In the first edition of theScore's 2021 Calder Trophy Power Rankings, we get an early look at how this season's freshmen are adapting to NHL life.
With such a small sample size - and little contributions from the 2020 draft class so far - this list is destined to change drastically.
Suter has made an impact early in his career with the Blackhawks. The 24-year-old undrafted center who spent the last five seasons in his native Switzerland is logging first-line minutes alongside future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane, and he bagged the first of his three goals this campaign during an impressive performance versus the Red Wings. Suter's analytic metrics are poor, and his monstrous shooting percentage (20%) is bound to regress, but Chicago has to be pleased with the early returns from an unheralded offseason signing.
Norris' development has been a lengthy project for the Senators, but it's beginning to pay dividends. The 21-year-old didn't receive much attention after being included in the Erik Karlsson trade package from San Jose, and he's quickly established an important role in his first full season in Ottawa. Norris is centering the club's dangerous top line and getting first-unit power-play minutes. The forward is proving he's worthy, too, while ranking third in rookie scoring. Keep an eye on Norris, who could be a dark horse rookie of the year candidate.
Smith has been a bright light on a surprising Devils squad. The 17th pick in the 2018 draft has frequently shown flashes of his brilliant offensive instincts, and he can become a legitimate star with some effort to improve and adapt to defending at the NHL level. If Smith puts his name on the scoresheet in his next contest, he'll become only the second blue-liner in NHL history to open their career with a six-game point streak.
The Canadiens expected big things out of Romanov right away, and he's delivering for the red-hot Habs. Only 21, Romanov plays with poise and a hockey IQ well beyond his years. His versatile style features strong skating, quick puck movement, and physicality. He'll be in tough to win hardware this season without racking up points, but Romanov has been spectacular so far.
Nearly six years after drafting him, Kaprizov has emerged as everything the Wild had hoped for and more. The former KHL dynamo is leading Minnesota - and all rookies - in scoring while providing a significant spark to a Wild attack that's long been starving for creativity and playmakers. Kaprizov's play during his first stretch of games indicates he may run away with the Calder Trophy after entering the season as a favorite.
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)