In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are going to take a look at some of the top contenders for the NHL’s 2021-22 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
When we talk rookies here, we are not just necessarily talking first year players. We are looking at anybody that still has Calder eligibility.
A reminder, to be eligible for the Calder “a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season, nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons, in any major professional league.”
Normally the top pick in the draft (in this case Sabres defenseman Owen Power) would very much be in the discussion, but Power has decided to return to the University of Michigan for one more season. Even without him in the mix this has the look of an extremely strong rookie class.
Who all makes the initial list?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens. We were able to get our first look at Caufield at the end of last season and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he looks like he has a chance to be special. An electrifying talent with natural finishing ability, Caufield’s initial cup of coffee in the NHL as well as his talent level has to make him the leading 2022 Calder favorite. The development of him and Nick Suzuki will go a long way toward determining what the Canadiens’ long-term future looks like.
2. Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers. The NHL’s top goalie prospect, Knight figures to get significant playing time this season and will soon be the main guy in Florida’s crease. Playing behind what should be a playoff team and maybe a sneaky contender could really boost him in the race, especially if he builds on what he showed at the end of this past season.
3. Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings. It is amazing how quickly the perception of this pick has changed for the Red Wings. When they took Seider with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019 it was not a popular choice. But in just two years he has quickly developed into one of the top defense prospects in the league and is coming off an incredible 2020-21 season in Sweden.
4. Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have the best farm system in hockey and Byfield is the best prospect in it. With Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault leading the way, Byfield won’t have to take on a top role, so hopefully the Kings can get him into positions to succeed early on.
5. Vasili Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks always seem to have a Calder candidate on their roster, from Brock Boeser, to Elias Pettersson, to Quinn Hughes, to Thatcher Demko, and now Podkolzin. They have patiently waited a couple of years for him to make his debut and he has the potential to be another core building block.
6. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks need something positive and a young cornerstone building block. Zegras and Jamie Drysdale (more on him in a minute) are the two best chances for that. He was great in the AHL last season and showed some really positive signs in his brief NHL action.
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7. Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche roster is an embarrassment of riches, and it is almost unfair to have a prospect like Newhook ready to crack the lineup when they already have so many stars.
8. Marco Rossi, Minnesota Wild. Rossi’s entire 2020-21 season was wiped out due to some serious COVID-19 complications but he seems to be healthy now and should have a chance to make an impact for the Wild. The fact the Wild have major weaknesses at center and will be counting on young players to step forward the next few years should give him plenty of opportunity this season.
9. Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche. We just mentioned the embarrassment of riches the Avs have at forward with Newhook arriving, and the same thing is true on defense with the arrival of Byram. They selected him in 2019 with the No. 4 overall pick they received from Ottawa as a result of the Matt Duchene trade, and he is ready to join an already stacked defense that features Cale Makar, Sam Girard, and Devon Toews.
10. Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers. Kravtsov is one of the many young prospects that gives the Rangers such a promising future. He appeared in 20 games a year ago and now that he has some North American hockey experience under his belt should be poised to take a step forward.
11. Jamie Drysdale, Anaheim Ducks. One of the Ducks’ other key young building blocks, Drysdale just barely qualifies for Calder eligibility this season (he played in 24 games this past season; if he played in 25 he would not be eligible) but figures to play a big role for a Ducks team that has to at some point start looking toward the future.
12. Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings. Even though he finished in third place in the Calder voting last season with the Hurricanes he is still technically Calder eligible this season. But can he repeat his 2020-21 performance? Especially when playing behind a weaker team?
13. Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins. A lot of this could depend on what happens with Tuukka Rask. If Rask is back, Swayman’s role obviously gets dramatically reduced. But if Rask does not return the Bruins are going to rely on him along with Linus Ullmark to handle the goaltending spot. Swayman was very impressive a year ago when the Bruins needed him.
14. Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals. The Capitals have one of the oldest rosters in the league and at some point need to start working in some fresh talent. McMichael is their best hope for that in the short-term and he is a great prospect. He had a strong 2020-21 season in the AHL, but how much of a chance will he get to make an impact on a Cup contender?
15. Peyton Krebs, Vegas Golden Knights. Like McMichael in Washington, Krebs is an excellent prospect with a bright future but is going to struggle to get playing time on a stacked roster that is looking to win right now.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.