NHL Rookies: Top 15 Calder Trophy Candidates in 2016/17

top rookies

NHL Rookies: Sep 30, 2016; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine (29) takes a onetime slapshot during the second period during a preseason hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Rookies in 2016-17 are already making a case for the Calder Trophy, and this is where they are ranked:

Watching NHL rookies make their debuts is nothing short of spectacular. Most of the joy comes from watching these 18 and 19-year-old men play in the toughest league in the world. Also, most of it comes from how well they are able to do it. And in doing so blowing our minds every minute of every shift. Lists for top rookies are not easy to do. Some will move up positions, however, some will drop positions all on their quest for the Calder Trophy.

Every night these young men go out and show us why they are where they are. And over the next 20 years, they will continue to do so. This NHL rookie list, however, is being done based on how solid these young men already are. These top rookies are not 4th line players or fringe call-ups. But are leaders, and future cogs of their respective franchises. From Patrik Laine to Ivan Provorov all of these young men are on this list for a reason. And will be on many lists for years to come.

This season history has already been made on two several occasions. And if things keep up, even more records are to be matched, or even broken. For example, Auston Matthews being the first NHL player to score 4 goals in a debut. Or how many goals Patrik Laine has scored in such a short amount of time. While these two are generational players, their companions are not far behind.

Oct 7, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho (20) during a preseason hockey game at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports


Sebastian Aho

W/C, Karpat (SM-Liiga)

Selected 35th overall in the 2nd round of the 2015 entry draft. Sebastian Aho is proving he could have gone much sooner. Sebastian is a super-smart two-way player. His hockey IQ and vision with the puck allows him to easily drive play. Whether it be in the defensive, neutral or offensive zones. He’s also a very durable player who can play either both wing positions or centre. So far with Carolina, Aho has played 12 games and has 5 assists. He won a SM-Liiga Championship in 2014-15 as well as a U-18 World Junior Championship Silver medal. And in 2015-16 Aho also won a SM-Liiga Bronze medal, U-20 World Junior Championship Gold and a World Championship Silver medal. Expect him to play for Finland again for the World Championships if Carolina misses the playoffs.

Nikita Zaitsev

D, CSKA Moskva (KHL)

An undrafted player, Nikita Zaitsev has become a strong defenseman on Toronto’s blue line, usually playing north of 20 minutes a game. Zaitsev’s play kept getting better every year as he’s spent the last 6 seasons in the KHL playing alongside grown men. At 25 years of age, Nikita is proving that he’s fit for NHL play. So far through 13 games with the Leafs, Nikita has 6 assists. Despite being on the small side, he’s not shy to throw his body around. Zaitsev also possesses an amazing shot from the point. As well as fantastic passing skills. And he’s also a two-way defenseman, something Toronto has needed. Someone who can drive play, and also protect his own end. Nikita has his own collection of awards as well. In 2008-09 he won a U-18 World Junior Championship Silver medal. In 2010-11 he’d go on to win a U-20 World Junior Championship Gold medal. And in 2015-16 Zaitsev also won a World Championship Bronze medal.

Travis Konecny

W/C, Sarnia (OHL)

Taken 24th overall in 2015, Travis is an amazing player who will continue to impress for many years to come. So far this season he’s spent most of his ice time on the second and third lines. And through 14 games so far for Philly he has 9 points. Currently sitting 7th in the rookie scoring race. Travis is another strong durable player who can play either wing or centre. His amazing skating ability along with agility are the reasons for that. And also his IQ of the game. What else Travis has is a fast release accompanied by top notch puckhandling skills. He’s also not afraid to grind it out and take a hit to better the play. Making him a very hard player to play against night in and night out. In 2013-14 Travis won a U-18 World Junior Championship Bronze medal. And in 2014-15 he won a Gold medal for the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Expect a fantastic season to come from Travis in 2016-17.

Ivan Provorov

D, Brandon (WHL)

Regarded as the best defenseman taken in the 2015 draft, Provorov is living up to expectations. Selected 7th overall in the 1st round, Philly got themselves another gem. Provorov has played 14 games this year with the Flyers tallying 6 assists. Can he be this years Shayne Gostisbehere? Many think so. Provorov’s offensive instincts are so great that every time the puck is on his stick, play is transitioned. He’ll also jump into a rush to create a better offensive scoring chance. He can literally play any part of the game. And that’s penalty kill, power play, 4 on 4 and 3 on 3. He’s also spending most of his time on the 2nd defensive unit. And things don’t stop there for Ivan. He has 2 World Junior Championship Silver medals, 1 in 2014-15 and the other in 2015-16. What we’ve seen so far from Ivan is literally the tip of the iceberg.

