Skip to content

Why you shouldn't sleep on Panthers' Tippett in Calder Trophy race

David Banks / USA Today Sports

Only eight players have scored 30 or more goals in their rookie year since the 2006-07 season, and 18-year-old Panthers forward Owen Tippett has an excellent chance to add his name to that list.

The top two picks from the 2017 NHL Draft, Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, are two of the favorites to take home the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, while players from recent drafts, such as Dylan Strome, Clayton Keller, Kyle Connor, Tyson Jost, Josh Ho-Sang, Charlie McAvoy, Thomas Chabot, and Julius Honka, will also garner heavy preseason consideration.

Tippett, however, probably won't get much preseason hype, as he was selected just 10th overall in June's draft by the small-market Florida Panthers.

In fact, of all the Calder Trophy winners who won it in the season right after they were drafted, only Jeff Skinner and Sergei Samsonov (both wingers) did so while being taken outside the top five in their respective drafts in the last 37 years.

Related: Panthers GM expects top pick Tippett to compete for roster spot this fall

Tippett, however, has three things going for him that most of the aforementioned rookies don't:

1. NHL-ready size and shot

One of the biggest problems most teenagers have when they come into the league is that they need to add 15-20 pounds of muscle. The 6-foot, 203-pound Tippett, on the other hand, is built like a truck.

Of the aforementioned Rookie of the Year candidates, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy is the only one listed at 200 pounds or more, according to HockeyDB.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

His shot is also NHL-ready, meaning it's not only hard and accurate, but he can get it off quickly and it tight spaces, not unlike Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets. This past season, he scored 44 goals in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League.

2. Ideal position

Tippett will enter the league as a right-winger, and it's much, much easier to start out as a winger than a centerman or defenseman, as there's less defensive responsibility. This will allow him to focus on what he does best: scoring.

Keller, Connor, and Ho-Sang are the only other top rookie candidates who project to play on the wing this coming season.

3. Elite potential linemates

As a right-winger with a shoot-first mentality, Tippett is a perfect fit to play alongside Florida's two most talented forwards: center Aleksander Barkov and left-winger Jonathan Huberdeau. Both players are left-handed shots and have a pass-first mentality.

Tippett's skating could use some improvement, but if he makes the team and gets to play with Barkov and Huberdeau, there's a very good chance he'll pot 30 goals. In a rookie class that projects to be weaker than those in recent years, that should be enough for him to bring home the Calder Trophy.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox