This season, there’s no legitimate race for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the best rookie in the NHL. Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson broke all the records and won all the awards last season in the SHL. Now he appears to be taking home the Calder Trophy while breaking some modern rookie records.
Pettersson’s 10 goals and 17 points lead all rookies by a wide margin, and even a concussion couldn’t slow him down. He’s played just 11 games whereas others have played a few more. Obviously, it’s very unlikely he can keep up the 1.55 points-per-game average or the 34.5 shooting percentage. But there’s lots of room to slow down and still win the race handsomely. 80 points would not be shocking, even after missing a few games already.
Five of Pettersson’s points have come on the power play which means he’s scored 12 points at even-strength. It’s always a good sign when a player isn’t too reliant on power play production. He’s playing close to 18 minutes per game with over four minutes of that coming on the power play.
Pettersson’s ability to play well enough defensively to play down the middle at the NHL level was questionable before the season started. However, he’s quashed all those concerns very quickly. He’s an elite player who continues to get better and better. Whenever there’s a weakness in his game, he works on it and turns it into a strength.
So unless Pettersson faces a long-term injury this season, he’ll add another trophy to his collection. But because my editor doesn’t allow me to submit a 200 word article, let’s look at a couple of players who could challenge for the trophy if Pettersson is injured again.
Miro Heiskanen – Dallas Stars
Last season was Heiskanen’s second in the Finnish Liiga. As an 18-year-old, he led the league in average ice time and won the Defenseman of the Year award. Not only was he the best defenseman in Finland, he was arguably the best one in Europe. European fans don’t usually get to enjoy talents like him playing in Europe unless there’s a lockout in the NHL.
This season, Heiskanen has transitioned seamlessly to the NHL level. He’s scored two goals and seven points in 16 games. Seven points is just two behind the second-place for rookie scoring. Heiskanen hasn’t been relying on power play production either as he has just one point on the man advantage. He’s also added one shorthanded point.
Heiskanen has been averaging 22:16 of ice time which leads all rookies and is third-most on the Stars behind John Klingberg and Esa Lindell. He’s played almost two minutes