Who beats out the strong field in this year’s race for the Calder?

The award for the best rookie of the year usually has one or two obvious candidates. Artemi Panarin was the obvious choice after Connor McDavid’s injury last year, while previous winners include Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Bure and Sergei Makarov (never forget).

This year, though, there are many candidates who could have a legitimate claim to the title.

Here, I’ve taken the seven most-likely vote-getters, and look at how much of an all-round player they are, and what effect they have on their team. They are:

  • Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  • Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames [look I’m a Flames fan, deal with it])
  • Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  • Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets)
  • Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricanes)
  • William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  • Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets)

As always, stats come from Corsica.hockey and were correct at time of research, prior to play on March 28th 2017.

Points

Unlike in the Norris, points aren’t taken as much into account with the Calder. It is more to do with how the individual performs overall. But, forwards should be scoring points, so let’s take a look.

points

Matthews and Laine are comfortably ahead in the goals and points tallies. Surprisingly enough for the first two picks in a draft, they’re pretty good. Following that, Aho has passed 20, but the others’ points come predominantly from assists. Marner’s 38 assists are closely followed by Werenski and Nylander (36), with Tkachuk not far behind on 33.

To show you further how their points are spread between the categories, here’s a percentage chart.

points percentage

As you can see here, over 50% of both Matthews’ and Laine’s points come from goals, while 50% of Tkachuk’s points are primary assists. That maybe shows the difference between what styles of players some of them are – for example, Matthews is clearly a goalscorer, but Tkachuk contributes to the team game more.

There’s also the difference in ice time to cater for, too. For example, Tkachuk has been on the ice for 140 minutes less than the next lowest, Marner, in all situations. So, how do the points spread out over the course of 60 minutes of ice time?

60

Laine leads goals and points per 60 here, on account of having played 100 less minutes (seven games) than Matthews in getting his 34 goals. Matthews does have slightly more primary points than Laine, though. Marner leads assists, although he is closely tailed by Tkachuk.

I included scoring chances in this, because I thought it would help to see how often the players are put in the opportunity to score. Matthews gets far and away the most chances per 60 minutes, but Laine somehow has more goals per 60 than chances. Is he scoring off passes that go awry?

I’ve not mentioned Werenski in the points totals, because it seems a bit unfair to compare a defenseman to a group of very talented forwards. In his first year in the league, he is tenth amongst defensemen on points, and 36 assists is a very good return.

Percentages

Laying down a load of point totals doesn’t tell the story of how important a player is to their team. How does their contribution add to what the rest of the team is doing?

goals percentage

Obviously Matthews and Laine lead this due to their goal totals, but the others are fairly evenly spread – Aho has over 10% of the Hurricanes’ goals though.

Side note: the three Leafs kids have nearly 32% of their total goals.

Let’s spread this out to points, now, and see how their overall production contributes to the team.

points percentage team

This is much more even, and shows how important the players are to their sides. Laine again leads, but even the lowest scoring forward, Tkachuk, contributes to over 22% of the Flames’ goals. Even Werenski, playing at the back, has been involved in over 20% of the goals that the fifth-best offence in the league have scored.

All seven of these players are vital cogs in their respective sides.

Overall Points Verdict: Matthews or Laine

Possession

Being the computer boy I am, I have to look at the fancystats. It’s all well and good being able to score, but if you can’t contribute at the other end then it’s unlikely you’ll become truly elite.

For reference:

  • CF60 are the shot attempts for per 60 minutes of ice time while the player is on the ice
  • FF60 are the unblocked shot attempts for per 60
  • Percentages are in relation to the attempts for

szv possession

Now, Tkachuk is helped by being with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, but he is comfortably the best possession player here. Marner and Laine are negative players, and Werenski’s numbers are better than noted d standouts Brent Burns, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Kevin Shattenkirk and Seth Jones, amongst many other, more experienced players.

Also related to this is how players manage to drive play forwards. If you’re good at possession, you should be able to get the puck into the opponent’s zone, and keep it there.

ozs

Again, Matthew Tkachuk. Woof. He gets the toughest starts of the field – including Werenski – and has the highest jump of zone finishes in relation. Aho is also good at getting the puck into the opponent’s zone, as is Nylander, but Laine, Matthews and Marner lose out in this regard.

Now, it is important to count in who these players are out on the ice with – Laine, for example, is a great player stuck in Winnipeg, and for all the good talent on the Leafs, there’s still some pretty bad ones. The late resurgence of the Hurricanes is possibly helping Aho, while Tkachuk plays on the best line on the Flames, and is often out there with Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano.

That said, if you can prove to be a good possession player, you should be an asset no matter your team mates.

Possession VerdictMatthew Tkachuk

The way I’ve looked at the stats, it might be unfair to rule out Werenski, but he’s up against a very good set of forwards and in reality it’s going to belong to one of the Leafs’ kids or Laine. Or is it?

A challenger appears

Completely ignored in this race is a young pretender who has taken a starting spot on the Stanley Cup champions. Matt Murray, despite having a cup win on his resume, is eligible to win the Calder this year. The madness of the system.

Not only that, but he is outperforming the declining Marc-Andre Fleury, and is performing on a level not too far away from the league’s best.

Reference:

  • HDSv% – high danger save percentage
  • GSAA – goals saved above average – chances that should have gone in, on average, but didn’t
5v5 All Situations
  Sv% HDSv% GSAA Sv% HDSv% GSAA
Matt Murray 93.15 82.59 18.25 92.26 82.3 17.79
Marc-Andre Fleury 92.09 81.69 6.07 91.22 81.56 6.61
Carey Price 93.78 86.1 19.99 92.29 83.85 11.62
Sergei Bobrovsky 93.93 86.32 29.78 93.38 85.58 38.56

Outperforming Fleury, not too far away from Price, not a million miles away from league-leading Bobrovsky – the kid’s good.

Whether he’s been good enough to beat out Matthews or Laine for the Calder is up for debate, but I certainly wouldn’t immediately rule him out of the running. He’d be in my top five.

In conclusion

This would be my top five, if given voting privileges (which I most certainly am not):

  1. Patrik Laine (he’s done it on a bad team)
  2. Matthew Tkachuk
  3. Auston Matthews
  4. Matt Murray
  5. William Nylander
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