NHL.com goes Behind the Numbers during the season pause to examine the front-runners for each NHL award using underlying statistics. This week we look at three potential finalists for the Calder Trophy, which is voted on to recognize the most proficient first-year player of the regular season, based on performance, team point share and other statistical factors.
Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks
The defenseman leads rookies with 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) in 68 games this season. He also leads in power-play points (25), helping the Canucks to a top-five power play (24.1 percent; fourth) for the first time since 2011-12. His 53 points are the most among rookie defensemen since Nicklas Lidstrom's 60 points in 80 games in 1991-92 with the Detroit Red Wings. Hughes isn't just putting up points, he's driving puck possession during 5-on-5 play, when he's fourth in shot attempts differential (plus-110) among rookies. His positive SAT is significant considering he averages the fourth-most 5-on-5 time on ice per game (16:45) among rookie defensemen to play at least 50 games. This stat emphasizes how he can play a two-way game and drive possession, which leads to scoring chances for his team. Hughes is second among rookies in time on ice per game at 21:53 (Ethan Bear, Edmonton Oilers, 21:58), fifth in shots on goal (126), and tied for 12th in blocks (46), showing his versatility.
Video: VAN@NYI: Hughes wins it in overtime for Canucks
Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche
The defenseman leads rookies in points per game (0.88; minimum 50 games), is second in points (50) and power-play points (19) among rookies. Makar missed 13 games with an upper-body injury but ranks among the top rookies in advanced stats; he's first in assists per 60 (1.29) and fourth in points per 60 (1.81) behind forwards Dominik Kubalik (2.57) and Alex Nylander (1.95) of the Chicago Blackhawks and Martin Necas (1.90) of the Carolina Hurricanes among those to play at least 50 games. Makar also helps his team drive puck possession; he's fifth among first-year skaters with a plus-82 shot attempts differential, and his 47 blocks are 11th, showing his ability to play more defensively.
Video: COL@OTT: Makar cranks home heavy one-timer for PPG
Dominik Kubalik, F, Chicago Blackhawks
He leads NHL rookies with 30 goals and rookie forwards with 46 points. He's second on the Blackhawks in goals behind right wing Patrick Kane (33) and third in points after Kane (84) and forward Jonathan Toews (60). Kubalik's 30 goals are tied with Artemi Panarin (2015-16) for fourth-most in a season by an NHL rookie since 2015-16, behind Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs (40, 2016-17), Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets (36, 2016-17), and Kyle Connor of the Jets (31, 2017-18), and his average of 1.69 goals per 60 minutes is first among rookies to play at least 30 games in that span. Kubalik leads rookies with 38 even-strength points and 157 shots on goal, further adding to his case. It's also notable that Kubalik is having a solid rookie season compared to the high expectations of Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers, forwards who were selected No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Video: SJS@CHI: Kubalik goes top shelf off Dach's slick feed
The winner is ...
Based on the above statistics, it's difficult to overlook how Kubalik surprised many, and how Makar filled the skates of Tyson Barrie, who was traded to the Maple Leafs this offseason, but the winner based on stats would be Quinn Hughes. His puck-possession metrics showcase his steady play at even strength, and his 25 power-play points helped turn the Canucks' unit into one of the best in the NHL. Most people did not expect Vancouver to be this close in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt (tied with the Nashville Predators for the the second wild card in the Western Conference), and Hughes is a major factor in their quick turnaround.