With the NHL season now at the midway point, a closer look at the Rookie of the Year race reveals some impressive numbers from the league’s freshmen.
New York Islanders centre Mathew Barzal leads the rookie scoring race with 15 goals and 29 assists in 44 games. Averaging a point per game, Barzal is on pace for the most points by a rookie since Evgeni Malkin’s 85 in the 2006-07 season. Since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, only Connor McDavid averaged more points per games played (16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games for 1.07 P/GP) before having his season cut by a broken collarbone.
Brock Boeser has been nearly as impressive in his first full season with the Vancouver Canucks. Selected seven picks after Barzal in the 2015 Draft (23rd overall), Boeser is four points behind Barzal in the rookie scoring race with 22 goals and 18 assists and two games in hand. Boeser’s scoring pace amongst rookies since the lockout-shortened season (0.95 P/GP) falls just behind McDavid, Barzal, and Artemi Panarin, who had 77 points in 80 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015-16.
Rookie scoring leaders (P/GP) since 2012-13
Barzal and Boeser’s numbers compare favourably to recent rookie seasons of high-impact players like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jack Eichel, but it should be noted the two rookies this year are 20-years-old, while the others were 18- and 19-year-old rookies.
The Calder race won’t be limited to just high-scoring forwards. A few defencemen are putting together impressive seasons as well.
The New Jersey Devils’ Will Butcher and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev are tied atop the defencemen scoring for rookies with 26 points each. If the two can maintain their pace the second half of the season (0.62 G/GP for Butcher, 0.59 G/GP for Sergachev), they have a shot at finishing with the most points for a rookie defenceman over the course of a full season since the 1992-93 season when Vladimir Malakhov had 52 points in 64 games for the New York Islanders.
The pair trails only Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere and his outstanding 2015-16 rookie scoring pace of 0.719 G/GP since the lockout-shortened season.
As significant for Lightning fans – and Montreal Canadiens fans – is that Sergachev has seven more points than Jonathan Drouin, the forward the Bolts traded for Sergachev, through the first half of the season.
Rookie defencemen scoring leaders (P/GP) since 2012-13
Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy also deserves mention for leading rookies in ice time, averaging 22:51 over 41 games this season, a number that puts him in the Top 40 in the entire league and 12th all-time amongst rookies. McAvoy is contributing offensively for the Bruins as well, netting five goals and 18 assists in the first half of the season, third amongst rookie defencemen.
It’s unclear if any rookie goaltender will accrue enough games for serious Calder consideration, but two have stood out in limited action during the first half of the season.
Malcolm Subban has an impressive 11 wins in 13 starts for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, to go along with a solid .918 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average. Tristan Jarry is 9-3-2 in 15 starts for the Pittsburgh Penguins, carrying a .923 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average.
Subban and Jarry’s playing was boosted by injuries to starters Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray respectively, and likely aren’t slated for as many starts in the second half.