Dallas Stars rookie winger Jason Robertson is finally being considered a finalist for the Calder Trophy. His first 10 games were uneventful. He recorded six points, including his first career NHL goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in February. He then exploded in March, scoring 16 points in 17 games and was quietly moved up to the first line to help Dallas make a playoff push. In April, he has 15 points in 14 games. He also tallied 31 of this season’s 37 points inside this two-month span, averaging a point per game.
Robertson now sits second in betting odds for the top contenders for the Calder Trophy, but he is closing in on leader Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild. Kaprizov entered the season as a betting favorite to win the Calder alongside New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere. Other candidates include goalies Kevin Lankinen of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Wild’s Kaapo Kahkonen.
Kaprizov has been the only rookie to maintain his preseason hype. Lafreniere fell out of contention in February, after scoring three points in 19 games. Lankinen lost ground on Kaprizov when his stellar 1.97 goals-against average (GAA) in January ballooned to a 2.94 GAA in February. Kahkonen faded from contention in March when Cam Talbot started more games in net.
Despite the shortcomings of his competition, Kaprizov is a front-runner for a reason. His 41 points in 47 games lead all rookies. He leads the Wild in goals, power-play goals, and points, which is impressive enough to show that he will be a future star in the league. Kaprizov also broke the franchise rookie points record earlier this month.
His already outstanding resume may make him a lock for the Calder Trophy, even if Robertson can pass him in points by the time the season is over. Robertson wasn’t even close to being considered for the Calder before the season, and Kaprizov’s accomplishments only make the argument for the 2017 second-round pick harder.
There is a lingering feeling that because Kaprizov was a front-runner at the beginning of the season, his name is etched in people’s minds. His continued success might overshadow the accomplishments of other rookies.
However, Robertson brings more to his team than Kaprizov does to his. Robertson didn’t have the same amount of established ice time until well into the season. In his first five games, he played under 15 minutes a night. In his first 10 games, he only surpassed 15 minutes once.
Kaprizov is the opposite. In 47 games, he has only played fewer than 15 minutes in four games. He was pushed by the Wild to become a crucial part of their offense and the gamble paid off. Robertson didn’t consistently earn over 15 minutes of ice time until the middle of March.
Robertson has also scored more of his goals at 5-on-5. Since March 1, he has kept pace with the New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid as a leader in points at full strength.
What’s remarkable about this is that it goes against Dallas’ style of play. The Stars usually dump the puck, win the battle on the boards, set up an opening by containing the puck, and score that way. Robertson tends to create chances by prioritizing shooting the puck and charging the net. He showed his talent in Saturday’s win against the Detroit Red Wings by assisting on the tying goal in the third period.
The Verdict: Robertson Is Being Overlooked
Even though Kaprizov has an edge in Calder voting, Robertson is comparable and has provided similar production in less time. Kaprizov was also implemented in a system that needed a goal-scorer to help it work. Robertson is scoring at a solid rate in a system that isn’t predicated on scoring. Both have been impactful additions to their teams, but Robertson has been unfairly overlooked for the Calder because of his late and unpredictable impact on the Stars.