Of all the NHL Awards races this season, the Calder Trophy given to the league’s top rookie might be the most compelling.
Despite missing nearly half the season with a broken clavicle, Edmonton Oilers franchise centre Connor McDavid made an impact and flaunted glimpses of the superstar he’s likely to become. He finished fourth in rookie scoring with 48 points in 45 games, but had the NHL’s third-best points per game rate – only Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn had more points per game among players that played at least two games.
“Folks, let's face it, the guy that should win it [is McDavid],” Don Cherry said on Coach’s Corner Wednesday. “If you were starting a franchise tomorrow, who would you want to pick? The best rookie. So, who’s the best rookie?”
Panarin isn’t your typical NHL rookie. He’s 24 and was a pro in the KHL, but you can’t deny what he accomplished in his first NHL season. If Panarin manages to win the Calder he’ll become the third Blackhawks player to do so in the last 30 years. Ed Belfour did it in 1991 and Kane did it in 2008.