Updated 2015-16 Calder Trophy Ranking After Connor McDavid's Injury

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistNovember 5, 2015

Updated 2015-16 Calder Trophy Ranking After Connor McDavid's Injury

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Connor McDavid entered the NHL with a lot of hype, but he has delivered early in his career. Through his first 13 games with the Edmonton Oilers, he has scored 12 points, putting him first among all NHL rookies in total offensive production.  

    On Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, he suffered an injury, and on Wednesday the Oilers confirmed that he will be out of the lineup for an extended period of time. Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli set the timeline at "months" in a press conference addressing the injury.  

    It's a blow to the Oilers, to McDavid and to NHL fans who were looking forward to seeing more from a unique player this season.

    It also injects uncertainty into the Calder Trophy race for the league's rookie of the year. The 2015-16 freshman class boasts some exceptional talents who, thus far, have been eclipsed to at least some degree by McDavid's work in Edmonton.

    Which of those other rookies stands the best chance at claiming the Calder? Let's walk through some of the prime candidates, looking both at their performance to date and some unique factors that make them contenders. 

    Statistics via NHL.comwar-on-ice.com and EliteProspects.com. Salary information courtesy of NHLNumbers.com

10. Colin Miller, Boston Bruins

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Stats line: 10GP, 1G-4A-5PTS, 51.7% Corsi rating

    Performance

    Miller hasn't exactly climbed to the top of Boston's defensive depth chart just yet, but he's playing regularly and has provided the club with offence from its blue line, something that has obvious value. His five points in 10 games is tied for second among rookie defencemen. 

    Working in his favour

    He's a right shot. Boston has some pretty good power-play options on the back end, a list that includes Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, but neither of those players are right shots. Handedness matters on the power play, and Miller's a gifted offensive player and the only defenceman on the team who fits this particular niche. 

9. Oscar Lindberg, New York Rangers

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Stats line: 12GP, 6G-3A-9PTS, 47.0% Corsi rating

    Performance

    A quality two-way pivot who took a while to graduate from the AHL to the majors, Lindberg has surprised many with his early offensive touch.

    The 24-year-old is playing depth minutes for the Rangers and has benefited mightily from a high personal shooting percentage (28.6 percent; for the sake of contrast, he sat at just 13.1 percent last season in the minors). History suggests he's riding a hot streak, but he's young enough that a big step forward isn't out of the question. 

    Working in his favour

    Exposure. Playing in New York means playing under the eye of many fans and media members every single night, and that makes it much more difficult to fly under the radar. If this early hot streak turns out to be a lasting trend, it's a certainty that Calder voters will reward him for it. 

8. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Stats line: 12GP, 4G-5A-9PTS, 49.1% Corsi rating

    Performance

    After putting up six points in his first five NHL games, Larkin slowed down; he has just three in his last seven, though it's hard to be too critical given that he also has back-to-back game-winning goals in his last two contests. He's a typical Detroit product—a savvy two-way centre who plays a possession game and can make an impact in all three zones. 

    Working in his favour

    Larkin is playing for the franchise that should probably be the gold standard for the entire league. The Red Wings are famously good at drafting, developing and then deploying their players, so the 19-year-old Larkin will get all the support he needs, and it's a very good bet that if he's in the NHL now, he firmly deserves to be. 

7. Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 13GP, 4G-5A-9PTS, 56.0% Corsi rating

    Performance

    Parayko has been asked to step into the Blues' top four with the absence of Kevin Shattenkirk, and he's delivered splendidly. The 6'5", 226-pound right-shooting defenceman plays a complete game and has been used on both special teams and extensively at even strength. If voting took place today, he'd be a very strong candidate, though his high shooting percentage (11.4 percent) suggests the offence may yet fall off.

    Working in his favour 

    Power-play time. It's a rare thing for a pure defensive defenceman to win a major award, though Blues fans will remember Barret Jackman doing it in his first year with the team. Jackman aside, defencemen without shiny point totals don't usually win awards, so it's very much in Parayko's favour that he's earned power-play time and done something with it.  

6. Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 11GP, 5G-6A-11PTS, 45.0% Corsi rating

    Performance

    Domi has really impressed, scoring at a point-per-game pace to begin his NHL career.

