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Calder Trophy favorites include Kaprizov, Robertson

Nedeljkovic, Shesterkin among NHL.com writers' choices for rookie of year

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Who was the best rookie in the NHL during the 2020-21 regular season? That will be officially decided when the Calder Trophy, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is revealed during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Though the regular season isn't scheduled to end until May 19, NHL.com staff writers already have their candidates for the award. 

Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov's impact on the Wild should make him a slam dunk for the Calder Trophy and put him on the periphery of the Hart Trophy conversation as NHL most valuable player. He's been the best rookie from the drop of the puck, scoring 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists) in 54 games. He scored three points (one goal, two assists) in Minnesota's season opener against the Los Angeles Kings, his NHL debut, and hasn't slowed. Kaprizov has gone without a point in back-to-back games five times and never more than three games in a row. His skill makes him a must-watch player and his production has helped the Wild become one of the top 10 teams in the NHL. When pushed by Dallas Stars forward Jason Robertson in the Calder race, Kaprizov took his game and production to another level. He has changed the narrative around the Wild. They haven't had a dynamic playmaking star that could turn nothing into something in the blink of an eye since forward Marian Gaborik joined them two decades ago. Kaprizov does that and he's made the Wild one of the best and most entertaining teams in the NHL. -- Dan Rosen, staff writer

Video: VGK@MIN: Kaprizov nets go-ahead goal after faceoff

 

Alex Nedeljkovic, Carolina Hurricanes

How's this for proficient, which is the ultimate criteria for the Calder? Nedeljkovic has played 23 games (15-5-3) and earned 37 of a possible 44 points (80 percent) for the Discover Central Division champions. Andrei Vasilevskiy, the favorite for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL and among those being considered for the Hart Trophy, is responsible for 76 percent of the Tampa Bay Lightning's points. Among all goalies to play at least 20 games this season, none can top Nedeljkovic's .932 save percentage or his 1.90 goals-against average. The 25-year-old was brought in during the season as injury cover but could be an option in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs because his consistency has been remarkable. In 18 starts since March 1, Nedeljkovic has allowed two goals or less 14 times. He is 7-2-2 against the Florida Panthers, Lightning and Nashville Predators, the three other teams to qualify from the Central Division. -- Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

 

Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars

The Calder is not a one-horse race, at least not to me. There's no doubt Kaprizov has been outstanding this season, but so has Robertson, who's scored 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) in 50 games. He's tied for second in scoring on the Stars with Roope Hintz behind Joe Pavelski (50). The 21-year-old, who the Stars selected in the second round (No. 39) of the 2017 NHL Draft, has gotten time on the power play, where he's scored six points (one goal, five assists). And the Stars have needed Robertson's production. Forward Tyler Seguin, their leading scorer last season with 50 points, returned May 3 from offseason hip surgery. Forward Alexander Radulov played in 11 games before having season-ending core muscle surgery. Robertson has done more than fill a hole on the roster. He's contributed, learned and earned Calder consideration. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

Video: CAR@DAL: Robertson tucks home a loose puck in front

 

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

There's an easy answer to this question: Kaprizov. But we're not interested in easy answers around here, so let's try on another name for size. That would be Shesterkin, who took over for a Rangers legend, Henrik Lundqvist, and amidst the tremendous pressure that comes from it has been one of the best goalies in the MassMututal East Division. Shesterkin has started 31 games, going 16-14-3 with a 2.62 GAA and .916 save percentage (tied for 12th among goalies with at least 20 games played) behind a defense that isn't exactly long in the tooth. He nearly helped the Rangers clinch a playoff berth and has cemented himself in net for a team on the rise. It's not always easy to compare skaters and goalies, but though Kaprizov and Robertson have had stellar seasons, I'm going under the radar with Shesterkin. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

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