NHL Awards: McDavid, Gostisbehere, Panarin voted Calder finalists
Connor McDavid, Shayne Gostisbehere and Artemi Panarin were voted as finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
In a year where multiple rookies took the NHL by storm, narrowing the list to just three finalists for the Calder Trophy was certainly difficult. However, the NHL revealed the three first-year players that will be up for the rookie of the year award at the league's award show in late June.
Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers, Connor McDavid of the Edmtonon Oilers and Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks will be headed to Las Vegas to find out which of them was voted the league's best rookie. All three have pretty good arguments, too.
There was a lot of debate heading into the end of the regular season, when votes were about to be cast, but in the end, it's hard to disagree that these three players were the best rookies in the loaded class.
Here's a look at each candidate:
The Flyers didn't call up Gostisbehere until November, but he was an impact player as soon as he stepped into the lineup. The blueliner, who just turned 23 in April, helped the Flyers push the pace offensively and he was one of the best overtime players in the new 3-on-3 format. He also had one of the most productive seasons by a rookie defenseman in years. Gostisbehere had 17 goals and 29 assists over 66 games. His 0.72 points per game is 15th all-time among rookie defensemen and the highest mark since Vladimir Malakhov posted a 0.81 mark in 1992-93 for the New York Islanders. On top of his individual contributions, Gostisbehere helped the Flyers reach the playoffs as the team exceeded expectations this year.
McDavid would have likely run away with the award had he not missed three months of the season with a fractured clavicle. The top pick from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft still could win the thing. In 45 games for Edmonton, McDavid put up 48 points. He is one of just four rookies since 2005-06 to score at a clip higher than a point per game with his 1.07 mark. Alex Ovechkin (1.31), Sidney Crosby (1.26) and Evgeni Malkin (1.09) are the only player that bettered McDavid's scoring rate. He ended up finishing top five among rookie point production despite the lost time. The big question is whether his absence was enough for voters to shy away.
Panarin just completed one of the best rookie seasons for any player in the least decade. The superskilled Russian, who came over to the NHL last summer after a strong run in the KHL, put up 77 points in 80 games. It was the fifth-highest scoring season for a first-year player since 2005-06. He also finished tied for ninth in the NHL in scoring.
The big debate surrounding the Blackhawks rookie is if he should win the award at 24 years old and having already spent four years in a solid pro league like the KHL. Additionally, some wonder how much of Panarin's production was due to playing with Patrick Kane, who won the league's scoring title this year. The counterargument is to ask how easily Kane have won the Art Ross Trophy without such a productive player on his opposite wing. Additionally, Panarin meets all of the necessary eligibility requirements. In the eyes of the NHL, he is a rookie. Now we'll find out if the voters thought he was the best rookie.
As far as players that missed the cut as being finalists, Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres may have been the closest to the trio of finalists. He had 24 goals and 64 points to finish second among all rookies in those categories. Another player that probably received a lot of top-five votes is Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes. He finished second among rookies with 34 assists and was third among first-years with 52 points. Aside from those two, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, Anthony Duclair of the Arizona Coyotes and Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues were the only other candidates with any real Calder hopes. Maybe they even got some fourth- and fifth-place votes, but it's hard to argue with the three finalists that came out of the voting process.
The NHL awards will be handed out June 22.
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