The middle of the season is a common time for awards check-ins in the NHL, and for good reason. Enough sample size is under our belts to cross off some early-season hot and cold streaks, and it’s given some time for players to grow into impact roles for new teams.
That’s especially true with the Calder Trophy, tracking the best rookie in the league. Young players are especially susceptible to streakiness, for better or for worse. Many players’ seasons have evened out somewhat, and it’s as good a time as any to take a look at where things stand for a handful of top Calder Trophy candidates, this time at the forward position.
Matthew Beniers, Seattle Kraken
Beniers stands as the clear front-runner for the Calder in most circles, and for good reason. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is playing serious minutes at 17:05 per game. He’s one point behind Andre Burakovsky for the Kraken lead in scoring, and he’s been a crucial part of Seattle’s improvement from basement dweller to playoff contender in 2022-23.
The 2021 second-overall pick was a “safe floor, unsure ceiling” type of player when he was drafted. With this kind of production so early in his career, Seattle can be optimistic that Beniers will hit his first-line center ceiling as his defense improves. He’s a poor 43.7% in the faceoff dot, but that’s been a problem for the entire Kraken squad, as they don’t have a single player over 50%.
Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets
Along with the rest of the Jets, Perfetti is thriving offensively under head coach Rick Bowness. He had a solid seven points in 18 NHL games last season, maintaining his rookie status, but this season leads rookies with 20 assists.
While he has thrived playing with some of Winnipeg’s top talent, Perfetti’s point production is impressive in its own right. Very little of his scoring has come on the power play, he has just four points there. He’s sixth on the Jets in scoring, and while he isn’t receiving top minutes quite yet, nearly 15 minutes a night is still fine for a player his age. Look for his goal-scoring to improve throughout the season, too; he’s shooting at just 8.2%.
Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks
After a 2022 World Juniors for the ages, McTavish has transitioned well to the NHL on a struggling team. Anaheim’s systems have been a mess all season, but McTavish has still managed 27 points in 45 games and is drawing some tough matchups in the top six.
Used on and off at the center position, McTavish is scoring without much support. He’s third on the team in points and his -14 rating is actually one of the better ones on the team. Selected immediately after Beniers in 2021, it’s looking like an incredibly strong top-five from that class.
On the cusp: Matias Maccelli and Dylan Guenther (ARI), Kent Johnson (CBJ), Jack Quinn and John-Jason Peterka (BUF), Wyatt Johnston (DAL), Juuso Parssinen (NSH), Noah Cates (PHI)