In a rookie class that was supposed to be all about Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, neither of them seems likely to grab the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie.
Right now, that seems to belong to Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin. He leads all NHL rookies in goals (19), assists (35) and points (54) at this point in the season and has the second-best points per game ratio (.93), trailing only McDavid’s 1.19 over an injury-shortened 21-game season.
But let’s not just give the award to Mr. Panarain just yet. You see, there’s a defenseman wearing the black and orange in Philly that has been doing some outstanding, unheard of things for a defenseman of any experience let alone one in the first year of his career.
Shayne Gostisbehere deserves more than a long look at the Calder Trophy. He might be the most worthy candidate for the award to date.
Gostisbehere has suited up in 38 games for the Flyers this season and has notched a total of 32 points. He’s a house of fire lately, too, having registered a point in 13 consecutive games. Simply put, he is scoring in a way that no rookie defenseman has done in a long, long time.
His .84 points per game is the third-highest in the NHL among rookies, putting him on pace for an astounding 68 points over a full season and 53 if he plays in the 26 remaining games the Flyers have on their docket.
In case it needed explaining just how astounding it is for a rookie defenseman to score 50+ points, let’s take a deeper look:
If he hits the half-century mark, he would be the first rookie defenseman to do so since Vladimir Malakhov posted 52 back in 1992-93. That’s 23 seasons since a rookie defender has done it. To put it in even more perspective, only 10 players have hit 40 points as a rookie since Malakhov’s 52, with Bryan Berard (1996-97) and Tyler Myers (2009-10) topping out at 48.
Now, it’s expected that he’ll slow down from his current pace. He almost has to, right? But if he doesn’t, Gostisbehere would be doing something that is not done every year, nor every 20 for that matter. No disrespect to Panarin or McDavid (who has been destroying the competition when he’s been in the lineup), but an accomplishment like that deserves the Calder Trophy. And that’s not taking into account his growing role on the Flyers defense, his playing time growing as the season moves along.
It may not happen, but Shayne Gostisbehere has a chance to do make history on several accounts come awards time in June. That’s assuming Connor McDavid doesn’t go on a Gretzky-like tear over the final quarter of the season, which seems quite possible these days.
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