Calder Trophy Watch: Battle of Red Wings rookies early on

Calder Trophy Watch: Battle of Red Wings rookies early on
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With about a quarter of the 2021-22 NHL season in the books, PHT will break down races for major awards. This feature starts with a look at the Calder Trophy race, with two Red Wings rookies standing out as frontrunners.

Note: stats collected from before Sunday’s games, unless otherwise noted. The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes annually on the Calder Trophy.

Calder Trophy Watch: Red Wings’ Raymond, Seider lead the way

Lucas Raymond

At just 19 years old, and a rebuilding Red Wings team, Lucas Raymond was far from a lock to even remain at the NHL level this season. Uh, you can go further than penciling Raymond into the Red Wings’ lineup. Might as well use a permanent marker.

Through 20 games, Lucas Raymond’s just a hair under a point-per-contest (seven goals, 12 assists for 19 points). Raymond’s 19 points leads all rookies, making him a Calder favorite. Heading into Sunday’s games, only three other rookies were even above double-digits in points.

Even if you didn’t account for a better-than-expected Red Wings team, it’s impressive that Raymond tops his squad in scoring. But when you factor hot starts for Tyler Bertuzzi (17 points in 17 games) and Dylan Larkin (16 in 16), Raymond topping Red Wings scorers is that much more impressive.

Perhaps his shooting percentage is a little high (14.6%), yet it’s not totally out of the question that he’s just that skilled. Even Raymond’s possession stats are good, and not just for a rookie.

When the Red Wings selected Lucas Raymond fourth overall in 2020,  many prospect-watchers raved. So far, that excitement looks justified — and sooner than expected.

Moritz Seider

Remarkably, Lucas Raymond isn’t a no-brainer choice for best Red Wings rookie, though. That’s not an insult; instead, it’s a gesture toward a possible embarrassment of riches.

Despite being a defenseman, Moritz Seider ranked second in rookie scoring with 13 points (2G, 11A in 20 games). Naturally, when you expand beyond scoring totals, Seider’s Calder case improves.

So far, Seider’s the rookie ice time leader, averaging 22:20 TOI per game. Only two other rookies with at least two games played average over 20 minutes per game: Jamie Drysdale (20:23) and Dysin Mayo (20:13).

Like Raymond, Seider doesn’t just distinguish himself among rookies, or fellow Red Wings. He looks like the real deal, in general. Consider the lofty company Seider keeps among this season’s GAR leaders, via Evolving Hockey:

Hey look, Raymond is right behind Seider. So is, uh, Adam Fox. Wow. (via Evolving Hockey)

While Raymond at fourth gained pundits’ approval, even Seider was surprised when the Red Wings picked him sixth overall in 2019.

Even if they remain key to the Red Wings all season, Raymond and Seider aren’t guaranteed to fight over the Calder Trophy to the end. Right now, though? The Calder Trophy battle looks like a two-horse (and two Red Wing) race.

Other NHL rookies who are in the Calder conversation

Mercer, 20, was the 18th pick of the 2020 NHL Draft. If there’s an area where Mercer and Zegras may gain marginal ground in Calder debates, it’s that they haven’t relied much on the power play for their points.

Raymond: five of 19 points are power-play points
Seider: six of 13 points are PPP
Mercer: one of 12 points are PPP
Zegras: two of 10 points are PPP

The three forwards receive fairly comparable ice time, too. Raymond (16:54) slightly leads Zegras (16:41), but Mercer is still getting impressive reps (15:55) for a rookie.

That said, will Mercer’s role decline once the Devils get healthier? Either way, a promising start for New Jersey, who selected him in a spot that doesn’t always produce quality NHL talent.

  • Drysdale joins Zegras as a Ducks rookie who could climb the Calder ranks. (Drysdale isn’t yet a two-way dynamo like Seider, however.)
  • Between injury issues and quality defensive options in Colorado, Bowen Byram has his work cut out for him. He could be a dark horse candidate with the right breaks, though.
  • For more analytics-inclined voters, Anton Lundell could be a Calder Trophy dark horse, at least as a finalist. A strong Panthers team already trusts Lundell in the sort of situations normally reserved for veterans, and hearty ones at that.

Some rookie goalies at least worth mentioning

Truly, goalies struggle to garner much Calder Trophy attention, barring an unusual season. That said, there are at least a few who could be interesting to watch.

  • Believe it or not, Alex Nedeljkovic could wade into the discussion despite being a finalist for the award last season. He’s tied for most rookie goalie games played (12) and has been solid, going 4-3-3 with a .914 save percentage. Yep, those Red Wings rookies are really something.
  • Jeremy Swayman‘s looked reliable for the Bruins, going 5-2-0, also with a .914 save percentage.
  • Dan Vladar quietly has a .933 save percentage. Behind that Flames defense, Vladar could put up numbers if Jacob Markstrom needs a break or suffers an injury.
  • Spencer Knight hasn’t been as impressive (5-2-1, but just a .904 save percentage). However, the Panthers are great, and that could help Knight bump up his numbers. Especially if Hot Bob goes back to being Bad Bob.

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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    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.