The Race for the NHL’s Calder Memorial Trophy
By Noah Wilson, Contributor
Just two months into the regular season, the NHL’s Calder Memorial Trophy race has already been ignited. With generational talent, Connor Bedard, at the helm, this season’s rookie class is shaping up to be one of the best first-year cohorts to take the ice in since 2015—the year in which an NHL audience first saw Edmonton Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, make his top-league debut.
When hockey fans debated who would take home the NHL’s Calder Trophy— awarded to the League’s Rookie of the Year—it seemed like the early season agreement was that the accolade was Bedard’s to lose.
However, this class has proven that the first-overall draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft will have to put in some serious numbers if he wants to add the ‘Calder’ to his trophy case in June.
Opening this season, the top-three picks from the 2023 draft have all had productive starts to their respective careers.
Bedard, who hails from North Vancouver, B.C., currently leads all rookies in scoring with nine goals in 13 games, while second-overall pick Leo Carlsson, who is fresh off his first career NHL hat-trick, is close behind with six goals in 11 games. Third-overall pick Adam Fantilli hasn’t had an issue producing either, as the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has a steady nine points in 16 games played —putting him in fourth place in rookie scoring.
What has made this rookie class so amazing thus far is not just these three players, however. At the 16-game mark of the regular season, there are already 13 rookies sitting above seven points. For those unaware, that is typically a very impressive production from players in their first year.
Of those 13 rookies, Arizona Coyotes’ third-overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, Logan Cooley, leads this season’s rookie class in assists with 10, followed by Anaheim Ducks forward Pavel Mintyukov, who has nine assists.
This rookie class can put up the numbers, but so can Bedard. The top-talent rookie is currently rampaging through the League, with 13 points—nine goals and four assists—in 14 games. What’s scarier is that it seems like Bedard is getting better with each game he plays and more comfortable with every shift he endures. He’s showing traits that we only see in generational talent.
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both had it, along with newer faces, McDavid and Auston Matthews. The sky’s the limit with these players and it’s apparently no different with Bedard.
Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and four-time Stanley Cup Champion, Wayne Gretzky attested to this concept during a past broadcast during NHL on TNT by expressing his thrill towards the Blackhawk’s superstar, stating that the phenom has not only met the expectations but passed them.
“With young players, one of the hard things is you always tell them, ‘You gotta shoot the puck, you got to shoot more,’” Gretzky said.
“Young guys don’t want to be called selfish on the hockey club. You want to show your teammates, ‘Look, I’m not a selfish player.’ And he’s not a selfish player. He sees the open man, but he doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck. I think he stepped in nicely, and he’s been everything that everybody thought he was going to be. And he might even be better than we thought.”
Bedard’s raw skill and maturity on and off the ice are what give him such an advantage when compared to this rookie class.
As this season progresses, there is no denying that Bedard will continue to set the world on fire while proving that he’s the real deal.