Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way. This week, we’re taking a look at the top candidates to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Many preseason lists had Cole Caufield at the top of this race but he has suffered along with the rest of the Montreal Canadiens. Other young stars like Quinton Byfield, Matt Boldy, and Bowen Byram have performed well in small samples but have run into injury problems. Here are the top five rookies at the midway point of the season, sorted by points per game.
Trevor Zegras, ANA
29 points in 36 games (0.81 points per game)
Many prognosticators picked Zegras as their Calder favourite, and he's right in the thick of it here in late January, three points behind the rookie scoring leader but with a slight edge in points per game. He's clearly going to be a dynamic producer at the NHL level. There's already a "Zegras effect" in keeper leagues that has seen the value of young Ducks players and prospects like Max Comtois, Jacob Perreault, Mason McTavish, and Brayden Tracey increase given their theoretical proximity to the young star center.
His production looks sustainable too: he's driving play (52.4% CF), involved in most goals scored while he's on the ice (76 IPP), getting lots of power play time and offensive zone starts (OZ%), and his shot percentage isn't outrageous. His low PDO also indicates a bit of a positive regression coming.
One thing to note is that he tends to score in spurts: he's gone scoreless in 20 of his 36 games but has 24 points in 11 multi-point games. For fantasy, that means don't panic if he doesn't hit the scoresheet for a few games; there's likely an explosion coming. If he can increase his consistency as he acclimates to the league, what exactly might his offensive ceiling be? Dobber's midseason guide has his upside at 88 points but he could conceivably become one of the rare players to push into triple digits.
Lucas Raymond, DET
32 points in 40 games (0.80 ppg)
Still only 19, Raymond is stapled to Detroit's top line and clinging to the top of the rookie scoring race. Looking at his quarterly breakdown, it's interesting to note how wildly his shot totals have fluctuated so far. Here are his shots