Stars’ Jason Robertson is climbing up the Calder Trophy ranks

Stars' Jason Robertson is climbing up the Calder Trophy ranks
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No, Jason Robertson‘s name isn’t on the tip of the tongues of Calder Trophy voters. You won’t see Robertson, promising Dallas Stars rookie, as a favorite over frontrunner Kirill Kaprizov.

As Robertson becomes more and more important to the Stars’ playoff push, he’ll be tough for Calder voters to totally ignore, though.

Stars’ Jason Robertson starting to build a dark horse Calder case

Luckily, it’s easy to form the foundation of Jason Robertson’s case as a potential Calder finalist. You just need to look at the list of leading rookie scorers.

While Kirill Kaprizov leads all rookie scorers (27 points in 33 games played), Robertson comes in second with 21 points in 27 contests. When you consider points-per-game, Robertson’s .78 average isn’t far behind that of Kaprizov (.82). Robertson leads other top rookies in points, even though Tim Stützle (19 points in 33 GP) and others appeared in more games.

Robertson’s also done so without having the same green light, all season, as Kaprizov. Kaprizov’s time-on-ice average is 18:06 per game. That’s not far off from impressive rookie defensemen such as K'Andre Miller (20:31) and Ty Smith (19:30).

Generating points just a stride or two behind Kaprizov, despite not getting the same opportunities off the bat, is impressive.

Ultimately, Robertson’s assertive game helped him force his way into a bigger role with the Stars, and the Calder conversation.

“He’s an offensive player, talented and very confident in his abilities,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said in Early March. “Robo’s got tremendous offensive skills and vision, and the confidence to back it up. We have to make sure he is with the right players because the defensive side of the game will improve, but, again, we are asking an awful lot from these kids.”

“We need to play them. They are going to play, and he will keep getting better.”

Becoming a bigger part of the offense — and sometimes part of a “Super Line”

It’s OK if Jason Robertson snuck up on you. Even the Stars might not have been totally ready for Robertson’s breakthrough.

On one hand, sure, he has some pedigree; the Stars selected Robertson early in the second round (39th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft. But that’s not a can’t-miss pick like Stützle at third overall, and there also hasn’t been the anxious wait like Wild fans suffered through with Kaprizov.

It’s even fair to wonder: what if, as Bowness might say, the Stars didn’t need to play “those kids?”

Tyler Seguin‘s recovery from surgery, injuries to the likes of Alexander Radulov, and other variables opened the door for Robertson to earn a foothold with the Stars. To his credit, he’s running with this opportunity.

  • During the past seven games, Robertson logged 18:53 TOI or more. In a shootout loss to the Predators, the 21-year-old notched 22:09 in ice time.
  • In two January appearances, Robertson averaged less than 10 minutes per game. That went up, modestly, to 12:49 per game in nine February contests. With March just about over, Robertson averaged 17:58 per night, collecting 15 points in 16 games.
  • To start, Robertson (or “Robo”) really started to create chemistry with Roope Hintz. As the Stars got more desperate for offense, they decided to load up with Robertson, Hintz, and Joe Pavelski.

That … ended up being a pretty good idea.

As a rookie on a defense-obsessed team like the Stars, Robertson will probably suffer some setbacks. Bowness practically set the stage for a future benching by talking about how his defensive game “will improve.”

Once Seguin gets back, the leeway might fade. And while there is room for defensive improvement, Robertson’s the sort of net positive that should force the Stars to accept the occasional hiccup. Even early on, the underlying numbers via Evolving Hockey are quite impressive:

Jason Robertson Dallas Stars RAPM Evolving Hockey Calder Trophy Dark Horse
via Evolving Hockey

That might not be Calder frontrunner material, at least with the spotlight on Kaprizov (and also someone like Kevin Lankinen). But none of that should take away from Robertson’s strong rookie season, and how important he’s rapidly become to the Stars.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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