To mark the halfway point of the 2023-24 regular season, is running its second installment of the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Calder Trophy, given annually to the best rookie in the NHL as selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The unfortunate injury to Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard shouldn't put a damper on the incredible start to his NHL rookie season.

It certainly hasn't in the minds of the 15-person panel of writers that voted Bedard a unanimous favorite to win the Calder Trophy at the halfway point of the season. His 75 voting points put him ahead of New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes, who was second with 47 points. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Adam Fantilli (36 points) was third, followed by Minnesota Wild teammates defenseman Brock Faber (24 points) and forward Marco Rossi (20 points).

Bedard is expected be out 6-8 weeks after having surgery Jan. 8 to repair a fractured jaw, sustained during a 4-2 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 5. That was the same day the 18-year-old was informed he'd have an opportunity to become the youngest player in League history to skate for an NHL All-Star team during NHL All-Star Weekend on Feb. 1-3 in Toronto.

While he won't play in the All-Star Game, the focus has shifted to Bedard's recovery and eventual return to the lineup.

"You know, if [he comes back] earlier, great, but I think that's probably a normal timeline for what they were thinking of with the procedure they did," Chicago coach Luke Richardson said.

Whenever Bedard returns, the expectation is he'll be able to pick up where he left off from a production standpoint. He has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 35 games, and leads NHL rookies with an average of 0.85 points per game (minimum 10 games).

Bedard has dealt well with previous significant injuries. In 2017 he broke his wrist while playing in a game and was unable to use his right hand for about 12 weeks. He practiced using only his left hand to stickhandle and worked on his backhand shot, a turning point in his career he believes made him stronger with the top-hand on his stick and improved his overall shot.

"I played hockey every day, basically, so I was just kind of keeping that routine," Bedard told ESPN in April. "I think I started to raise the puck a bit when you shoot on one hand, and it made it a little stronger. I think it helped out my shot a bit."

Hughes leads NHL rookie defensemen with seven goals, 23 points and 11 power-play points (three goals) in 39 games. He's one of three rookie defensemen to average at least 20 minutes of ice time per game (20:06) and leads first-year players at his position with 17 takeaways.

"I think Luke has been good at the halfway mark but there's room for improvement," New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's some of that small-area game, managing the puck in the defense zone, knowing how hard the other team is forechecking and what the option is. That said, I think his skating has been incredible and his shot has surprised me, so you're probably thinking I'm nitpicking."

Fantilli (11 goals, 13 assists) is tied with Rossi (12 goals, 12 assists) for second among rookies with 24 points in 42 games, and his 105 shots on goal are second (Bedard, 118). 

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Connor Bedard, F, Chicago Blackhawks, 75 points (15 first-place votes); Luke Hughes, D, New Jersey Devils, 47 points; Adam Fantilli, F, Columbus Blue Jackets, 36 points; Brock Faber, D, Minnesota Wild, 24 points; Marco Rossi, F, Wild, 20 points; Pyotr Kochetkov, G, Carolina Hurricanes, 10 points; Pavel Mintyukov, D, Anaheim Ducks, 5 points; Joseph Woll, G, Toronto Maple Leafs, three points; Samuel Ersson, G, Philadelphia Flyers, 2 points; Dmitri Voronkov, F, Blue Jackets, 2 points; Connor Zary, F, Calgary Flames, 1 point.