Breaking Down The Race For NHL Rookie Of The Year (Calder Trophy)

Artemi Panarin

The 2015-2016 NHL season has seen some crazy things thus far:

* John Scott was an NHL All-Star and was voted the All-Star Game MVP

John Scott

* Patrick Kane had a 26-game point streak

Patrick Kane

* The Montreal Canadiens have free fallen off the cliffs of victory at 27-27-4

Habs Truck

And last but certainly not least

* The league has had an abundance of rookies put together extremely strong first-year campaigns, making it a very interesting race for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year award). 

Let’s break down the rookies who have impressed us the most thus far throughout the 2015-2016 NHL season:

1. Shane Gostisbehere (D, PHI) 

Easily the most impactful rookie defenseman in 2015-2016 has been Shane Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers. While recording a total of 11 goals and 21 assists (32 points) thus far in 2015-2016, Gostisbehere has added new meaning to the spin move as he seems to break a new opponent’s ankles every game. Gostisbehere is miles ahead of the next top rookie defenseman point getter in Ben Hutton of the Vancouver Canucks (16) and is clearly the future of the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Gostisbehere is no stranger to shining in the “City of Brotherly Love.” During his junior season at Union College, Gostisbehere helped lead the Dutchmen to the 2014 Frozen Four in Philly, where they earned their school’s first ever National Championship with wins against Boston College in the semi-finals (5-4) and Minnesota (7-4) in the title game. The future-Flyer registered a total of two goals, four assists, and had a +/- of 9 during the 2014 Frozen Four, and was named the unanimous tournament MVP. Gostisbehere has continued that success at the NHL level and the Flyers seem to have found something special in this 22-year-old stud during what has been a rather mediocre year for the franchise (25-21-10). 

2. Connor McDavid (C, EDM)

It’s the same story like every season has been for the past decade for the Edmonton Oilers (22-31-6) who sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. However, 2015-2016 hasn’t been without its bright spots for the franchise which is under new GM Peter Chiarelli as 2015 first overall pick Connor McDavid has shined exceptionally despite missing more than two months of the season with a fractured clavicle bone. In just 22 games played, McDavid has registered a total of 10 goals and 16 assists for the Oilers and right now could very well be the No. 1 overall pick that ends the lingering frustrations up in Oil Country. Having picked first overall in four of the last six NHL Drafts, Oilers fans are hoping that McDavid is their ticket back to promise, and right now he isn’t giving them any reason to doubt that belief with his phenomenal play in all areas of the ice. 

3. Jack Eichel (C, BUF)

The Buffalo Sabres (23-28-7) had the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and with it, they selected 19-year-old Jack Eichel out of Boston University. In 2015-2016, Eichel has shown why he was a top-5 selection last July as he’s registered 17 goals, 22 assists, and is clearly going to be the team’s franchise player and/or captain in the long run. The Chelmsford, Massachusetts native hasn’t had that consistent of a season but has displayed his incredible shooting ability and skill set multiple times, most notably during his memorable night against the team he grew up cheering for in the Boston Bruins where he registered two goals and an assist in a 6-3 Buffalo victory. 

4. Mattias Janmark (C, DAL)

The Dallas Stars (37-16-6) are having a spectacular season much to the credit of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin who are both top-5 in the league in points. As if Dallas needed any more offensive weapons, the Stars drew the lucky straw when they landed Mattias Janmark in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. Janmark (13 goals, 11 assists) scored on his first shot of his first NHL shift against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 8th and again scored on his first shot on his first shift two nights later against the Colorado Avalanche. This kid is simply a stud, and after seeing some time on the first line and the first power-play unit with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, Janmark could be due to produce some huge numbers as the regular season progresses towards the playoffs.

