To mark the three-quarters point of the 2017-18 season, NHL.com is running its fourth installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Calder Trophy.
It just wasn't enough for New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal to be honored as the NHL Rookie of the Month for January.
"As nice as it was to win rookie of the month, we're trying to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Barzal said. "This League moves so fast so you have that for a week and then you're almost behind. You got to move forward and whether you have a good or bad game, it doesn't really matter. You have to hop on the horse for the next game."
Barzal, 20, has succeeded in doing that all season. He scored five points for the third time this season in a 7-6 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 9. The feat enabled him to become the second rookie to have three five-point efforts; Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens last did it in 1917-18.
He then recorded his eighth three-point game of the season in a 4-3 shootout loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 22, becoming the fourth rookie since 1993-94 to score three points in a game at least eight times in a season. The only other Islanders rookie to have at least three points in eight games was Bryan Trottier, who did it nine times in 1975-76.
Video: Las Vegas #AwardWorthy: Barzal's three-point night
"The one thing that you really have to work hard at in this League is your work ethic," Barzal said. "The harder you work during a game, the more you get rewarded. You can never take a night off and be like, 'I'm going to just focus on offense tonight.' That just doesn't work, and I found that out pretty quickly."
Barzal has certainly come a long way since going without a point in the first five games of the season. He leads all NHL rookies in assists (49), points (66), and points per game (1.05) in 63 games. Through 24 games in 2018, he has 30 points (four goals, 26 assists)
A panel of 19 writers for NHL.com were solicited to vote for their Calder Trophy leader three quarters into the season and Barzal received 93 points with 17 first-place votes. Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser was second with 72 points and one first-place vote, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy was third with 48 points and one first-place vote, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Yani Gourde was fourth with 23 votes and New Jersey Devils forward Nico Hischier was fifth with 19 points.
"I think about [the Calder Trophy race] but it's not the only thing I'm worried about," Barzal said. "We're in a playoff race and obviously you have to worry about that. If I were to win the Calder that would be great and it's been fun seeing the other rookies around the League do well; it's a competitive race. But at the end of the day my mindset is just on playoffs."
Video: How skating, stride of Mathew Barzal sets him apart
New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall has monitored the progress of Barzal this season. Hall coached Barzal during the 2012 Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp, a five-day event at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. Barzal wound up in one game playing against Connor McDavid, who was coached by Islanders captain John Tavares.
"He was a cocky kid, but cocky confident," Hall said of Barzal. "He's self-assured, and it's not to demean anyone or say he's better than you, but he knows how good he is. You can see that confidence when he's out there on the ice. His skating ability is amazing and his composure and confidence with the puck are what have made him successful."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders, 93 points (17 first-place votes); Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks, 72 points (1 first-place vote); Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins, 48 points (1 first-place vote); Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay Lightning, 23 points; Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils, 19 points; Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes, 17 points; Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets, 4 points; Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks, 3 points; Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils, 2 points; Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2 points; Danton Heinen, Boston Bruins, 1 point; Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets, 1 point