Calder Trophy Rankings: Order restored as Bedard reclaims top spot
Man, has the 2023-24 Calder Trophy race been fun so far or what?
One thing has become clear through the first two months of the season: No one is interested in just handing Connor Bedard the hardware. He's going to have to work for it.
There are four new faces on the list this time around as some rookies have caught fire while others have faded into the background a bit. Let's see where the first-year class stands heading into the long winter months.
5. Marco Rossi, Wild
Rossi isn't the only Wild rookie making a name for himself this season, but we'll have more on that later.
The 22-year-old Rossi currently ranks second among all rookies in both goals and points, trailing only Bedard. Rossi has done most of his work at even strength, pacing the Wild with seven goals and tying frequent linemate Mats Zuccarello with a team-leading 13 points. Perhaps it isn't a surprise then that Rossi sits third among all first-year players in goals per 60 minutes (1.46) and points per 60 (2.71) at five-on-five this campaign.
Rossi began the season on Minnesota's third line but was elevated to the top line early last month. He's taken up a consistent position between Kirill Kaprizov and Zuccarello, and the trio has been a strong one for the Wild, dictating 63.6% of the expected goals while outscoring opponents 6-2 at five-on-five.
The 2020 ninth overall pick's emergence becomes even more impressive when considering how much he's overcome throughout his young NHL career. A healthy Rossi's arrival is great news for hockey fans everywhere - especially those located in Minnesota.
4. Joseph Woll, Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have fallen short of expectations in 2023-24, but could you imagine how much worse their position in the Atlantic Division would be without Woll?
The rookie wrestled the starting job from an abysmal Ilya Samsonov and has usually given Toronto quality goaltending. That can't be an easy job, either, given the injuries the team has suffered on its back end. He's faced the 14th most shots against (459) out of all goalies this season, but every netminder ahead of him has played in at least one more game. In addition, Woll has seen the ninth most high-danger shots (105) at five-on-five but owns a respectable .829 save percentage in those situations. He's also registered a sparkling .917 save percentage on the penalty kill.
The 25-year-old ranks within the league's top 20 goaltenders (and first among rookies) in both goals saved above average (4.54) and goals saved above expected (7.43) at all strengths, while his save percentage is tied for 16th among all netminders to make at least five starts.
Woll has helped plug a ton of holes for the Maple Leafs, but his life should get easier if general manager Brad Treliving sticks to his plan of acquiring another capable blue-liner.
3. Luke Hughes, Devils
Hughes' bread and butter is his offense, which he's already demonstrated in spades for the Devils this season. He currently leads all rookie defensemen in goals and points and is tied with Rossi and Logan Cooley for the second most points among all first-year skaters. He also paces the rookie class in goals above replacement (7.2) and wins above replacement (1.1).
The 20-year-old is on track for 52 points, which is two more than what Moritz Seider got in 2021-22 when he won the Calder Trophy. If Hughes hits the 50-point mark, he'd be just the fourth rookie blue-liner to do so in the salary-cap era, joining Seider, Cale Makar, and older brother Quinn Hughes.
The only thing stopping Hughes from being the highest-ranked defenseman on this edition of the rankings is his workload. He isn't matching up against opponents' best players on a nightly basis, but Hughes is performing well in his relatively sheltered minutes, which is really all he can do. New Jersey has dictated 58.3% of the shot attempts, 62% of the scoring chances, and 57.4% of the expected goals with Hughes on the ice at five-on-five. The Devils have been outscored 15-13 with Hughes off the bench, but their goalies have had a rough go this campaign.
There's an opportunity for Hughes to step into a larger role with Dougie Hamilton out indefinitely. Let's see what he can do with more on his plate.
2. Brock Faber, Wild
Faber might be the league's most underrated rookie, so we're doing our part to end that narrative by putting him No. 2.
The 21-year-old rearguard paces all first-year players in average ice time, and those minutes haven't been easy ones: Faber has consistently matched up against other teams' top lines while shining in a shutdown role. Despite his tough assignments, he leads the rookie class as a plus-7 and ranks sixth among all NHL blue-liners in defensive goals above replacement (3.5).
His team has struggled this season, but Faber's impact can't be undersold. Minnesota has dominated with the youngster on the ice at five-on-five, controlling 56.6% of the expected goals while outscoring teams 23-14. For comparison, the Wild have been outscored 30-26 with Faber on the bench. Added to his plate are 2:38 minutes of shorthanded ice time per contest, as well as a bigger role on the power play under new head coach John Hynes. Faber rewarded Minnesota with his first point on the man advantage Sunday.
It's no wonder the Wild trust Faber - he's given them no reason not to. Good defense usually doesn't get the job done when it comes to Calder Trophy voting, but Faber currently ranks third among all rookie defensemen in points. If the Wild can turn things around and re-enter the playoff picture, Faber will be key to their success.
1. Connor Bedard, Blackhawks
We figured it wouldn't be long before Bedard ended up back in the top spot on these rankings. Excuse us for spreading the love a little last month. Putting him No. 1 every time would get a bit boring - for us and for you.
Bedard really forced our hand this time around. The 2023 first overall pick is handily winning the rookie scoring race; he's three goals and six points clear of his peers in second place, and he paces the pack with a whopping 16 even-strength points. Few things paint the picture of his potential and talent clearer than when he became the youngest player since 1944 to record a four-point night in early November.
The 18-year-old is on pace for around 40 goals in his first NHL campaign, which sounds impressive because it is. Only two other players have hit that plateau in their first season in the 2000s: all-time goals record-chaser Alex Ovechkin (2005-06) and two-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews (2016-17).
Luckily for the Blackhawks, Bedard has also proved more than capable of putting their offense on his back. He's accounted for about a fifth of Chicago's 56 goals this season, and he's only been held without a point on seven occasions. His consistency becomes even more admirable when you realize Bedard had a healthy Taylor Hall on his line for like, only 30 seconds.
Keep an eye on:
- Leo Carlsson, Ducks
- Logan Cooley, Coyotes
- Adam Fantilli, Blue Jackets
- Tyson Foerster, Flyers
- Pavel Mintyukov, Ducks
- Simon Nemec, Devils
- Matt Poitras, Bruins