The race for the Calder Trophy is wide open this year as we are now into the second half of the season.
The Panthers have the reigning Rookie of the Year and young gun Jonathan Huberdeau and with his recent hot stretch Aleksander Barkov has thrust himself into contention for this year's award.
The last time a team had back-to-back Calder winners was the Boston Bruins back in 1967-68. Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson were the two to accomplish the feat, and they turned out alright, with Orr becoming one of the greatest blue liners of all time.
The Flying Finn is currently tied for eighth in rookie scoring with 22 points, seven behind the leader Nathan McKinnon of Colorado who was taken one spot ahead of Barkov in this past summer's draft. Barkov has averaged close to a point a game over the last month and seems poised to have a big second half. The Panthers young gun has taken and won more face-offs than any other rookie and is playing in every situation. Barkov leads the Panthers in scoring and is playing big minutes. He plays against the other team's top lines and he is on the ice late in games to protect leads. He is as good defensively as he is offensively which is something that you just don't see from many 18-year olds.
It will be interesting to see how the rookie race unfolds in the second half of the season. I believe Barkov will be in the middle of the conversation by year's end.
The Panthers' future is filled with promise with loads of young talent and Barkov will be front and center leading the way for years to come. The Calder race is one to watch closely if you are a Panther fan.
How awesome would it be if they are able to accomplish a feat that hasn't been duplicated in 46 years in the NHL?