Mitch Marner

RW, London (OHL)

As dynamic as they come, Mitch Marner has been on a tear for the Leafs this season. In 13 games so far he has 10 points. Selected 4th overall in 2015, many thought he would make the Leafs that season. However, one more year of junior is what he needed. And it paid off, he won a Memorial Cup and a OHL Championship that season. Marner is a very quick skater that passes like an All-Star. His hockey instincts help him succeed in every end of the ice. And battles hard every shift of every game. He’s also a very unselfish player who makes everyone around him better. He could easily end up in the top 5 in rookie scoring this year.
top rookies

Sep 26, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) skates during the warmup period against the Edmonton Oilers during a preseason hockey game at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports


Kyle Connor

LW, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)

Kyle Connor is an offensive dynamo and pure goal scorer. During his final year in the NCAA he scored 35 goals in 38 games. And to go with those goals he had a total of 71 points. So far through 14 games with Winnipeg, Connor has 4 points. It’s only a matter of time before he finds his goal scoring touch. Kyle is a dynamic two-way centre. His speed and creativity out of all the rookies is only rivalled by few. His skating ability and top speed is also at an elite level. While some players question what decisions to make with the puck, Connor makes them regardless due to his high confidence. He can also drive play in all three zones of the ice. Meaning he’s a constant threat every time he touches the ice. In 2013-14 Connor won a U-18 World Junior Championship Gold medal. And was a Hobey Baker finalist for best player of the year in the NCAA. Now imagine what he’s gonna bring to Winnipeg as the years go by.

Christian Dvorak

C/LW, London (OHL)

A 2nd round selection in 2014, Arizona gave Dvorak another year in junior. And it paid off in spades. After a 121 point, OHL Championship and Memorial Cup season in 2015. Christian is finally with Arizona this season and is making waves. Christian’s vision of the game is at a top tier level as well as his tireless work ethic. His explosive offensive capabilities, especially around the net make him a tough player to contain. And so far through 11 games with Arizona he’s got 5 points and is a plus 2. Besides his outstanding OHL season, he also won a Bronze medal at the U-20 World Junior Championships. Dvorak currently spends most of his time as a second line centre between Domi and Duclair. And he’s expected to keep climbing the Arizona depth chart in years to come.

Zach Werenski

D, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)

Columbus has always needed a stud defenseman. And in the 1st round in 2015, they got one. Zach is on an absolute tear for the Blue Jackets this season. Due to being such a smooth skater, with lightning fast acceleration. His ability to move the puck up the ice with ease is something to be marvelled. Zach has the ability to excel in every situation of the game. And thrives under the pressure. In 12 games this season, Zach currently has 11 points. He’s a solid two-way defenseman with great size. He’ll bring his best night in and night out for Columbus. So be on the watch for him in the coming years.

Matthew Tkachuk

LW, London (OHL)

Selected 6th overall in 2016, Tkachuk is showing Calgary fans why he was chosen where he was. Tkachuk can literally do it all. Score, hit, fight and drive play. His confidence in his game is what makes him so successful. He possesses everything a player needs to be an All-Star in the NHL. And what makes things better is he’s only 18. His speed puts him in positions to score points consistently, often being able to out-class players in his age range. He’s also got a big list of accomplishments thus far. In 2013-14 he won a U-17 World Junior Championship Bronze medal. Also in 2014-15 he won a U-18 World Junior Championship Gold medal. And in 2015-16 he’d win an OHL Championship along with a Memorial Cup with Christian Dvorak. Don’t forget his U-20 World Junior Championship Bronze medal. It’s only a matter of time before Tkachuk is the new face of Calgary.

Anthony Beauvillier

W/C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

Just how good is Anthony Beauvillier? He was able to beat out Michael Dal-Colle and Josh Ho-Sang in training camp. Now while not being a big guy. Anthony makes up for it everywhere else. His speed and skill are at top notch levels. And he’s also a talented puck-handler who can pass the puck very well. The only thing Anthony thinks about is offense. So far through 10 games with the Islanders he has 5 points. And he’s also a +3 on the season so far. In 2014-15 he won a Gold medal in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. As well as a U-18 World Junior Championship Bronze medal. Once Dal-Colle and Ho-Sang make the roster, and with Beauvillier playing with them. The Islanders are going to have a superb scoring line. That will rival the best in the league.
top rookies

Sep 29, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) skates against New Jersey Devils left wing Vernon Fiddler (38) during the first period of a preseason hockey game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


Pavel Buchnevich

LW/RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

After being selected in the 3rd round in 2013, Pavel has finally made the Rangers. And in doing so, has impressed everyone by miles. His offensive instincts are absolutely amazing. He’s also a very fast skater that possesses an elite level shot. So far through 9 games with the Rangers, Buchnevich has 7 points and is a +3. He’s also got a great collection of medals. In 2011-12 he won a U-17 World Junior Championship Gold medal. In 2013-14 he’d also win a U-20 World Junior Championship Bronze medal. And in 2014-15 he won a U-20 World Junior Championship Silver medal. It’s only a matter of time before Pavel takes over the first line in New York.

