Patrik Laine is pulling an Ovechkin on Auston Matthews

Getty Images
Getty Images

The dynamics of the Calder Trophy race are pretty consistent over time.

Goalies rarely win, with five in the last 25 years. Defensemen are even rarer, with four in the last 26 years.

It’s a forward’s award, as eight of the 11 winners since the 2005 lockout have played up front. And among those forwards, the winner is usually the leader in points or goals, but usually points.

Alex Ovechkin won both in 2005-06, with 52 goals and 106 points. Sidney Crosby was second in both categories, but was crushed in the voting: Ovechkin received 124 first-place votes to Crosby’s four. The anointed one, handed the Rookie of the Month in October, was demonstrably the season’s second-best rookie by its end.

We saw the same hype disparity with Auston Matthews, No. 1 overall pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Patrik Laine, No. 2 overall pick from the Winnipeg Jets. Matthews was the centerpiece of the Maple Leafs’ rebuild, and his four-goal debut in the NHL was the stuff of legends. Some went as far as to say the Calder was his to lose after that debut.

Laine, however, is upending the narrative in much the same way Ovechkin did: On the scoresheet, and with the eye test.

Laine’s hat trick on Tuesday night, his second of the season, gives him 11 goals, the most in the NHL and the only rookie to be in double-digits. It gives him 15 points, leading all rookie scorers. Despite not having the same stage as Matthews does in the centre of the hockey universe, Laine is getting noticed for highlight reel plays like Ovechkin did in his rookie season.

We throw “rookie sensation” around a lot, but damn if Laine doesn’t fit the bill.

It’s been well-documented that Laine is an Ovechkin fan, so the fact that he’s making the same insurgent case for the Calder is likely a kick for him. Truth is that Matthews wasn’t as anointed a rookie of the year candidate as Sid was coming into the NHL – it was a bit more up for grabs in 2016-17 by comparison, if only because Crosby had such a wave of massive “Next One” hype compared to that of Matthews.

As we said, the Calder still comes down to which rookies lead in points and goals at the end of the season. It’s hard to imagine, barring injury, Laine won’t lead in one of them. And just a month into the season, you can feel that familiar momentum from a decade ago: Flashy, sniping European winger stealing the headlines from the North American prodigy.

Of course, watch William Nylander swoop in and ruin the narrative …

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