    There are a few reasons to think those numbers may not last, however. The first is that over his junior career, he's been more passer than shooter, and yet thanks to a 20.8 shooting percentage, he's sitting at five goals on the season, with most of those coming at even strength. Unless he's found a thoroughly impressive new gear, that isn't likely to continue. 

    Working in his favour

    A lack of other options. Arizona is pretty well stuck with turning its offence over to the rookies, since the more established veterans, for the most part, don't boast impressive scoring resumes. Domi has stood out in a good way early, and head coach Dave Tippett has every incentive to keep feeding him top power-play minutes and prime offensive minutes at even strength given his other options. 

5. Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 3GP, 2-1-0 record, .930 save percentage

    Performance

    Ullmark had a somewhat shaky NHL debut, surrendering four goals on just 28 shots against the New Jersey Devils. However, he has allowed just two goals total in the two games that have followed. He's a legitimate prospect, combining NHL size (6'4", 212 pounds) with some pretty good work overseas. He had a tough year save percentage-wise in the SHL in 2014-15, but so far, he appears to have put that behind him. 

    Working in his favour

    Ullmark is the only goalie on this list, and opportunity is a big part of the reason why. Montreal's Mike Condon (5GP, 4-0-1, .941 save percentage) has been ridiculously good early, but no matter how good he is, he's not likely to steal Carey Price's job. Ullmark, in contrast, sees only Chad Johnson standing between him and No. 1 work. If he can keep his performance up, he could finish the year having played starter's minutes. 

4. Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 12GP, 2G-5A-7PTS, 52.3% Corsi rating

    Performance

    Bennett has bounced around the lineup and taken on varying degrees of responsibility, but a recent spell with Johnny Gaudreau and an increased role have agreed with him. After managing just a lone assist in his first eight games, Bennett has posted six points in his last four contests. The 2014 No. 4 overall pick seems to be hitting his stride. 

    Working in his favour

    Versatility helps. Bennett can play either centre or wing and can contribute as a scorer or as a physical presence. That makes it much easier for Flames head coach Bob Hartley to find a spot on a skilled line for the talented forward. 

3. Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Stats line: 13GP, 4G-5A-9PTS, 56.9% Corsi rating

    Performance

    Ehlers has been extremely impressive. A volume shooter, he leads all rookies with 46 shots on net, a total made even more impressive once one realizes he's only playing 14 minutes, 42 seconds per game, more than four full minutes less than second-ranked Jack Eichel. He's also only getting second-unit power-play time. And yet he's within range of the point-per-game mark.  

    Working in his favour 

    Ehlers' limited ice time means he may have more growth potential than a number of other rookies on this list. If he keeps scoring, his role will increase; as his role increases, it's reasonable to assume that his point totals will go up. 

2. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Stats line: 13GP, 2G-9A-11PTS, 54.4% Corsi rating

    Performance

    Panarin's torrid production has fallen off somewhat in recent weeks; after putting up eight points in his first seven games with the Blackhawks, he has just three assists in his last six.

    Having said that, head coach Joel Quenneville hasn't lost faith in him. He hit a season-high 21:47 in ice time against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. He's still getting a pile of shots, too, generating 17 in his last four games.

    Working in his favour

    Chicago's exceptional roster. The Blackhawks are a weird combination of some of the best players in the NHL and cheaper fill-in talent, a compromise forced by the league salary cap. Panarin, on an entry-level contract, is one of those cheaper deals. Chicago has great incentive to get the most out of him, and Panarin has the opportunity to play with the ridiculously talented Patrick Kane in his first year in the league. 

1. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 12GP, 4G-0A-4PTS, 50.6% Corsi rating

    Performance

    There's likely to be a measure of disappointment that Eichel only has four points through his first 12 games in the league, but there's a lot to like here.

    First, he has 42 shots; he's been earning his goals with shot volume. Secondly, his on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five is a ridiculously low 3.3 percent; his linemates aren't scoring, and it means he's not picking up assists.

    Everything in his history suggests that Eichel should break out in a big way, and his underlying numbers back that up. Expect an uptick in performance. 

    Working in his favour

    Fame. Leaving aside (more relevant) factors such as natural talent, the fact that last year's draft was often presented as McDavid vs. Eichel is a huge boon for the Buffalo rookie when it comes to attracting Calder votes. Eichel was expected to do great things when he entered the league, so there's no way that voters will overlook him once he starts scoring. 

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