After Connor Bedard suffered a broken jaw way back on January 5th, I imagined that he had no shot at making a run for the Calder Memorial Trophy. For those who don't know, that's the trophy given to the NHL's most outstanding rookie for that particular season.
Bedard was easily the runaway favorite for the award before his injury as he led all rookies in goals (15), assists (18), and points (33) while having under 20 minutes of ice time per game.
We are roughly five weeks past the Devils game and believe it or not, Bedard still leads all rookies in all three of those categories. The next closest rookie is Brock Faber with 30 points in 11 more games than Bedard.
If Bedard comes back at the later end of the initial 6-8 week recovery period, that would allow him to return on March 1st. He would have 22 games left on the schedule to make a push for the Calder.
Going at his current 0.85 points per game pace, he would acquire roughly 18 more points throughout those final 22 games and finish with 51 points in 61 games. Faber, for example, is currently averaging 0.6 points per game this season.
Obviously, these numbers don't account for hot streaks or cold streaks, but I think we can all agree Bedard was playing quite well before the injury. He had 9 points in his previous 9 games entering the contest against New Jersey.
In order for him to win the Calder, he will have to start out hot when he returns. Like, "shot out of a cannon from the surface of the sun" hot. He will most likely have to average over a point per game to keep pace with the eventual league leader at the time of his return.
In a vacuum, Bedard is perfectly capable of doing this. He's got all the talent in the world and is the best player on his team.
Unfortunately, we don't know how quickly he will be back to his normal self. Taking a hit like the one he did can sometimes change your mindset of how you play, especially this early in his career. I'd like to think that he won't be afraid to go through the middle of the ice to work his magic, but we just don't know yet.
Sure, that may be a little pessimistic of me to say, but we can't ignore that side of sports. It's part of why sports are so amazing in the first place. The concept of rooting for the underdog, or a thrilling comeback story gives us a reason to watch these guys go out there and compete.
It may be a long shot, but Bedard does have a chance to win the Calder in the 2023-24 season. The tape speaks for itself. It all depends on what the voters think.
Will they think he didn't play enough and give it to the next best choice? Or will they give Connor Bedard the recognition he deserves when he comes back after significant missed time and doesn't miss a beat?
Either way, I can confidently say that Bedard's looming return has us Hawks fans pumped! We haven't seen any highlights like this from the Hawks recently, but Bedard's comeback will bring us plenty to talk about.