This NHL Rookie of the Year race is the tightest in recent memory.
With the NHL playoffs wrapping up, let’s take a look at the the most likely candidates.
No. 5: Connor McDavid
Drafted first overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, coming in fifth on this list could qualify as a disappointment for McDavid. If not for a three month injury layoff McDavid would be a front-runner for the Calder Memorial Trophy. After notching 48 points in 45 games, McDavid still is not completely out of the picture for this year’s race.
No. 4: Shane Gostisbehere
This is another case of “What if?” Gostisbehere was in the AHL for the first 14 games of the NHL season and didn’t join the Flyers until the middle of November. He is leading all rookie defenseman in goals and is fifth in points for all rookie skaters. Gostisbehere helped carry the Flyers to a playoff spot, and that will help earn votes when the time comes.
No. 3: Jack Eichel
Drafted second overall behind McDavid, Eichel had an impressive year. He is second in goals and assists among rookies, falling short of only Artemi Panarin’s impressive numbers. Eichel has a bright future on a young team and all we can do is wait to see if his great scoring numbers get him the votes.
No. 2: Dylan Larkin
It’s a rare sight to see a 19 year old on the Detroit Red Wings. GM Ken Holland is known for developing young stars on the Grand Rapid Griffins until they are more than ready, but Larkin broke that mold. Larkin wasn’t even born yet when Mike Gartner’s fastest skater record was set in 1996, but he beat it by .2 seconds at this year’s All-Star game. The Michigan native had a solid 45-point season and was a burst of energy when the Red Wing’s needed it this year.
No. 1: Artemi Panarin
Panarin had an absolutely outstanding year for the Chicago Blackhawks. Although he is the oldest player on this list and has played in the KHL for 8 seasons (he started in the KHL at 16 years old), the numbers don’t lie. Panarin has 77 points in 80 games, a plus/minus of 8, 24 power play goals, and 7 game-winning goals. He has a great connection with line mate Patrick Kane, who had a career high 106 points. With the Blackhawks’ success and the numbers Panarin put up this season, it is hard to believe that Artemi won’t be hoisting the Calder Memorial Cup this year.