The race for the Calder Trophy has seemed locked down by Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson for most of the season. He has had some pushes by other surging freshmen at times, like Buffalo Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin and Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov, but there’s one rookie who hasn’t been mentioned as much but deserves to be. Ottawa Senator Colin White is putting forward a solid rookie season, and while not putting up points like Pettersson, he’s doing exactly what is expected of him, and then some.
Related: The 2019 Calder Trophy Race
White has been sidelined for the past five games with a shoulder injury, but was activated heading into the bye week. He won’t win the Rookie of the Year honours with Pettersson, Dahlin and Svechnikov in the race, but the Senators should be very happy with how the young centreman is progressing so far in his short career.
White Having Impressive Freshman Season
White has played 44 games this season while playing on a line with Brady Tkachuk and Mark Stone. In that time, he has collected 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points. Those totals are good for fourth in rookie goals, fourth in rookie assists and second in rookie points. He’s also fifth in power play points, which are all goals (5). White has accomplished this despite having the 20th highest average time on ice for rookies (15:37) and the 33rd highest average number of shifts per game (19.9).
When looking at the player usage charts for White, he actually stands out on the Senators compared to the other centreman who have been playing most of the season, Matt Duchene and Chris Tierney. White has a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 46.89 and a relative Corsi (RelCF) of 3.8.
To compare, Duchene has a 45.22 CF% and a 1.23 RelCF. Tierney has a 41.09 CF% and a minus-3.8 RelCF. In fact, White has the fourth best Corsi for percentage on the team, behind Stone’s 52.98 percent, Nick Paul’s 52.72 percent and Tkachuk’s 52.09 percent. It’s important to note the two of those players are on White’s line.
That being said, White has been facing easier competition than Duchene and Tierney. White has a minus-0.0266 quality of competition rating compared to Duchene’s 0.0502 and Tierney’s 0.0912. Despite this, the results from all of the advanced stats combined come out in White’s favour. White is labelled as an “Effective, top-six two-way player.”
Duchene is labelled as an “Average, top-six two-way player” and Tierney is a “Struggling, top-six two-way player.” Although they both have more points than White. But to his defence, Tierney has played in six more games and coincidentally has six more points. Duchene actually has three less games, but has been shooting at a crazy-high 20.2 percent compared to White’s 13.3 percent.
White Most-Improved Senator From Last Season?
Thomas Chabot may take the title of Most-Improved Senator compared to last season, maybe even Bobby Ryan. But, White is definitely in that conversation as well. He had an underwhelming 21 games last season with two goals and six points. He has become the team’s second-line centre, even if he was forced into it with the injury to Jean-Gabriel Pageau in training camp.
Last season, his point-per-game rate was .28. In 2018-19, that number has doubled to .59 points-per-game. Taken in the first round, 21st overall in 2015, White was expected to produce. He was coming off a point-per-game pace with the U.S. National U18 Team with 54 points in as many games, nine points with the Team USA U18’s in seven games and 17 points in 20 games for the USNTDP Juniors. It seems as though White is coming into that role in the NHL. It’s not a point-per-game pace, but he’s on-pace for 48 points right now, which is great for a rookie campaign.
However, while looking at all of the positives of White’s season, it’s hard not think that some of his success might be due to playing with Stone. Stone is one of the biggest stars on the team and has made that known on the scoreboard this season. The Senators star has 22 goals and 50 points in 50 games and, as mentioned, plays on a line with White. In fact, Stone has factored in on 19 of White’s 26 points, including 10 assists (Reminder: White has 11 goals).
White Returning From Injury, What’s Next?
Now that White is returning from injury, the hope for the Senators will be that he continues to build on his season. As mentioned, he’s on-pace for 48 points. Anything around that should be a big win for the Senators. His development is also important when it comes to the status of Duchene. White may not be ready for top line minutes now, but Pageau could finish the season on the top line before handing it off to White next season. Unless Duchene stays in Ottawa, of course.
Either way, White is having a great season for the team and they should be celebrating his return from injury. As mentioned, he won’t be winning the Calder Trophy, but he should be in the conversation. He is, after all, currently second in rookie scoring. Pettersson seems like a lock at this point for the trophy. Dahlin, Svechnikov, maybe even Dallas Stars’ Miro Heiskanin and teammate Tkachuk, should be White’s top competition to round out the top-three.
He looks to be a promising piece for the Senators at this point in his career, and is already a bright spot on another dark season in Ottawa.
Statistics from Hockey-Reference.com
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.