Calder Trophy Rankings: Beniers rises to No. 1 as Zetterlund debuts
It's time to see where the 2022-23 rookie class stands after the campaign's first two months.
Sure, it's still early, but it seems like Logan Thompson and Matty Beniers will be grappling for the top spot all season long. This time, it's Beniers' turn in the spotlight.
Let's get into it.
5. Fabian Zetterlund, Devils
It's pretty damn hard to look bad on the Devils right now, but Zetterlund certainly hasn't looked out of place, either.
Zetterlund has spent the bulk of his time on the top line alongside captain Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar this campaign, and the threesome has proven to be fearsome. New Jersey has outscored its opponents 8-1 with the trio on the ice at five-on-five.
The rookie has bounced around the lineup lately, but his individual underlying numbers at five-on-five are still gaudy. Zetterlund paces all first-year players to log at least 100 minutes in goals for percentage (80%) and scoring chances for percentage (59%). He also ranks near the top in expected goals for percentage (60%) and shot attempts for percentage (57.3%). The 23-year-old is producing at an outrageous rate of 2.56 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, which trails only Beniers for the second-highest clip among all rookies to suit up for at least 20 games.
Zetterlund is also tied for seventh in rookie scoring, but only three of his points have come on the man advantage. Out of all first-year players to pot at least 10 points this season, the Swede spends the second-least amount of time on the power play. Look for him to continue to build his Calder Trophy case as the Devils pursue world domination.
4. Owen Power, Sabres
Just like we promised in our last edition of these rankings, here's Power back on the list.
Not only does the Sabres defenseman continue to lead all rookies in ice time by a little over two-and-a-half minutes per contest, but his average playing time ranks in the top 30 of all NHL defensemen this campaign. Not too shabby for a first-year player, huh?
And he isn't completely drowning under the weight of his role. Power has posted underlying metrics over 50% in several key categories, such as shot attempts for percentage, goals for percentage, and expected goals for percentage at five-on-five this season, indicating that Buffalo successfully drives the play with him on the ice. Power's game only continued growing in November. His 55.5% shot attempts share, 64.3% goals share, and 53.5% expected goals share at five-on-five were the best metrics among all Sabres defensemen to play in at least 10 games last month.
The points started falling for Power in November as well. His seven assists are tied for the most points among rookie defensemen in that span. If he keeps it up, there's no reason he can't take one of the top three spots on these rankings in January.
3. Jake Sanderson, Senators
Sanderson has continued to be an absolute treat for the Senators. He ranks second in points by a rookie blue-liner while leading the class in shorthanded ice time.
The 20-year-old forced his way onto the podium of these rankings given how he stepped up for an injured Thomas Chabot in November. In five games without Ottawa's No. 1 rearguard and all-around workhorse, Sanderson saw his average ice time rise to 23:49 - a team-high in that span.
Sanderson's performance didn't take a hit with the increased role. Ottawa controlled 54.2% of the shot attempts, 50% of the goals, 55.7% of the expected goals, and 58.8% of the scoring chances with the rookie on the ice at five-on-five during those Chabot-less contests.
Sanderson was already on our radar due to his poise and maturity while shouldering top-four minutes. But his brief audition as the Sens' go-to guy only cemented our belief that he's worthy of a spot on anyone's Calder hopefuls list.
2. Logan Thompson, Golden Knights
During the Golden Knights' shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 28, Thompson signed "four" and "three" at the bench, signifying he wanted Paul Cotter to take the next shot. Head coach Bruce Cassidy listened, and Cotter responded with the winner. Swagger doesn't have anything to do with someone's Calder bid, but it's impressive that Thompson has buckets of it as a rookie. Luckily for Vegas, he has the skills to back it up.
Thompson currently sits second in the league with 13 wins, while his .921 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average rank fifth and eighth respectively amongst all goalies to make at least 10 starts this season. He racked up six road wins in the month of November, becoming the first rookie goalie to do so since Jonathan Quick in February 2009.
There is an argument to be made that the Golden Knights' defense makes life a lot easier for Thompson, but it isn't like Vegas has turned Adin Hill into a Vezina Trophy candidate: Thompson has been stellar with 9.51 goals saved above average and 5.74 goals saved above expected at five-on-five while wrestling the full-time starting job away from Hill.
Goaltending was the Golden Knights' biggest question mark entering the season. Thompson has done a remarkable job quelling those concerns.
1. Matty Beniers, Kraken
The Kraken are having a lot more fun in their sophomore season, and Beniers' performance makes last campaign seem like a bad dream. Beniers is king among rookies at the moment. He paces the field in goals and points, and his 0.88 point-per-game rate is the highest among players who have suited up in at least five contests.
Though he sees plenty of time on the power play, Beniers leads the Kraken and all first-year players with 16 even-strength points. That production is exactly what the doctor ordered in the Emerald City, seeing as Seattle scored the fifth-fewest goals (152) at five-on-five last season. Now, the Kraken are tied for the fifth most in the league with 59 five-on-five tallies.
The 20-year-old has handily earned the trust of the coaching staff. Seattle sent Beniers over the boards to kick off overtime against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 1. He rewarded his team by scoring seven seconds into the extra frame. Beniers has also seen a ton of growth in his faceoff game. He won only 40.9% of his draws in October, but he's worked that number up to 46.6% since the calendar flipped to November.
Beniers has contributed to some winning hockey in Seattle, and he's only going to continue growing into his role as a reliable, two-way center.
Honorable mentions: Mason McTavish (ANA), Matias Maccelli (ARI), Jack Quinn (BUF), JJ Peterka (BUF), Stuart Skinner (EDM), Calen Addison (MIN), Kaiden Guhle (MTL), Cole Perfetti (WPG)
(Analytics sources: Natural Stat Trick, Evolving-Hockey)