Calder Watch: Artemi Panarin leads, but could defensemen spoil?

Calder Watch: Artemi Panarin leads, but could defensemen spoil?

Calder Watch is an occasional feature that looks at the NHL rookie of the year race, whose victor receives the Calder Trophy. Hence, Calder Watch. 

The Current Finalists

Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Patrick Kane’s 26-game point streak doesn’t happen without the contributions of linemates Artem Anisimov and especially Panarin, who has 31 points in 35 games to lead all rookie scorers. He also leads in power-play points with eight.

Signature highlight: Panarin and Kane just toy with the Islanders for a while.

Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

The rookie forward leads all freshmen with 12 goals; and seeing as how the Calder-winning forward either leads in goals or points, that moves him slightly ahead of Max Domi into the top three. Larkin has 23 points, second to Henrik Zetterberg on the Wings. All 12 of his goals have come at even strength, tied for fifth overall in the NHL.

Signature highlight: So far, we’d go with this wrap around on Craig Anderson.

Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers defenseman has 14 points in 18 games and has helped lead Philly’s resurgence this season. He has three (!!!) overtime goals out of six total goals, and has been scary good. (Of course ... his nickname is "Ghost.") So he’s in the Calder conversation … if he stays in the NHL, that is. 

Signature highlight: All of it.

The Field

Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

Basically right there with the top three, even if he’s cooled off a bit in the last few weeks with two assists in his last six games and a minus-7. He’s second in the NHL in rookie points with 25 in 32 games.

Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes

Domi’s running mate has 19 points on the season, including 10 goals, which ties him with three others for second behind Larkin. Has a robust 27.8 shooting percentage.

Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

His 16 points in 34 games might be fewer than expected, but his nine goals still puts him within reach of the rookie lead. And if he ever gets there, the hype machine will crank up. Eichel is skating 19:01 per night, behind only Panarin for rookie forwards.

Oscar Lindberg, New York Rangers

The Swedish sensation has gone quiet, with no points in seven games, but his 10 goals is tied for second among rookies.

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton Oilers

A 10-9-1 record in 20 games with a .910 save percentage isn’t exactly Vezina worthy, when a goalie accomplishes this behind the Oilers defense it deserves some Calder attention.

Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues

A 6-foot-5 defenseman can’t help but get noticed, but Parayko’s deserved the recognition. He’s played himself onto the Team North America radar for the World Cup, had earned his minutes for coach Ken Hitchcock with the Blues and has survived at least one injury scare. He leads in points for rookie defensemen with 15, and is tied with Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers with six goals. Therein lies the problem with Parayko and the Calder: He may not end up as the league's best freshman D-man. And there won't be two up for the Calder. The Flyers frosh is trending up, while Parayko has seen his ice time and output fluctuate. 

Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres

While he’s had a fraction of the hype of his Sabres teammate, Reinhart’s eight goals are only four off the rookie lead.

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers poses for a photo with his first career NHL goal puck at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers poses for a photo with his first career NHL goal puck at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Wild Cards

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

If the Ducks ever get their act together and Gibson’s between the pipes for it, he might play himself into the conversation. He has a .928 save percentage and a 1.87 GAA in 10 games. (And yes, he’s actually still a rookie.)

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Wait, you’re not really counting him out for the Calder because of a little injury are you? He may not end up leading the NHL in any category, but if that points-per-game average is stellar and the Oilers make the playoffs, will the voters be able to deny Connor McJesus, like a bunch of ink-drenched Peter the Apostles? We think not.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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