Laine has been phenomenal, but he’s no lock for the Calder.

Patrik Laine has been nothing short of phenomenal this year. 

There’s no beating around the bush, he’s an exceptional talent and projects to be such for a long time. Laine, whose still 18 years old, has been not only one of the better rookies in the league, but one of the best players in the entire league. His shot is crisp, accurate and it’s thing of beauty. When the puck is on his stick, defenders are on alert and fans are on the edge of their seats.

He’s a game changer.

Now, such a transcendent talent would be a Calder trophy lock in almost every other years rookie class. But as good as Laine has been, the 2016-2017 rookie class has been exceptional and there’s no guarantees we will see Laine walk away with the hardware.

Patrick Laine’s rookie season thus far

– Has 19 goals on the year which ties him for second in the league and first amongst rookies

– His 7 power play goals pegs him fifth amongst all skaters and first amongst all rookies. 

– His 30 points ties him for the rookie scoring lead.

– He scores goals like this.. 

Laine’s competition for the calder:

Zach Werenski: The offensively gifted defenceman currently sits tied at fourth in rookie scoring with 24 points. Amongst the entire leagues defenders, Werenski is tied for fifth in points. 

Mitchell Marner: Marner sits 3rd in rookie scoring with 26 points and it may not be long before the crafty winger climbs up the rookie scoring ranks. Marner may surpass his own teammate Auston Matthews in rookie scoring and certainly is a vital threat to Laine’s path to the calder. 

Auston Matthews: As it stands now, Matthews is neck to neck with Laine for the Calder.  The two are tied in points with 30. What creates the gap between the two players is Matthews’ defensive and playmaking ability. 

How can Laine separate himself from the pack?

Laine needs to do what he does best, score.

But the thing is, even scoring 40 goals may not guarantee him the Calder. Auston Matthews is on pace for 40+ goals as well. As it stands now, both Matthews and Laine are even in points and projections. If either Laine or Matthews hit the 40 goal plateau, they’d be in some elite company. The last time a rookie(s) eclipsed 40 goals was when Eric Lindros and Teemu Selanne did it in 1992-1993. Lindros finished with 41 goals and Selanne finished with 76, the current NHL record. 

If Matthews and Laine finished with the exact same point totals, chances are Matthews would win the Calder. Reason being, the impact that Matthews has goes far beyond scoring, where the same can’t be said for Laine just yet.

“The fact is I think when you’re the No. 1 pick and you carry that burden and you come into a league and you deliver like that, especially if you stay healthy – you know what? You earn it.” said Eliotte Friedman in a thursday radio segment on Sportsnet 590 the Fan. “Somebody has got to take it from you. They’ve got to rip it right out of your hands.” Friedman continued. 

If Laine can’t reach the high 30’s in goals or eclipse 40 goals, he likely won’t be crowned the leagues best rookie. The other facets of his game aren’t up to par with Matthews and if he can’t come out as the best goal scoring rookie, he doesn’t have a great chance of winning. 

Heck, this years Calder Trophy race is so stacked, we could see each player on the Calder Trophy ballot be an NHL All-Star. 

And let’s not forget, this may not end up being a two horse race when it’s all said and done. It may not be long before Mitch Marner is the one leading the league in rookie scoring. It also shouldn’t be undermined what it takes to put up the numbers Zach Werenksi is as a 19 year-old rookie defenceman and who knows, maybe William Nylander can go on a point streak of his own.

It’s weird to ponder the possibility of two rookies finishing with 40 goals in the Modern NHL era. 

As of now, it’s on track to happen. And if so, Laine isn’t winning the honours of the leagues best rookie. 

  • SmellOfVictory

    The PHA selects the award winner so even though it is a preferential ballot it’s heavily weighted by geography. Accordingly the centre of the universe will be voting to please their benefactors one would think?

    Sports journalism is hardly an unbiased pursuit…

    If he (PL) wins great, if he doesn’t he will wake up the next morning and still be Patrik Laine and playing for the Winnipeg Jets so we win anyway.