Final time round, it was bruising German defender Moritz Seider who stamped his identify on the NHL’s Calder Memorial Trophy, the Detroit Purple Wings’ rearguard beating out dynamic Anaheim Geese pivot Trevor Zegras and hard-nosed Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting.
A 12 months earlier than that, it was Kirill Kaprizov, the Minnesota Wild winger who’s developed a penchant for taking up video games. Return one 12 months additional, and it was the ever-dominant Cale Makar, earlier than he graduated to the Norris and Conn Smythe conversations.
With a brand new season set to start a month from now, a brand new crop of fresh-faced rookies will as soon as once more vie for a spot amongst these Calder winners, staking their declare on NHL stardom of their first probability to indicate what they’ll do on the recreation’s highest degree.
To interrupt down the highest contenders for the 2023 Calder Trophy, we turned to Sportsnet’s Jason Bukala, who served because the Florida Panthers’ Director of Beginner Scouting for practically a decade, and as a professional scout for the Nashville Predators earlier than that.
Right here’s a have a look at who he sees making waves within the upcoming season’s Calder race:
OWEN POWER, Buffalo Sabres
Whereas as we speak’s recreation is not brief on elite, younger expertise, few examine off fairly as many bins as 2021’s first-overall decide, Owen Energy.
After a sterling run with the College of Michigan and a short eight-game stint within the massive leagues final season, the imposing Buffalo Sabres defender — who stands six-foot-six and weighs in at 213 kilos — will get his first prolonged style of NHL motion in 2022-23.
And in Bukala’s view, there is a truthful probability he’ll be the standout rookie we’re speaking about most by the 12 months’s finish.
“My main candidate is Owen Energy — I believe that is just about going to be common throughout most personalities which are aware of what is going on on,” Bukala stated. “Huge physique, he has the flexibility to play in all conditions, mature past his years, can contribute on the ability play. I believe Buffalo goes to be rather a lot higher this 12 months as a workforce. It’s going to be fascinating to see what his position is in special-teams eventualities.”
“Much like [Moritz] Seider in Detroit, this child’s acquired the kind of pedigree to be logging heavy, heavy minutes,” Bukala stated. “And he is acquired the scale and the steadiness to deal with it.”
MASON McTAVISH, Anaheim Geese
Recent off a dominant efficiency on the 2022 World Junior Championship that noticed him win MVP honours, captain his workforce to a gold medal, and put up some historic numbers, Mason McTavish is certain to be within the operating too.
Like Energy, McTavish acquired a nine-game run on the NHL degree final season — together with stints suiting up for Canada on the World Juniors and the Olympic Video games, and a run to the Memorial Cup Ultimate with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
“Mason McTavish has simply been constructing momentum for an prolonged time frame now,” Bukala stated of the Geese’ 2021 third-overall decide. “I simply see him using the wave of momentum into Anaheim. Anaheim will most likely give him an prolonged runway to play top-tier minutes, I’d assume, to start out the season. And my estimation is that he will take that ball and run with it.
“He is not as flashy skill-wise as another guys on my listing, however he is a bulldog and he is a gamer. So I believe he will be transitioning to the NHL comparatively seamlessly. I do know he is had a small cup of espresso already, however I am anticipating massive issues from him.”
“I believe that Anaheim have on their palms any person who has the potential to hold on the pedigree that Ryan Getzlaf had when he got here into the league, and play the suitable means and have management skill and all that stuff,” Bukala continued. “So far as the trajectory of the franchise and the identification of the franchise, I believe McTavish is a man that’s enormously vital to the place that workforce’s going.”
MARCO ROSSI, Minnesota Wild
It’s been an extended highway for Minnesota’s Marco Rossi because the 120-point outburst he authored for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s again in 2019-20. After battling by a troublesome bout with COVID-19, a subsequent myocarditis prognosis, and questions of whether or not he’d ever once more be the participant he was, the soon-to-be 21-year-old finds himself again on monitor, and chasing his big-league dream as soon as once more.
“Marco Rossi in Minnesota’s an fascinating one for me,” Bukala stated, noting the younger Swiss centreman is coming off a professional debut marketing campaign that noticed him put up 53 factors by 63 video games within the AHL. “It is exhausting to attain within the American League. He is not tall, however he is constructed like a hearth hydrant. His element in all three zones is dependable, and he is acquired actual good savvy on the ability play with the puck. They have some guys in Minnesota who clearly are going to thrive on the ability play and Minnesota’s going to wish them to attain objectives on the ability play.”
“I believe that he is likely to be a sleeper by way of a man that would actually draw numerous consideration on this class,” Bukala continued. “Not only for level manufacturing however for his all-around recreation. However actually on the ability play, I believe that he will get numerous handles and he would possibly be capable of management the play within the offensive zone on the Nationwide Hockey League degree straight away.”
KENT JOHNSON, Columbus Blue Jackets
Like Canadian teammate McTavish, Kent Johnson heads into the 2022-23 marketing campaign with a good bit of confidence gained over the low season, the 19-year-old having not too long ago tucked residence the pink and white’s golden objective to clinch Canada’s World Juniors triumph on the 2022 match.
Now, Johnson heads into what figures to be his first full season in Columbus, because the Blue Jackets franchise as a complete undergoes an intriguing flip of the web page. However whereas all eyes shall be on Johnny Gaudreau’s first season in new colors, Johnson’s success shall be simply as key to the workforce taking a step in 2023.
“He simply sees the ice, tons of talent — once you assume you have acquired him contained, he makes a puck play,” Bukala stated of Johnson’s recreation. “He is a man who can both slip off a examine or he makes a play with the puck by you, at the same time as a defender, discovering folks off the half-wall. He is a slippery ahead with an impressive offensive mind.”
