Calder Trophy? Wild’s Brock Faber ‘would much rather make the playoffs’

Connor Bedard is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s best rookie — as expected pretty much the moment he was chosen by the Chicago Blackhawks with the first pick in last June’s entry draft.

But Brock Faber has made it a two-man race.

The former Gophers star who was last year’s Big Ten defensive player of the year has been nothing short of a revelation in his first full NHL season, becoming not just a stout, reliable presence on the blue line but a burgeoning leader in the dressing room.

In a poll of writers, Bedard, the NHL’s rookie leader with 21 goals and 56 points, received 66 points. Faber was second with 56, and Wild center Marco Rossi was fifth with 19.

With 11 games remaining, Faber already has the second-most points by a rookie in franchise history, 40 through 71 games heading into Thursday night’s game against San Jose at Xcel Energy Center. His 40 points are tied with New Jersey defenseman Luke Hughes for second behind Bedard’s 56, and his 33 assists are second only to Bedard’s 35.

Faber, 21, is currently the only challenger according to oddsmakers MGM Sportsbook, FanDuel and DraftKings. Asked Wednesday if he is paying attention, he answered quickly and unequivocally.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I don’t like to read into those things and, frankly, would much rather make the playoffs.”

The Wild still have a chance to earn a Western Conference wild-card playoff spot, but the odds are against them. They came into Thursday’s game nine points out of that spot with 11 regular-season games left, and since the NHL moved to an 80-game schedule in 1974-75 (it’s now 82 games), no team has ever made the postseason after being more than seven points out through 70 games.

And that happened just once.

Still, Faber’s season has been a highlight for the Wild, and a bright harbinger for the team’s future. Whether he wins the Calder or not, the big blue liner appears to have a bright future.

“I’ve heard the talk, obviously,” Faber said. “I don’t really know what goes out on Twitter about it, but I try to stay away from that. Obviously, I have the utmost respect for every other rookie in the league. But I really try not to focus on that.”

Teammate Marco Rossi is part of a small group behind Bedard and Faber, alongside Hughes and Calgary winger Connor Zary, receiving Calder consideration. With two goals in his last game, Rossi reached the 20-goal mark and passed Marian Gaborik for second on the Wild’s rookie list. Only Bedard (21) has more rookie goals this season.

Rossi and Faber also have a chance to pass Jordan Greenway (81) and become the first Wild rookies to play a full 82-game season. Asked if that would mean something to him, Faber was, again, quick and unequivocal.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I take pride in staying healthy and taking care of my body, even though that doesn’t always make the difference, right? Sometimes injuries just happen. But, yeah, that would be really cool, for sure.”

Two up, one down

Center Joel Eriksson Ek and defenseman Jonas Brodin returned from lower-body injuries Thursday night, back in the lineup in their usual places, but forward Marcus Foligno was a game-time scratch.

After Thursday’s morning skate, coach John Hynes said the team was waiting to hear about “another questionable forward from an injury perspective.” That was Foligno, who has been in and out because of a lower-body injury since he left a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Feb. 9 in the second period.

Eriksson Ek hadn’t played since a 4-1 victory over Arizona on March 12, and Brodin had been out since getting tangled on a check in a 4-0 win at Anaheim on March 19.


The Wild are holding a women’s clothing drive benefitting Dress for Success Twin Cities before Saturday afternoon’s game against Vegas. New or gently used clothing will be collected at Gates 1 through 5 from noon to 2:30 p.m.