Calder Trophy Rankings: McTavish, Marchenko enter the fray
The 2022-23 NHL campaign is past its halfway point, and the Calder Trophy race keeps chugging along.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov made some noise in the last edition of these rankings, but the return of Frederik Andersen sabotaged his playing time - the rookie hasn't played since Jan. 15. Edmonton Oilers All-Star Stuart Skinner has been on the fringes of this list all season, but he only got into five games in January - and only earned one win - thanks in part to the reemergence of Jack Campbell. It's difficult to justify giving spots to rookies who aren't playing much.
In this edition, two forwards make their debuts on the list.
5. Mason McTavish, Ducks
Welcome to rankings, McTavish.
The Ducks forward's 17 points in 27 games are the most among rookies since Dec. 1. Thanks to his wintery push, McTavish now ranks third in rookie scoring and is one point behind Winnipeg Jets forward Cole Perfetti for second place. He's also tied with Columbus Blue Jackets youngster Kent Johnson for the fifth-most goals in the class.
What's more, after bouncing around as a winger and a bottom-six pivot throughout the first few months of the season, McTavish earned his first spin as Anaheim's No. 1 center on Jan. 4 against the Dallas Stars. He rewarded his coaching staff's faith with a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory.
McTavish kept rolling two days later against the San Jose Sharks in his second straight game on the top line, becoming the first rookie to have a four-point game this season. Though he cooled off with two points in his last nine contests to close out January, McTavish stayed put as the Ducks' first-line center for the remainder of the month.
A window of opportunity has officially opened for the 2022 World Junior Championship MVP, and he's been a bright spot for the struggling Ducks. Time will tell if he can build a compelling Calder case in the second half of the campaign.
4. Kirill Marchenko, Blue Jackets
We're not sure if Marchenko will garner much Calder Trophy love from the people who determine the winner - the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association - but we're giving him a spot here.
One thing's for certain: Marchenko can fill the back of the net. He's currently tied for the second-most goals in the rookie class alongside Stars youngster Wyatt Johnston despite playing in 24 fewer games. Marchenko's 2.06 goals per 60 minutes at all strengths constitute the fifth-highest mark in the league among players to suit up for at least 20 games, trailing the likes of David Pastrnak, Connor McDavid, Tage Thompson, and Jason Robertson. That's decent company to be in.
It's pretty weird that Marchenko, 22, has yet to register an assist. The Russian winger is one of three players in NHL history to have his first 13 career points come as goals, joining John McKinnon (13 in 1926-27) and Joe Malone (16 in 1917-18). He also tops all rookies with six power-play goals, was the first rookie to score a hat trick this season, and averages the least ice time of any first-year player to reach the 10-goal mark so far this campaign.
Marchenko spent the first few months of the season in the AHL and didn't make his NHL debut until Dec. 6. Who knows what his numbers would look like over a full campaign? We assume world domination.
3. Logan Thompson, Golden Knights
Thompson and the Golden Knights aren't the dominant forces they were for the first few months of the season, but an extended rough stretch isn't enough to completely eradicate the 25-year-old netminder's Calder Trophy case.
Thompson's save percentage and goals-against average are both still top 20 among goaltenders with at least 15 starts this season. He's also one of 12 goalies - and the only rookie - to face over 1,000 shots. He's still seeking his 20th win of the campaign, but he's tied with Nashville Predators stud Juuse Saros for the ninth-most victories in the league. Simply speaking, Thompson earned his spot at the All-Star Game.
Though Vegas has dropped out of first place in the Pacific Division, Thompson has put up a couple of big performances in recent defeats, including a 36-save effort during a shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Jan. 28.
The Calder chase no longer seems like a two-horse race between Thompson and Matty Beniers given the former's recent slide. But Thompson might be able to angle his way back into second place on this list if he and the Golden Knights can regain their early-season mojo. That task just became even harder, though, with captain Mark Stone sidelined indefinitely after undergoing back surgery.
2. Owen Power, Sabres
Power finally lit the lamp for the first time this season on Jan. 23 - then promptly went on a three-game goal streak. The power is on, so to speak.
His red-hot run set a franchise record for the longest goal streak by a Sabres rookie defenseman and made him the third-youngest NHL rearguard to post a goal streak of three-plus games over the past 35 years. Not too shabby for a 20-year-old.
His point totals aren't staggering, but that isn't what makes Power so impressive, anyways; he just remains a steady presence for the Sabres night in and night out. He leads all rookies in average ice time and logs the second-most minutes for Buffalo, trailing only Norris Trophy candidate Rasmus Dahlin. There's also something to be said about the fact that those minutes aren't disastrous for the young Sabres: Buffalo has outscored its opponents 55-40 with Power on the ice at five-on-five while controlling over 50% of the shot attempts, expected goals, and scoring chances.
Despite his workload, Power is a plus-12 on the season, the highest in the rookie class. He also ranks top five among first-year players in wins above replacement (1.2) and goals above replacement (6.9). Having discovered his scoring touch during his first full NHL season, can the 2021 first overall pick keep putting it all together?
1. Matty Beniers, Kraken
We told you Beniers would start scoring again. After the publication of the last edition of these rankings on Jan. 3, the Kraken center went on a five-game goal streak, setting a franchise record in the process. That kind of production is exactly what the Kraken want from their first-ever draft pick and budding star.
That kind of production also earned Beniers a selection to the initial Pacific Division All-Star roster. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old has missed Seattle's past two games due to an injury, and that ailment kept him out of the All-Star Game, which is a shame. Who wouldn't want to see the Calder Trophy front-runner strut his stuff against some of the best and brightest in the league?
Beniers holds the rookie lead in points - he's seven clear of runner-up Perfetti - and goals. He's cruising along with 2.71 points per 60 minutes at all strengths while proving extremely valuable to Seattle's playoff aspirations: Beniers averages the third-most ice time among all Kraken forwards, is tied with Vince Dunn for the third-most points on the team, and ranks second in even-strength goals.
Beniers was held pointless in his last five contests before his stint on the sidelines. Hopefully, the break gave him a chance to recover and return to help Seattle remain atop the division.
Honorable mentions: Matias Maccelli (ARI), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (BUF), Jack Quinn (BUF), Kent Johnson (CBJ), Wyatt Johnston (DAL), Stuart Skinner (EDM), Calen Addison (MIN), Kaiden Guhle (MTL), Jake Sanderson (OTT), Cole Perfetti (WPG)
(Analytics sources: Natural Stat Trick, Evolving-Hockey)
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