The 2018-19 rookie race for the Calder Trophy has been dominated by one player, but the Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson isn’t without his pursuers. There are a couple of teenage defensemen who have made their youthful presence known, while the Ottawa Senators have a handful of fuzzy-faced freshmen jockeying for position.
Here’s a look at the top three Calder contenders to this point, plus the rest of the top 10, as well as the next 10, five long shots and three rookie goalies to watch.
The Three Finalists So Far
Elias Pettersson, Vancouver: West side skill show. Pettersson, 20, is running away with the Calder Trophy at the moment, even though he missed six games after getting body-slammed by Florida’s Mike Matheson. Most goals (13) and most points (21) among all rookies, and most ice time among rookie forwards (18:10 per game, more than two minutes ahead of the next-closest forward).
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo: The No. 1 pick in the draft last June is more than holding his own as an 18-year-old freshman defenseman in the NHL. With 13 points in 24 games, he’s tied for the lead in the non-Pettersson rookie scoring race, and his plus-5 rating is tied for the top mark. His ice time (19:00 per game) ranks fifth among rookie defensemen. Most importantly, the Sabres have suddenly, finally, turned into a team to watch in the East. And Dahlin has been a part of making that happen.
Miro Heiskanen, Dallas: No other rookie has played more than the Stars’ 19-year-old defenseman, who’s logging 22:46 per night. Two of his four goals have been game-winners.
The Rest of the Top 10
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa: If he hadn’t missed 11 games, we’d probably be talking about Tkachuk in the same breath as Pettersson. They’re different kinds of players -- Pettersson goes around you, Tkachuk goes through you -- but with seven goals and 11 points in 12 games, Tkachuk (0.92) is the only rookie who comes close to matching Pettersson’s points-per-game productivity (1.05). If Tkachuk, 19, can stay healthy and keep powering to the net, he might just crash his way into the Calder Trophy conversation.
Colin White, Ottawa: He’s not getting a whole lot of attention outside Ottawa, but he’s becoming more and more familiar to Senators fans. Among rookies, the 21-year-old White is second to Pettersson in goals (seven) and points (13), and tied with Pettersson at four power-play goals.
Henri Jokiharju, Chicago: With 10 assists, the Blackhawks’ 19-year-old defenseman trails only Dahlin (11) among rookies, and trails only Heiskanen in average ice time (20:54).
Brett Howden, New York Rangers: The rebuild has gotten off to a solid start. He’s one of the non-Pettersson top rookie scorers (four goals, 13 points) and second to Pettersson in average ice time among rookie forwards (15:54).
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal: The Canadiens took a bit of a flyer when they drafted Kotkaniemi at No. 3 overall last June, but the early indications are positive. He’s contributing on the scoresheet and looks like a first-line center in the making.
Maxime Lajoie, Ottawa: The 133rd selection in the 2016 draft, the 21-year-old leads all rookie defenseman with six goals. He has 11 points, including seven on the power play, behind only Pettersson (eight) for most PP points among rookies.
Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina: The No. 2 overall pick last June, the 18-year-old right winger has five goals on a rookie-best 63 shots.
The Next 10
Oskar Lindblom, Philadelphia: Drafted 138th overall in 2014, the Flyers left winger ranks among the top 10 rookies in goals, assists and points.
Dennis Cholowski, Detroit: He’s playing nearly 20 minutes per game and he’s right there with Dahlin, Jokiharju and Lajoie in offensive output (three goals, 10 points).
Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay: The Lightning’s fourth-line center is stuck behind some pretty good players on Tampa Bay’s depth chart, but he plays a responsible two-way game and chips in offensively. He’s winning more than he loses in the faceoff dot, too, which is pretty impressive for a youngster.
Filip Chytil, New York Rangers: Recency bias? Perhaps. But it’s hard to ignore Chytil’s five-game goal-scoring streak. Maybe the 19-year-old is finding his NHL footing.
Dominik Kahun, Chicago: The undrafted 23-year-old from the Czech Republic signed on with the Blackhawks after playing the past four seasons in Germany. He’s on the board with two goals and 10 points, averaging 14 minutes per game.
Michael Rasmussen, Detroit: A big part of the Red Wings’ rebuild, the 19-year-old center has five goals in 21 games.
Mathieu Joseph, Tampa Bay: The Lightning’s pipeline keeps pumping out players. Joseph, drafted 120th overall in 2015, is just one of many recent examples.
Antti Suomela, San Jose: The Sharks signed the undrafted 24-year-old out of Finland to be their fourth-line center, and he’s proven up to the task.
Jordan Greenway, Minnesota: The word “big” comes to mind. Six-foot-six power forward coming through.
Noah Juulsen, Montreal: He’s out indefinitely after taking a puck to the face, but not before he stepped up on the Canadiens’ blueline.
The Five Long Shots
Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo: A pre-season Calder hopeful, he hasn’t charged out of the gates as anticipated. But he’s got the offensive upside to challenge for a spot among the rookie scoring leaders.
Vladislav Kamenev, Colorado: Like Mittelstadt, a bit of a slow start for a talented player who was pegged as a potential Calder threat. And, like Mittelstadt, he’s somebody to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Max Comtois, Anaheim: He put up seven points in the first 10 games of the season before getting hurt. Currently rehabbing in the AHL, he could be on his way back to a scoring role in Anaheim.
Drake Batherson, Ottawa: Just called up from the minors, but he’s off to a slick start with the Senators, posting two goals and five points in five games. Keep it going and he’ll quickly rise up the rookie rankings.
Warren Foegele, Carolina: He’s one of the busier rookie forwards with 42 shots, but only three goals to show for it. Suffice to say, Foegele isn’t McLovin that Superbad shooting percentage. (Sorry about that, but don’t worry, you’re almost at the end...)
Linus Ullmark, Buffalo: There isn’t a first-year masked man within sight of the Calder Trophy, but Ullmark (5-0-1, 2.52 goals-against average, .926 save percentage) is as close as a rookie goalie gets.
Alexander Georgiev, New York Rangers: For what it’s worth, most of Henrik Lundqvist’s backup goalies eventually go on to start for another team.
Calvin Petersen, Los Angeles: With the last-place Kings in the middle of a goaltending injury epidemic, Petersen might have the most upward mobility of any freshman stopper in the NHL.