The 2017-18 season will again have plenty of intriguing rookies entering the NHL. However, unlike most years, there won’t be a consensus pick for the Calder Memorial Trophy, for the player who is most proficient in his first year of competition. Most people believed that the award would end up in the hands of Toronto’s Auston Matthews last year and it did. This year, however, it won’t be as easy to predict a winner.
There are many top rookies that are ready to step into the league this year, ranging from 2017 first-overall pick Nico Hischier (New Jersey Devils) and second-overall pick Nolan Patrick (Philadelphia Flyers) to young forwards like Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek and Arizona’s Clayton Keller. Several defensemen could step up as well such as Boston’s Charlie McAvoy and Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot.
Matt Larkin of The Hockey News makes his predictions for the top candidates, citing Keller as the most likely to win the award. Keller, the seventh-overall pick in the 2016 draft, scored 21 goals and added 24 assists as a freshman last year at Boston University and then signed with the Coyotes, playing three games for the team and tallying two assists.
Larkin writes that not even the addition of other top scorers like Derek Stepan, Dylan Strome or Christian Dvorak should stop Keller from reaching his potential next year. Regardless of what position he plays for the Coyotes, the scribe believes he will play on a top line and should put up solid numbers. He lists numerous others candidates, making for an interesting read.
- Enforcer Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond announced his retirement on Twitter today, reported by James O’Brien of NBC Sports. The journeyman forward played hockey for 12 years in 12 different cities. Originally drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 draft by the New Jersey Devils, Letourneau-Leblond spent most of his career in the AHL, but did manage to get into 41 NHL games, mostly with the Devils. He accumulated 101 penalty minutes and three assists in those 41 contests. Last year, the 32-year-old played 37 games for the Syracuse Crunch and one game for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He finished his season with one goal, four assists and 128 penalty minutes.
- Speaking of the Devils, the team announced that they will retire Patrik Elias’ No. 26 on Feb. 24, 2018, according to Chris Ryan of NJ.com. Elias retired in March when he decided to end his comeback attempt despite trying to come back from knee surgery, but he neither practiced or played last season before hanging it up. The 41-year-old forward, who spend his entire career in New Jersey, finished as the Devils all-time leader in goals, assists, points and hat tricks.