The NHL has continued to release the finalists for their major regular season awards, this time giving us the top Calder Trophy candidates. This award is given to the top first-year player in the league and is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Kaprizov, 24, is the favorite for the award and has been for much of the season after finally agreeing to come over from the KHL. The skilled winger finished the year with 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games, injecting new life and excitement into a franchise that was lacking both. There’s going to always be a debate on whether Kaprizov should be eligible for the Calder, since he completed six seasons in the KHL before coming to North America, but what he did as a first-year player in the NHL shouldn’t be taken for granted. His play was outstanding all year and his Minnesota team was extremely close to upsetting the Vegas Golden Knights and advancing to the second round.
Just because Kaprizov is the favorite though, doesn’t mean Robertson should be forgotten. The 21-year-old Stars forward burst onto the scene with 45 points of his own in 51 games, finishing behind only Joe Pavelski for the team lead in goals and points. The 6’3″ winger was a second-round pick four years ago but just never stopped developing, adding strength and speed to his frame to go with some well-developed puck skills. Robertson looks like the next great Dallas player and a pillar to build around after a disappointing year.
Like many Calder races, there are the skaters and then there is the goalie. It’s difficult to compare the two directly, but the people in Carolina would certainly argue that Nedeljkovic’s contribution was more important this season. The 25-year-old netminder has battled in the minor leagues for years and was even waived at the beginning of this season, but when Petr Mrazek suffered an injury, Nedeljkovic finally got his chance. He never looked back, posting an incredible .932 save percentage through 23 regular season games, winning 15 of them and posting three shutouts. In the shortened season there was a real case for Nedeljkovic getting a Vezina Trophy nominee, given he led the league in save percentage and goals-against average (1.90), but after falling short there he’ll have to settle for being a Calder finalist instead.