NHL 2023-24 futures: Best bets to win the Calder Trophy
This year's rookie class is loaded with as much depth and high-end talent as any in recent memory.
Connor Bedard is rightfully the heavy favorite to take home the Calder. But there isn't a ton of value in backing the young phenom since there are a lot of other quality rookies in this class, and considering one unlucky injury could take the Blackhawks center out of the race.
With that in mind, let's look at a few rookies worth considering beyond Bedard.
Note: Only listed players 50/1 or shorter.
Logan Cooley (+1000)
There's a lot to love with Cooley. He's a supremely talented center who should take on a huge role with the Coyotes from the word go. For years, Arizona has lacked talent down the middle and a dynamic center who can break a game open on any given shift. Cooley is that guy. He's an exceptional playmaker who possesses great hands in tight and a dangerous shot.
He'll be a staple in the top six, and it's not as if the Coyotes are devoid of talent around him. He should play with some combination of Clayton Keller, Jason Zucker, Nick Schmaltz, and former Canadian world junior standout Dylan Guenther on any given shift. Cooley will also skate on the top power play and no doubt do a lot of the facilitating.
Arizona may be flawed defensively, but its offense - at least at the top of the lineup - is legitimately good. Cooley is going to play a lot of minutes and put up a lot of points in his debut campaign.
Adam Fantilli (+1200)
Fantilli is in a very similar situation to Cooley. He's coming off an absolutely dominant season in college hockey and is stepping onto a roster where he should get all the opportunity in the world.
Much like the Coyotes, the Blue Jackets have long lacked a dynamic, top-tier center. They have some useful pieces like Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic to take some of the load off Fantilli, but those guys don't carry anywhere close to the same explosiveness and upside - even at this stage in Fantilli's career.
With the likes of Patrik Laine, Johnny Gaudreau, and Zach Werenski on the roster, the Jackets have the pieces to score goals in bunches on the power play. Fantilli is expected to skate on that top unit, which will give him a very high floor and ceiling for production.
Brandt Clarke (+3500)
Clarke is a very smart and talented offensive defenseman who just put up two - yes, two - points per game with the OHL's Barrie Colts after the Kings returned him to junior.
Clarke is unlikely to quarterback the top power play as long as Drew Doughty is available. Still, the 20-year-old should play a meaningful role at even strength and skate on PP2.
I expect Clarke to post strong on-ice metrics while chipping in with his share of points and forcing the team into giving him a larger role as the season progresses.
Although he's unlikely to produce enough points to unseat Bedard, Cooley, Fantilli, or some of the ridiculously talented forwards, I see Clarke as a very discounted Luke Hughes.
They're both high draft picks, extremely talented, playing for very good teams, and (likely) not getting top power-play time barring injury to big-ticket blue-liners (Dougie Hamilton in N.J., Doughty in L.A.).
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.
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