The Calder nominees were announced on Sunday afternoon, but did Bruins rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy get robbed of a spot?
On Sunday Afternoon, the NHL released the nominations for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the leagues most proficient rookie. This year’s nominees from a stacked rookie class are New York Islanders Matthew Barzal, Vancouver Canucks Brock Boeser and Arizona Coyotes Clayton Keller.
This was clearly not an easy decision to make, and there are plenty of cases to be made for players like Kyle Connor, Yanne Gourde, Alex Debrincat and Will Butcher. But there is one name that is especially surprising to not see as a finalist and that’s Bruins rookie defenseman, Charlie McAvoy.
Both Barzal and Boeser’s spots have been secure since the All-Star break, so Clayton Keller’s spot was the only one still open for debate. Let’s take a look at both Keller’s and McAvoy’s seasons and determine if Keller earning the final spot is justified.
19-year-old Clayton Keller scored 65 points, 23 goals and 42 assists, second among NHL rookies behind only Barzal and were the most by a Coyotes rookie in franchise history. Keller finished atop the NHL in average ice time among rookie forwards with 18:05 a game. To top it off, Keller recorded a 10-game point streak, the third longest streak in Coyotes history.
The Coyotes were the last place team in the league for much of the season, but Keller was one of the few bright spots. No Coyotes player has ever been named Rookie of the Month, but Keller was given the award twice. Nobody expected Keller to have the season he did this year, and now expectations are high for his sophomore campaign.
McAvoy was the only defenseman in the Calder conversation this year. He was a huge part of the Bruins success while being on the first pairing with Zdeno Chara, recording 22:09 of ice time to lead all rookies. Despite being a defenseman, McAvoy’s point totals were still impressive with seven goals and 25 assists for 32 points, and his plus-20 rating was the highest among rookie defenseman.
What likely doomed McAvoy’s official chance for Calder nomination was missing 19 games toward the end of the season with a sprained ACL. But you could see how much the Bruins missed him while he was out. The Bruins struggled a tad down the stretch and missed winning the Atlantic Division by one point. Having McAvoy likely would’ve gotten them the division title and a No. 1 seed in the conference.
Was McAvoy robbed of a Calder nomination?
It’s all a matter of perspective. Keller played for a much worse team and was one of the few bright spots, while McAvoy played for a better team but was given massive amounts of responsibility on the top pairing and was a key contributor to the team’s success.
It’s a tough decision, but I think the right decision was made.
If you put Keller on a better team, I think he’s in the conversation to win the whole thing. Keller finished second in rookie scoring behind Barzal with far inferior teammates. No disrespect to McAvoy in the least, he’s going to be a future Norris winner if he keeps going the way he’s going, but being on the powerhouse Bruins definitely helped his case.
He simply wasn’t leaned on as much as Keller was for Arizona, though no fault of his own. But that’s the only distinction I can give between the two of them, any other year and these two are definitely getting nominated.
As for who will win the Calder, there really isn’t any debate. Barzal is the runaway choice to take the award after having 22 goals and 63 assists for 85 points, as well as being the first rookie since Joe Malone in 1917-18 to record three five-point games as a rookie.
He and Boeser went back and forth all season, but the injury to Boeser in March gave Barzal a clear path to the award.