5. John Gibson (G, ANA)

The Anaheim Ducks (30-19-8) struggled out of the gate in 2015-2016 starting off 1-8-2. One of the reasons why Anaheim has been able to rebound and get into position to make the playoffs this season (currently third in Pacific Division) is due to the play of rookie goaltender John Gibson. Whether or not one considers Gibson a rookie (played 23 games in 2014-2015 and three postseason games in 2013-2014), the 22-year-old out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is leading all rookie goaltenders in GAA (2.11), wins (13), and shutouts (4). Those stats helped earn him a spot in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, where he made an incredible side to side toe stop on Tyler Seguin. Gibson may not be a Carey Price or an Henrique Lundqvist quite yet, but he sure looks to be Anaheim’s goaltender of the future. It’s incredible to think that just two seasons ago it was Jonas Hiller, who’s been a complete but in Calgary, manned the pipes for the Ducks. It only took Anaheim two and a half seasons to basically find their franchise goaltender. 

6. Dylan Larkin (C, DET)

Maybe one of the best-kept secrets in the 2014 NHL Draft was Dylan Larkin out of the University of Michigan, as 14 teams passed on him before he was selected by his hometown Detroit Red Wings at No. 15 overall. A team that is known for its experienced yet skilled veterans such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Kronwall, the Red Wings are beginning to see players such as Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, and Peter Mrazek become the franchise’s core for the future. That future, however, should see a lot of Dylan Larkin scoring goals in a Red Wings sweater as the 19-year-old has mustered 19 goals and 20 assists thus far in 2015-2016 and is not only one of the best rookies in the NHL, but he was voted a 2016 All-Star. Larkin is Detroit’s present and their future, and if he keeps producing at this rate he could become one of the faces of the game and a leader in the Red Wing locker room once Kronwall (35), Zetterberg (35), and Datsyuk (37) hang up the skates. 

7. Max Domi (LW, ARI)/Anthony Duclair (LW, ARI)

Ah, the “Killer D’s.” Both Max Domi and Anthony Duclair had already proven in the past to be two very promising young talents when they won gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors. In 2015-2016, the two young studs made their NHL debuts together wearing the colors of the Arizona Coyotes after Duclair (formerly a NYR draft pick) was included in a trade with the New York Rangers for defenseman Keith Yandle last season at the deadline. Together, Domi (15 goals, 24 assists) and Duclair (16 goals, 17 assists) have attracted the eyes of not only the fans out in the desert but the eyes of the entire hockey world with their quick hands and sharp/versatile skill sets. Domi, who is the son of infamous NHL tough guy Ty Domi, doesn’t exactly play like his father did as his game is more based on skill than it is on dropping the mitts and lowering the shoulder. Duclair, meanwhile, has shown that he can play both a physical and skilled style of play:

Both players are the few bright spots on a team going through some dark times as the Coyotes may not even be playing in Arizona in the near future with the rumors of a possible move to Quebec City or Las Vegas circulating the franchise

8. Artemi Panarin (LW, CHI)

The clear front-runner for the Calder Trophy in 2015-2016 is Chicago’s Artemi Panarin, who has registered a ridiculous 22 goals and 35 assists thus far in his rookie campaign. Yes, it certainly helps to be playing on a line with the NHL’s leading goal scorer in Patrick Kane, but Panarin is playing on another planet right now, and just recently recorded a hat trick against the New Yor Rangers in a 5-3 Chicago win on Wednesday evening. Dylan Larkin and Connor McDavid have both certainly had themselves fantastic rookie seasons, but Panarin is playing like he is a seasoned NHL veteran and has quickly become one of the league’s top players.

Artemi Panarin is basically a symbol of what the Chicago Blackhawks have become, and that is a dynasty. No other team in the NHL has handled the salary cap, the draft, or trades better than the Blackhawks have over the last several years. The numbers don’t lie (since 2009): 7 playoff appearances, 5 Conference Finals appearances, 3 Stanley Cups, and the core of the team of Kane, Toews, Keith, and Crawford still remains intact. No other team in the NHL has been able to stay as consistently dominant as the Chicago Blackhawks have in the last half-decade, and with Artemi Panarin under an entry-level deal for both this year and the next, expect the Blackhawks to continue to dominate the Central Division and force the Western Conference to go through them. 

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