Connor McDavid picked up an assist in the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, doing as we’ve come to expect Connor McDavid to do: put up points.
McDavid has 32 points in 29 games this season, having missed a significant chuck of time due to a broken collarbone. He currently has a 1.10 points per game average. Assuming he doesn’t miss additional time, McDavid will have played 45 games by the end of the season.
Because of that absence, there’s only been one path to the Calder Trophy for Connor McDavid, which is the points-per-game argument, and he’s successfully winning it -- second only to Patrick Kane this season, overall.
Question is, will he also win the Calder?
History’s not on McDavid’s side.
Since 1967, there hasn’t been a rookie of the year forward or defenseman that’s played fewer than 61 games, outside of lockout-year wins for Peter Forsberg (1995) and Jonathan Huberdeau (2013). Steve Vickers won the Calder for the New York Rangers in 1973 with 53 points in 61 games, and Bobby Orr won the Calder in 1967 with 41 points in 61 games, and by generally being Bobby Orr.
Since Pavel Bure in 1992 (70 points in 65 games), there hasn’t been a non-goalie Calder winner that’s played fewer than 78 games (Evgeni Malkin, 2007). Artemi Panarin, the Calder favorite who has a wide lead in both goals (24) and points (59) this season, has played in 64 of the Blackhawks’ 66 games this season.
Which is to say that McDavid winning the Calder with 45 games played would be unprecedented.
But then again, McDavid is unprecedented.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that he finishes with a 1.10 points per game average. There are only two players in the last 25 years who had higher averages: Alex Ovechkin (1.309) in 2006 and Teemu Selanne (1.571) in 1993, the latter’s season considered perhaps the greatest for a rookie in NHL history.
That would give McDavid around 49 points for the season – hell, let’s give him 50. It’s not unheard of for a player to win the Calder with that point total. Chris Drury won in 1999 with 44 points. Sergei Samsonov won in 1998 with 47 points. Peter Forsberg won with 50 in 47 games in 1995, the lockout year.
Of course, all three played a significantly higher percentage of their team’s games than McDavid.
It’s true that the path to the Calder for McDavid is a points-per-game argument, but there’s another one to be made – that despite the lost time, he’s undeniably the best rookie in the NHL this season.
That’s the argument the venerable Bruce Arthur is making
Yeah, I think Connor McDavid should win the Calder even if he plays half the games pic.twitter.com/TkSRKFVY4n
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) March 4, 2016
Panarin has separated from the pack, but in talking to some other Calder voters, there’s a chicken-or-the-egg argument happening with his stats and those posted by Patrick Kane this season. Basically, Panarin is seen as a product of Kane. Which is an odd reading, considering Kane is having his best offensive season and one of the only variables is the arrival of Panarin. But it's there.
Also, Panarin doesn’t have the story of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, setting records and having an absolutely season-altering offensive performance for the Flyers. (An interesting wrinkle here for McDavid: Gostisbehere also makes the "limited games" argument, and plays on the East Coast.)
He doesn’t have the story of Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, what with the fastest skater crown and the goofy YouTube video and the general since that his 19-goal season is going to help the Wings continue their playoff streak.
And he doesn’t have the story of McDavid, the phenomenal first overall pick who could be challenging Kane’s points lead were it not for his injury this season.
We’d argue that McDavid is the best rookie in the NHL this season. But figuring out whether 45 games is a large enough sample, when the presumptive rookie leader in goals and points will have played upwards of 80 … well, we’re just glad we have a few weeks to figure this out.
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