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.
Seider, 21, was an absolute workhorse for the Red Wings from the moment he hit the ice this season, playing as a true rookie by making his debut and playing in all 82 games. The sixth-overall pick from 2019 appears to be a future superstar, with the ability to create positive effects in basically every facet of the game. He’s big–6’4″ 203lbs–fast, skilled, and confident, immediately grabbing hold of the Detroit blue line as if it had belonged to him for years. With 50 points, he tied Cale Makar for the second-highest scoring rookie season from a defenseman since 1993 (Quinn Hughes is first with 53). Adding in 151 hits, 161 blocks, and nearly two minutes of short-handed time every night shows just how well-rounded the young defender is.
Zegras, 21, is arguably the most exciting and highlight-worthy young player in the game, routinely doing things that have rarely been seen before. While he did play in 24 games last season, he retained his rookie eligibility and showed what he could do over a full year, potting 23 goals and 61 points in 75 games. The Ducks forward is the centerpiece of the next wave in Anaheim and will likely only get better as he matures in the center ice position. There’s no doubt that Zegras can do it all offensively, and his appearance at the NHL All-Star festivities even without being selected to play in the game show just how high his star will rise.
Bunting, 26, is a much different story than the other two. There was no early stardom bestowed on the 2014 fourth-round pick, as he toiled away in the Arizona Coyotes minor league system. It was after a 21-game showing at the end of the 2020-21 season that he caught the eye of the Maple Leafs, who signed him as a Group VI unrestricted free agent and proceeded to put him on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Bunting’s agitating, in-your-face style fit perfectly with the two offensive juggernauts, and it resulted in 23 goals and 63 points for the Toronto rookie. Bunting led the rookie scoring race by two points over Zegras (in four more games) but also has more than five years on his first-year counterpart.