William Nylander

W/C, Toronto (AHL)

Despite playing 22 games last season for Toronto, Nylander is still considered a rookie. And a top rookie at that. Nylander’s beyond gifted when it comes to offensive talent. His passing is elite, as well as his skating abilities. He can turn on a dime when feeling pressured, and make a play most can’t while doing so. His stick handling is also at an elite level when you watch him deke defenseman with ease. And he’s not afraid to use his body to protect the puck while under pressure. William’s signature wrist shot is also very accurate. Through 13 games for the Leafs, William has 12 points. He’s one of the main front runners for the Calder Trophy this season. And speaking of medals. William has a 2012-13 U-17 World Hockey Championship Gold medal. And a 2013-14 SM-Liiga Gold medal. Like fellow teammates on this list, Nylander is making the future of the Maple Leafs look very bright.

Jimmy Vesey

LW, Harvard Univ. (NCAA)

Selected in the 3rd round in 2012, Vesey has finally made the NHL. Initially drafted by Nashville, than later traded to Buffalo. Vesey eventually signed with the Rangers in the off-season of 2016. Many thought Vesey wouldn’t be able to match the hype. But he has, and so far this season he has taken over the first line with the Rangers. As well as posting 10 points in 14 games. He’s a guy that won’t shy away from making or taking a hit in any zone of the ice. He also has good size which makes him dangerous in the offensive zone. Mostly due to his outstanding passing and shooting abilities. His collection of hardware is also significant. Winning a Gold medal for the 2012-13 U-20 World Junior Championships. Being an NCAA Championship winner in 2014-15. And winning the Hobey Baker award in 2015-16 for NCAA player of the year. Once Buchnevich is ready to take over the first line as well. The Rangers are set up very nicely for the future.

Auston Matthews


A generational player, and the best prospect the Leafs have had in a long time. Auston Matthews brings it all to Toronto. His quick hands to go with his quick feet make him a constant threat. And always a thrill to watch. He can also take care of himself and his team on both ends of the ice. Which Toronto hasn’t had in a centre since Mats Sundin. Also the way he carries himself off the ice, you would think he’s been a pro for years. He doesn’t skate around and hope for a chance, Matthews makes one. His defensive instincts for a centre who possess outstanding offensive ones. It simply is amazing. He’ll take the puck off your stick faster than it got on there. He’s also very intelligent. Instead of playing another year of NCAA hockey, he went to the Swiss Elite League and lead Zurich in points with 46 in 36 games. So far through 13 games with Toronto, Matthews has 11 points. Let’s not forget his record of 4 goals in his NHL debut. His list of accomplishments is very impressive as well. U-17 and U-18 Gold medals for the World Junior Championships in 2013-14. A U-18 Gold medal in the 2014-15 World Junior Championships. And a U-20 World Junior Championship Bronze medal. As well as a Swiss Elite League Championship. If Patrik Laine is Alex Ovechkin. And Connor McDavid is Sidney Crosby. Then it’s safe to say Auston Matthews is Evgeni Malkin.

Patrik Laine

LW/RW, Tappara (SM-Liiga)

Another generational talent from the 2016 draft. Patrik Laine is making a case that he is the better player between him and Matthews. He’s a natural goal scorer, his wrist shot also intimidates goalies. Which leads to a lot of shots going in the back of the net. He’s not the fastest skater on this list, but due to a long stride along with natural power. He’s a constant threat up and down the ice. His puck protection skills are up there with the best of them as well. Laine is often depended on for the power play due to his hard one-timer from the top of the circle. In 15 games with Winnipeg this season, Laine currently has 16 points and is a +2. He also leads the league in rookie scoring. And leads the league in goals as well. Laine also has a nice trophy case next to Matthews. In 2014-15 he won a U-18 World Junior Championship Silver medal. In 2015-16 he’d win a SM-Liiga Championship, U-20 World Junior Championship Gold medal. And a World Championship Silver medal. He also tied Teemu Selanne for most goals by a rookie in Winnipeg history through the first 14 games. It’s safe to say Patrik Laine is going to be a top goal scorer for years to come. And with Winnipeg fans needing and wanting all-star type players, their dreams were achieved when Patrik was drafted.

That’s our list for top rookies for this season. All of these guys possess massive amounts of talent that will continue to show for decades to come. Catch every game you can, cause you never know when one of these guys will do something amazing again. But given their history, they are very likely to do it night in and night out. You have every reason to be excited. It’s not this often in the NHL that in one season they’re are so many high-quality rookies.

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