To mark the midway point in the season, NHL.com is running its third installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Calder Trophy, given annually to the best rookie in the NHL as selected in a Professional Hockey Writers Association poll.
Elias Pettersson may never again experience a day quite like the one he had five days ago.
In a span of 24 hours on Jan. 2, the Vancouver Canucks center was named NHL Rookie of the Month for December, selected to the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game, and completed his first NHL hat trick with a goal 1:38 into overtime to give the Canucks a 4-3 win at the Ottawa Senators.
Pettersson sprained his right knee in the second period of a 2-0 loss at the Montreal Canadiens the next night, but coach Travis Green said he doesn't expect the injury to keep Pettersson out of the lineup for very long.
"If you work hard and believe in something, I think everything is possible," Pettersson said. "This has always been my dream, what I've always been working for, growing up. Now I'm here and living my dream and playing in Vancouver."
Video: VAN@CGY: Pettersson rips shot far side to tie it
A panel of 20 NHL.com writers voted for the winner of the Calder Trophy after the first half of the season, and the consensus was that Pettersson will be the first Sweden-born forward to be named top rookie in the NHL since Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche in 2012. Pettersson received 100 points and all 20 first-place votes.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin was second with 71 points; Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk was third (51 points); Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen was fourth (39 points); and Senators forward Colin White was fifth (20 points).
Pettersson leads NHL rookies with 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 38 games and is the third-youngest (20 years, 51 days) to score a hat trick in NHL history (Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins, 18 years, 153 days; Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets, 18 years, 183 days). He's set a Canucks rookie record with seven game-winning goals, tying him with Landeskog for the NHL lead this season.
Only seven rookies in NHL history have scored more than seven game-winning goals in a season, led by Steve Larmer (1982-83) and Marek Svatos (2005-06), who each scored nine.
A little more than a year ago, Pettersson was capping a great performance at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship with a silver medal for Sweden. He finished tied for the team lead in points (seven) with Lias Andersson (New York Rangers).
"This is what all-star players do; they're always adapting and always putting the game in their hands, and that's what Elias has done," said Sweden men's national team coach Rikard Grönborg. "If you asked me a year ago before watching the World Juniors, I would have probably said I'm very surprised by what Elias has been able to do in the NHL this season. But what happened after his play at World Juniors and then his second half in the Swedish Hockey League, especially in the playoffs, he was amazing.
"Even when he played for us in those games at the World Championship before he got hurt, he was an impact player, so I'm not surprised he's making this big an impact, and it's fun to watch."
Pettersson scored 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 14 games in December.
"[Pettersson's] had so many chances to get hat tricks this year, but to see him finally get that third one (against Ottawa), it's a special moment for him," Canucks forward Brock Boeser said. "It's not surprising. He's going to have a lot more hat tricks down the road."
Pettersson became the fifth active player to score 40 points within his first 40 NHL games, joining Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers). He's the seventh active player to score 20 goals within his first 40 games, joining Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ovechkin, Boeser, Malkin, Crosby, and Laine.
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Elias Pettersson, Canucks, 100 points (20 first-place votes); Rasmus Dahlin, Sabres, 71 points; Brady Tkachuk, Senators, 51 points; Miro Heiskanen, Stars, 39 points; Colin White, Senators, 20 points; Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes, 11 points; Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Canadiens, 6 points; Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning, 1 point