On March 19, Jared Clinton of The Hockey News wrote that the Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Petterson had a chance to become the first unanimous Calder Trophy winner since Teemu Selanne in 1992-93. That season, Selanne broke every rookie goal-scoring record in NHL history by collecting 76 goals and 56 assists, for an amazing 132 points. He clearly deserved a clean sweep of first-place votes.
Clinton might have made that comment only a month ago, but the Calder Trophy conversation seems to have become more muddled since then. Jordan Binnington, the great young goalie of the St. Louis Blues, is making a case that Pettersson’s Calder Trophy
The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded after each season to “the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.” The Calder has been around since 1937 and is one of the NHL’s oldest awards other than the Stanley Cup itself.
Clearly, the race for the Calder is solely between these two great young hockey players. Pettersson was a surprise, but he’s been good all season. However, the Canucks didn’t make the playoffs.
On the other hand, Binnington has been great for half a season, but he’s fueled the resurgence of the Blues from their lowest point to a first-round playoff victory over the Winnipeg Jets. As a result, there’s a chance Binnington could wrestle the Calder from Pettersson, who was the uncontested leader not long ago.
The Case for Pettersson
Although he was injured during the season, Pettersson played in 71 games, scoring 28 goals and 38 assists for a total of 64 points. No Canuck rookie has ever scored 70 points during a season, nor has a Canuck skater scored over 70 points since both Henrik and Daniel Sedin did it during the 2014-15 season. Pettersson was close. For good measure, Pettersson set a Canucks’ rookie record with seven game-winning goals.
Pettersson was a human highlight reel all season. He scored his first NHL goal on his first shot during the fifth shift of his first game, a 5-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 3, and he didn’t quit. However, as great as Pettersson has been on the ice, he’s also brought hope for the future to a franchise that has been languishing since the 2012-13 strike-shortened season.
Until Bennington, Pettersson’s main competition was to have been Rasmus Dahlin, who had a great season for the Buffalo Sabres and got better as the season progressed. But Dahlin wasn’t in Pettersson’s class as a Calder candidate. The other young skater thought to be Calder competition was the Dallas Stars’ Miro Heiskanen, who also had a great, All-Star rookie year. However, his season didn’t match Pettersson’s.
Dahlin suggested that Pettersson “is the
So, even Dahlin gives himself little chance. Again, however, no one seemed to have much of a chance compared to Pettersson. That is, until Binnington.
The Case for Binnington
Entering the season, Binnington wasn’t on anyone’s radar. In fact, he wasn’t even the Blue’s backup goalie. The Blue’s goalie of the future was thought to be Ville Husso. But, when Husso was injured, Binnington stepped in.
On the morning of Jan. 3, 2019, the Blues were last in the NHL. Binnington started his first game on Jan. 7 – he shut out the Philadelphia Flyers. After that, he never slowed down. The Blues compiled a 30-10-5 record to pull the team’s final record of 45-28-9 (99 points).
The Blues posted a franchise record 11-game winning streak from Jan. 23 – Feb. 19. It was the longest winning streak in the NHL this season. In February, the team had a 12-1-1 record, which was their franchise record for wins in February.
However, does that make him competition for Pettersson as the rookie of the year?
Should Binnington Win the Calder?
As I noted earlier, for much of this season Pettersson was seen the runaway to win the Calder. Although he was injured, he put up strong goal-scoring numbers. Pettersson’s near-point-per-game pace led all rookie scorers.
Voters might have a tough time choosing between these two great players because there’s a big difference between goaltending and scoring. Which is more important to
However, there is one aspect that should carry Pettersson to a Calder win. That’s the difference in their season’s playing time. And, there’s a recent precedent for considering playing time as a requirement. In 2015-16, Connor McDavid lost the Calder to Chicago Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin largely because McDavid missed a large part of the season with a broken collarbone. Because he played too few games, voters deemed that he shouldn’t win the award.
Although the Blues wouldn’t be in the playoffs without him, Binnington didn’t make his first start until Game 40 of the Blues’ season, and that puts him McDavid territory. That said, Binnington carried the Blues on the team’s historic climb from the very bottom of the NHL to the second round of this season’s playoffs. There’s a case for him picking up first-place votes in the Calder Trophy race.
If Binnington does win the Calder, he would be the first goalie to win since the 2008-09 season, when 20-year-old Steve Mason (Binnington is 24 years old) played over 60 games. In total, only 15 of the 81 trophy winners have been goaltenders, and they all played many more games during their rookie years than Binnington has.
A Closer Vote Now Than Before
As good as Binnington has been this season, I don’t believe voters will believe he’s played enough games. I would vote for Pettersson if I were a voter, but I am not. It will be interesting to see what the Calder Trophy voters will do. One thing is certain, the voting will be a lot closer now than it would have been on Jan. 7.