In this article, I will be doing a team by team analysis, for every team in the Atlantic Division, regarding who their best shot is at winning the Calder Trophy in the 2020-21 season.
The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.” It is named after Frank Calder, the first president of the NHL.
The award has a history of going to a future impactful NHL player, past winners include guys like Alexander Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, Evgeni Malkin and Martin Brodeur. While sometimes a career can get derailed by injuries or off-ice predicaments, a Calder Memorial Trophy winner should be considered as a sure bet to have a bright future.
The Montreal Canadiens have built a tremendous prospect pool over the past few years. In their system they have a lot of great projects in players like Caufield, Poehling, Romanov, Brooks and Primeau.
However, the one player that stands out from this group for me is the Russian beast Alexander Romanov.
Romanov is a 20 year old defender who spent the past couple seasons playing with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. He was drafted by Montreal 38th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and has looked like a steal ever since. He’s a great skater with good offensive skills and likes to play a physical brand of hockey.
He recently declared he’d be signing with Montreal and is going to be playing in their lineup for the 2020-21 season. He should be able to make an immediate impact at both ends of the ice. He’s going to be joining a weak defensive core that needs another top four guy, a role that he should be able to claim in his first full season.
If Montreal has any chance at bringing up a Calder winner next season it’s going to be through Romanov. While they do have many other tremendously talented players in their prospect pool, most of them aren’t ready to make the jump to the NHL just yet.
The Boston Bruins have a prospect pool deeply affected by a decade of strong teams and low draft picks. Despite all of this, their scouts have made a great job sniffing out the better players at later spots.
While they don’t have many players ready to make the jump to the NHL, they have one player who stands out : Jack Studnicka.
The Bruins acquired the centerman with the 53rd overall pick in the 2017 draft. Consistance is a very valuable asset in hockey and boy does he have it. Ever since his draft year he’s put up 67, 77 and 94 points in the OHL and followed it up with a stellar 49 point rookie campaign in the AHL. He has been on a steady uprise over the past years and is considered to be one of the most solid prospects in the game.
He should have a very good chance of making the Bruins out of camp, he’s a quality player and is still on his entry level contract. However if he does get cut out of the gate he should get the call at some point in the season.
One thing that works in his favor, compared to players on other lower ranked teams, is that he’s going to be playing with great players from the start of his career and will be in a great position to put up points.
While I do not believe he’s going to win it, he has the best chances from the Bruin’s farm system and could cause a surprise amongst analysts.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have much in their farm system a part from Timothy Liljegren, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev and Nick Robertson. Despite playoff struggles these past few seasons, they have gone through a successful rebuild and have one of the better young teams of the season.
In my opinion, the only prospect they have that should definitely make their roster out of camp is Nick Robertson. He played with the team during the play-in round and found success in an offensive role for such a young player.
The player was the Leafs second round pick in 2019 and is already regarded as one of the bigger steals of the class. The main reason he fell so far down is because of his size, however, I think we can all agree he’s proving his doubters wrong this season.
He absolutely lit up the OHL this season as an 18 year old player. He scored 55 goals across 46 games for a ridiculous 1.20 goals per game average. To put the last stat in context, the last player to average more goals per game than him in the OHL was Erik Lindros, who scored at a 1.25 goals per game pace way back in 1990-91.
He capped his amazing season with an appearance in the bubble and should get top six minutes heading into next season.
The Maple Leafs are extremely top heavy and their struggles have been blamed on a lack of depth by a lot of people, this works perfectly for Robertson who should be counted on to provide secondary scoring right out of the gate. He’s their best bet to bring a Calder Trophy back to Toronto.
The Ottawa Senators have a variety of prospects who are going to graduate to the NHL next season to choose from for this award. They have really struggled these past few seasons but it has paid off with their rebuild looking extremely good. Their roster is a bit wide open heading into this season and I could see a handful of prospects cracking their roster, wether it be Alex Formenton, Josh Norris, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Drake Batherson or even their third overall pick.
