• Justin Cait

Way-Too Early Calder Trophy Predictions

Updated: Sep 23, 2018

On Monday, I quote tweeted a silky smooth goal from Elias Pettersson at Vancouver Canucks Training Camp. Little did you know that I actually planted a seed in your mind to think, 'Hey Justin, who else might win Rookie of the Year this season?'

I’m sure all of you have been losing sleep, just thinking about what the rest of my Nostradamus-like predictions might be, so now I will allow you to rest easy tonight and enjoy five of my way-too early Calder Trophy predictions.


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1. Elias Pettersson (C/RW) - Vancouver Canucks

You already knew this one from said tweet above, but there’s more that influences my choice than that one goal, I’ve liked Elias Pettersson for a while


After coming off a season in which he became the highest scoring under-20 player in SHL history, the Vancouver Canucks’ 2017 fifth-overall pick is kind of lucky that, his team isn’t going to be good this season.


Like at all.


Like not even remotely close to good.


So, this gives the 19-year-old Pettersson a chance to both to ease into the league and make a name for himself with limited pressure surrounding him -- albeit, he is in a Canadian market.

Pettersson will be able to showcase his top-six (if not first-line) talent and will have a chance on the power play as well.

Even though Jim Benning did Jim Benning things over the summer with impulsive free agent signings, I really like the Canucks’ future. After top-prospect Pettersson, their players under 25 years old include Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin.


Pettersson will make the players around him better, but hopefully my boy Travis Green (I miss that 2003-2004 Leafs team), gives him in the opportunity to make some magic with some of those other young talents moving forward.


2. Dylan Strome (C) - Arizona Coyotes

Dylan Strome remains the only top-10 pick of the stacked 2016 NHL Entry Draft to have not earned a full-time NHL role yet.

But he’ll surely get his opportunity this year after becoming a (slightly over) point-per-game player in the AHL last season.


With a virtually solidified spot on a much-improved big club this season, Strome will flourish in a third-line center role.


With Galchenyuk and Stepan as the 1-2 centers, there is no pressure on Strome to perform out outside of his current capabilities. He is responsible enough two center other young talents, Christian Fischer and natural goal-scorer Brendan Perlini, it will only benefit his Calder stock heading into 2018-19.


He could be a 40-to-50-point guys this season.


3. Rasmus Dahlin (D) - Buffalo Sabres

An obvious choice, but man, is Rasmus Dahlin is going to be good.

As a teenage defenseman on a young, but significantly upgraded team, Dahlin will have his fair share of mishaps. However, I don’t think that those young mistakes will overshadow his greatness or lead to a spot in Phil Housley’s doghouse.


Dahlin will likely be a the No. 3 d-man on Buffalo this season, which will give him enough time on ice to really play, but not enough to burnout.


The 18-year-old Swede is incredibly skilled on both ends of the ice and his flash alone will most likely earn him a Calder nomination -- the NHL Awards is sort of all about the hype anyways, isn’t it?


4. Martin Necas (C) - Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina’s 2017 first-round pick (12th overall) absolutely tore up his own age group in 2017-18.


Necas led all players -- with Sabres prospect and America’s own Casey Mittelstadt -- in total points for the Czech Republic during the World Juniors (11 points in 7 games). He also posted 0.71 points per game in the Czech professional league during the season, which roughly translates to 27 NHLe (if you don’t know, read up on NHLe, it’s super cool).

With Victor Rask out relatively long-term, Jordan Staal and... *checks notes* Philip Di Giuseppe (actually is sneaky kinda good) are the Hurricanes 1-2 punch down the middle. This gives Necas a huge opportunity to step up and really become somebody in the NHL this season.


The limited depth at center and another year under his belt make a nice path for Necas to become a full-time NHL player with the Hurricanes. Depending on who is on his wing, he could have a deceptively good rookie season.


5. Antti Suomela (C) - San Jose Sharks

Well, you’ve made it this far, so I reward you with my sleepiest sleeper pick to win Rookie of the Year this season.

World, meet Antti Suomela.


The San Jose Sharks signed the 25-year-old out of the Finnish Liiga after he led the league with 60 points in 59 games for JYP Jyväskylä.


Following the Erik Karlsson trade, in which Chris Tierney was shipped out (may God bless his soul in Ottawa), the only other center on the Sharks with NHL experience are Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.


While it looks like Suomela will skate in between Kevin Labanc and Joonas Donskoi on the Sharks’ third line, we all know -- and honestly hate to say it -- that an aged Jumbo Joe Thornton will get injured at some point this season.


An opportunity for Suomela to play bigger minutes this season is effectively inevitable and no matter where he plays on the Sharks, his wingers will be skilled enough to give him the opportunity to post somewhere between the 35-45 points range this season.


Hey, if Artemi Panarin won the Calder at 25, why can't our new friend Antti Suomela win it too?


Keep an eye on: Henrik Borgstrom, Sam Steel, Cody Glass, Andrei Svechnikov, Miro Heiskanen

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