Calder Trophy Power Rankings: Power up
Sure, most teams haven't hit the ice for their first game of the 2022-23 season, but we can still zero in on the youngsters vying to take home the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.
Let's address the elephant in the room first: You won't find Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovsky on this list ... yet. You may remember the Montreal Canadiens opted to take Slafkovsky with the first overall pick at the draft in July, while Wright (complete with that innocuous-yet-piercing stare) fell to the Seattle Kraken in the No. 4 spot.
Their omissions are mostly because they haven't carved out their roles in the NHL yet. There's another rookie center grabbing his fair share of the headlines in Seattle (more on him later). And Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes raised some eyebrows when he said Slafkovsky's early preseason play was "a little underwhelming."
There's no reason Wright and Slafkovsky can't force their way onto these rankings at some point. However, for the preseason edition, we opted to feature five players bound to see plenty of playing time while taking on sizeable roles.
All stats are from the 2021-22 NHL season.
5. Logan Thompson, Golden Knights
|19 (17 starts)||.914||2.68||1||Undrafted|
To say there's a lot riding on Thompson's shoulders would be an understatement. With the ailing Robin Lehner ruled out for the season, the inexperienced Thompson finds himself in contention to become the Vegas Golden Knights' No. 1 goaltender.
That's intimidating enough on its own, but the Golden Knights are still licking their wounds after failing to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Of course, injuries decimated the roster last season, but excuses can only go so far in covering up the fact that the team fell short of expectations. The pressure is pretty high in Sin City for 2022-23, and a large chunk of the responsibility will fall on Thompson (as well as his supporting cast of Adin Hill and the currently injured Laurent Brossoit).
However, the 25-year-old Thompson enjoyed a solid showing down the stretch last season. He paced the team in save percentage and goals-against average, as well as goals saved above average (2.67) and goals saved above expected (1.8) at five-on-five. Time will tell if he can give the Golden Knights what they need to return to postseason form. For Vegas' sake, hopefully, this won't be Thompson's only appearance on these rankings.
4. Jack Quinn, Sabres
|2||1||2||14:53||8th overall (2020)|
Quinn is already used to having huge rookie seasons, which is why he's the first of two Buffalo Sabres players to appear on these rankings. He torched the competition in the AHL last season, potting 26 goals and 35 assists in just 45 games with the Rochester Americans. His outlandish 1.36 point-per-game rate ranked third among all skaters who suited up for at least 20 contests, and he recorded multiple points in 19 games.
The 21-year-old winger was named the 2021-22 AHL Rookie of the Year for his efforts, and we're not sure what's left for him to do at that level. Quinn got into a pair of NHL games in January and scored a goal - a bar-down beauty on the power play - in his second contest. It's about time Quinn made the jump to the big league on a full-time basis.
The consensus seems to be that he's ready. The question is where Quinn will slot into the Sabres' lineup. He could take a spot in the top six and has skated on the second line alongside Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Tuch in the dying days of the preseason. Quinn has some competition for that role thanks to the experienced Peyton Krebs, who has been a good fit in Buffalo since the Sabres acquired him as part of the Jack Eichel trade. Quinn may have to pay his dues in the bottom six before climbing the team's ranks. Regardless, he'll need to make a convincing push to solidify his early case for Calder Trophy consideration, especially with the names still to come on this list.
3. Mason McTavish, Ducks
|9||2||3||13:05||3rd overall (2021)|
Between the NHL, OHL, AHL, Olympics, and world juniors, few players were as busy as McTavish in 2021-22. He started his torrid campaign on a nine-game stint with the Anaheim Ducks and scored a goal in his first NHL contest on Oct. 13.
McTavish truly came into his own on the international stage, though. He chipped in with one assist for Canada in five contests at the 2022 Beijing Games, and he dominated at the world juniors in August. McTavish was named tourney MVP after leading all players with 17 points in seven contests while donning the "C" for Team Canada. He also made a tournament-saving defensive play when he scooped the puck off Canada's goal line in overtime of the gold-medal game against Finland. McTavish's high hockey IQ and top-notch shot have garnered him a ton of hype heading into the 2022-23 NHL season.
What's keeping him from the top two spots on these rankings is the mere presence of Trevor Zegras, who will be the Ducks' No. 1 center. Anaheim also acquired Ryan Strome in the offseason, and he could center the second line. If that's the case, McTavish will either get pushed to the third line - which would be detrimental to his Calder hopes - or move out of his natural position and shift to the wing to get into the top six.
2. Matty Beniers, Kraken
|10||3||9||16:56||2nd overall (2021)|
Beniers will be saddled with the most responsibility out of all the forwards on this list, which justifies his high placement on these rankings. With the Kraken in need of a true No. 1 center, Seattle will likely lean on Beniers to fill that role, perhaps as early as the team's first game of the campaign on Oct. 12. It's a ton of pressure, but the franchise's first-ever draft pick managed to make a noticeable impression during his initial big-league test last season. Beniers made his NHL debut on April 12, and his nine points over the Krakens' final 10 games of the campaign tied for the team lead.
The 19-year-old will get a chance to rack up even more points because he'll probably factor into Seattle's top power-play unit. He led Michigan with 10 goals on the man advantage in 2021-22, and the Kraken could surely use some help in that area. Seattle owned the league's fourth-least effective power play in its inaugural campaign after converting on only 14.6% of its opportunities.
Beniers' brief flash of NHL production last season translates to 74 points over a full 82-game campaign. Whether he can keep up that pace remains to be seen, especially on the scoring-deficient Kraken. But Seattle partially addressed that issue by acquiring wingers Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky in the summer.
1. Owen Power, Sabres
|8||2||3||22:05||1st overall (2021)|
The Sabres haven't played a game yet, but Power's name may already be prewritten on more than a few Calder Trophy voting ballots. The 19-year-old defenseman is widely considered the front-runner for the coveted award, and for good reason.
Like Beniers, Power took his talents to the NHL once his 2021-22 season with Michigan concluded. He played eight games with the Sabres and displayed his poise and maturity. It's a small sample size, but Power showed his potential at the big-league level. Buffalo controlled 57.6% of the shot attempts, 52.9% of the goals, and 56% of the expected goals with the young rearguard on the ice at five-on-five.
Those are decent possession numbers, especially on a team that struggled to drive its fair share of the play in 2021-22. Power did it all while averaging around 22 minutes of ice time per night, the third most on the team during that span. Rasmus Dahlin will probably still shoulder most of the playing time while quarterbacking the Sabres' top power-play unit in 2022-23, but the 6-foot-6 Power will still get plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.
Keep an eye on:
- William Eklund, San Jose Sharks
- Kent Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets
- Marco Rossi, Minnesota Wild
- Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators
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