In my opinion however, the most successful player from these guys this season is going to be Drake Batherson. What a pick Drake Batherson has become for the Senators. When he was selected in the fourth round (121 overall) it was no secret he was extremely talented.
He has put together two extremely good consecutive AHL campaigns putting up 62 points his rookie year and following it up with an even better season this year with 54 points in just 44 games. He also managed to score 10 points across 23 games with the big club last year.
Like many other of their prospects he should stay with the club past training camp and I see him getting constant top six minutes. He has been a constant producer at every level and a permanent position at the top level may be just what he needs to excel. Being already 22 years old, I think he’s Ottawa’s best chance at the Calder, with Norris and either Stuetzle or Byfield being close seconds.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa bay is probably one of the bigger contenders in the entire NHL. They have seen great development over the past decade of many great players like Point, Kucherov, Hedman, Cirelli, Vasilevski and Sergachev.
Sadly for Tampa fans, they don’t currently have much to offer in terms of star quality prospects. I don’t believe that one of their prospects will be able to make the lineup out of their camp.
The best player they have in their system’s Cal Foote, that they selected with the fourteenth overall pick in 2017.
While Foote is the total package in terms of a two way defender, he’s not the type of player who’s going to win the Calder Trophy since he is not a flashy offensive guy. Another obstacle in Foote’s way to the top is that the Lightning are very good on the back end, he’s likely not going to have top four minutes in his first season with the big club.
Tampa fans should not get there hopes up regarding next season when it comes to players breaking out.
The Panthers have a couple of good options in their pipeline in guys like Aleksi Heponiemi and Spencer Knight, however, their best prospect is Owen Tippett.
The 10th overall pick in the 2017 Draft is a pure goal scorer and has successfully scored at every level he’s played in. He managed to play seven games with the Florida in 2017-18 before being sent back down to the OHL.
He struggled a bit this season but should still be able to make the Panthers out of the gate next year. Personally I don’t think he’ll have that successful of a rookie season but you never know in the NHL.
While the Buffalo Sabres have had a very rough time rebuilding their team over the past decade, it finally seems as if they’re heading in the right direction with great young players like Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin leading the way.
This season the Sabres have, in my mind, one of the front runners for the Calder Trophy : Dylan Cozens.
Cozens achieved his ultimate goal last June when the Sabres selected him seventh overall in the NHL Entry Draft. Now he’s set to become just the third player born in the Yukon to play in the world’s most prestigious hockey league.
Standing at six-foot-three and coming in at 185 pounds with an electric skating ability and a natural goal-scoring touch, Cozens is about as good as it gets for an 18-year-old playing major junior.
He should come in and make the team out of camp next season. He has the potential to become a point per game player. Buffalo should be excited to have a 1-2 combo of Eichel and Cozens at center.
Cozens is my favourite for Calder out of the Atlantic division and is in my top 5 for the whole league.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wins have really had a hard time ever since the end of the Datsyuk / Zetterburg era. They were by far the worst team this year but they didn’t get lucky in the draft lottery, ending up with the 4th pick.
Next year, however, Detroit fans can look forward to the debut of top defensive prospect Morit Seider. The 6th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft was considered as a reach at the time, but is now looked at as being a great pick.
Seider will look to build off of his impressive first AHL season and hope to join the big club for season 2020-21. He has shown that he has matured both physically and in his game play style. Seider blends raw skill, hockey smarts and size, a great package that a rebuilding Wings team and GM Steve Yzerman will look to inject into the line-up soon.
While I do think he’s going to have a lot of success all throughout his NHL career, he might have to wait a bit in the minors next season before joining the Wings, for that reason I have him a bit lower in my candidates for Calder.
While the Atlantic Division does have some quality prospects who might make an impact next season, I believe the Calder Memorial Trophy winner is going to be in another division.
Picture source: USAToday
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