd against the Columbus Blue Jackets and stay healthy the rest of the way he should get 45 games in by seasons end. That’s almost half of a regular season missed and more importantly almost half of what Panarin and the rest of the rookie class will likely play, barring injury of course.
If you project the PTS/GP average of the class, McDavid maintaining the same pace he had before and a healthy season from the rest of the group, the Oilers rookie could still jump from 17th to 7th. Panarin would be on pace for 27 goals and 71 points to be the rookie scoring leader, Domi would be the runner-up with 60 points and Larkin would finish with 56 points.
The 2nd overall selection of the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel would finish 4th in rookie scoring with 52 points. Then there’s Duclair (48) and Gostisbehere (45) just a shade ahead of McDavid who could finish with 17 goals and 41 points if he can stay healthy and pick up just where he left off.
Here’s a projection of what the Top 10 rookie scoring race would look like:
So Can McDavid Still Win The Calder?
If you factor this whole theory and the common thread of the leading scorer primarily being a lock barring an outstanding performance by namely a defenseman or goaltender, McDavid is going to be hard pressed to win the rookie of the year honours. The honours will likely go to either one of Panarin or Domi as the two leading scorers right now.
Both are projected to finish one-two in scoring to end the season. There is no defenseman outside of Gostisbehere who has a shot at the Calder. Goaltending wise there are some decent goaltenders like John Gibson (Anaheim) and Mike Condon (Montreal) but unlike Mason before them, neither are going to be playing in 60+ games this season.
That means that McDavid can still find his way into consideration, but he’ll have to be on par with his previous PTS/GP or better to even get worthwhile consideration.
It’s too hard to win a trophy plain and simple when you’ve essentially missed half the year. It would underscore the great performances of the other young stars in this league who have stepped it up considerably.
Can it happen? Sure anything can happen.
How likely is it to really happen? Slim to none.
Until February here is some more McDavid to hold us all over…