“I believe that Columbus goes to be an fascinating workforce to observe this 12 months. Clearly, Gaudreau, (Patrik) Laine — I am to see the place a few of these younger guys slot in of their higher echelon of gamers and particular groups.”
WILLIAM EKLUND, San Jose Sharks
Tabbed with the seventh-overall decide in 2021, 19-year-old pivot William Eklund is on the cusp of standard NHL obligation for the San Jose Sharks as nicely. The query for the younger Swede is whether or not he’ll be capable of escape and discover the success he is able to on a Sharks workforce that is struggled as of late, and appears set for a equally tumultuous 2022-23.
“I actually like William Eklund. … I like his talent. He is acquired a great quickness,” Bukala stated of the Sharks prospect. “I’m not so certain about his inside recreation, however he is acquired the skill-set to have the ability to produce and create by the impartial zone, each with and with out the puck. He finds open area. And he’ll go to the online, and he is acquired a great contact across the internet.”
“My solely factor with San Jose is that I do not know if he isn’t going to be a simple man to examine, simply due to the depth of their ahead group proper now,” Bukala continued. “I’m not offered on the ahead group. So he might have a more durable time scoring than another guys, simply due to the state of the franchise proper now. So it will be fascinating to see how that performs out.”
SHANE WRIGHT and MATTY BENIERS, Seattle Kraken
Among the many most up-to-date draft class’s crop of rookies set to enter the league, loads of consideration is certain to be heaped on the shoulders of Shane Wright, who fell to Seattle at fourth-overall within the 2022 NHL Draft after a prolonged run because the anticipated No. 1 decide.
He will not be tasked with pulling the Kraken up alone, although — becoming a member of the OHL standout this season shall be Matty Beniers, Seattle’s second-overall decide a 12 months prior, who amassed a promising 9 factors in his 10-game go-round within the NHL final 12 months.
“Shane Wright’s clearly motivated,” Bukala stated. “He slipped to quantity 4. He by all accounts has had a great summer season. His growth camp was superb. And he will be motivated moving into there, so I believe that he will be an fascinating identify to observe.
“Once more, it is simply going to be, how a lot is he surrounded with there, and might he carry the mail, as a result of he isn’t tremendous elite offensively. He does numerous different issues very nicely, so it will be fascinating to see simply how a lot level manufacturing the child will get.”
“And then you definitely’ve acquired Matty Beniers there, too. They could feed off one another on the ability play. … Beniers and Wright, Seattle’s going to wish them. That was an underwhelming 12 months — they’d a tough time scoring objectives as a franchise. They’re going to be counting rather a lot on them to hold the mail going ahead.
“It’s going to be fascinating. But when Shane Wright doesn’t rating rather a lot, I believe he’ll do a number of the different issues, in order that’s actually vital for Seattle as nicely.”
JURAJ SLAFKOVSKY, Montreal Canadiens
Which brings us to Slafkovsky, the expertise who ended up snagging Wright’s first-overall crown. The Montreal Canadiens product heads into the 2022-23 season with loads of stress on his shoulders, too, after the group arguably went in opposition to the grain to tab him with the No. 1 decide.
In Bukala’s view, 2022-23 may not be the season we see Slafkovsky dominate offensively. However that does not imply he cannot nonetheless turn out to be a extremely efficient piece for Montreal in his rookie 12 months.
“I believe Slafkovsky has the potential to provide in streaks,” Bukala stated of the Canadiens prospect. “I believe he will be a bit of bit streaky, however he will do numerous different issues for the Habs when he isn’t scoring objectives or producing offence, with that measurement — you recognize, continuous play alongside the wall, and opening up some area for guys, if he is on the ice with (Nick) Suzuki, for instance. … They have Kirby Dach there now too — for example he performs with Dach for some motive, nicely you have acquired two massive rigs on the road there, in order that adjustments the look of that line.”
“He’d be a man in my prime seven or eight to maintain an in depth eye on, not as a result of he went first total this 12 months, however due to that power-forward physique that appears prefer it ought to transition fairly shortly to the NHL recreation. I simply assume there’s going to be some streakiness there for his first 12 months, so we’ll see how that goes — I believe his prolonged profession goes to be higher than his first couple of years.”
JAKE SANDERSON, Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators already discover themselves brimming with younger, harmful offensive expertise, led by the limitless potential of dynamic 2020 third-overall decide Tim Stutzle. Add within the slew of high-profile strikes GM Pierre Dorion made this low season — specifically the additions of bona fide all-stars in Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat — and much brighter days appear on the horizon for the Sens.
And but, the membership nonetheless boasts one other top-tier expertise they’ve but to even throw into the combination, in defender Jake Sanderson — the workforce’s fifth-overall decide from that very same 2020 class. After two strong campaigns with the College of North Dakota, and a pair extra with the U.S. NTDP earlier than that, the 20-year-old’s time seems close to.
“Jake Sanderson is an elite defender,” Bukala stated of the Sens rearguard. “Nice skater, strikes the puck, joins the push as an additional layer, over a point-a-game on the school degree, management. He is coming off an damage that is by all accounts healed up fantastic, so he ought to be capable of get going straight away.”
“You have a look at the way in which the defence is constructed there and then you definitely have a look at him — their again finish in Ottawa, they’ve acquired some agile guys who skate, and he provides to that. And the extra you’ll be able to roll these guys over the boards in two separate models, the higher off your workforce is, as a result of your workforce’s at all times taking part in quick and at all times taking part in to the identical identification. I believe Sanderson’s that means too.”
All playing cards equipped by The Professional Hockey Group.