Coming off, by all accounts, a historically good draft it's easy to prognosticate Connor Bedard's year. I've read and heard anything from 35-40 goals and 90-100 points in his first season with the Blackhawks. On the low end I've heard a season in the 50 point range with 20-25 goals. More than likely his season will hang somewhere in the middle of those ranges.
So if Connor Bedard does end up with 70-75 points in his rookie season, is the Calder Trophy his? Not so fast. Competition for the award should be at an all-time high from my perspective. A couple of recent decisions play heavily into this proclamation:
1. Logan Cooley and Adam Fantilli appear ready to move on from Big Ten hockey and start their professional careers. A big factor in those decisions likely has to do with those two teams' (Arizona and Columbus) need for playmaking centers. Given the ice time available, their draft slot taken, and Cooley and Fantilli's experience it's not hard to imagine them having excellent rookie campaigns.
2. The emergence of some rookies on contending teams making impacts in the win category may also play a factor into the Calder race. Most notably Luke Hughes with New Jersey. I recently ranked New Jersey as one of my Tier 1 teams (top 8 team in the league). Luke Hughes should be in their top 4 all season as an excellent passing blue liner. With a team stacked with high end forwards that can net the puck, it isn't out of the question that Hughes could put up big assist numbers in his first full season.
3. Then there are the wildcards. I'm looking at the young talented goalies across the league. Will Devon Levi and Dustin Wolf get opportunities with Buffalo and Calgary this season? That is yet to be determined, however there could be a scenario where a lost season or injury opens the door for one of them and they grab ahold of the job quickly. I'm also looking at Jesper Wallstedt in Minnesota after a strong AHL season. The Wild boast the best 1-2 young goialie tandem in the league from my persppective (with Filip Gustavsson) and are likely wanting him in 24-25 however things open up in a season quickly when dealing with veteran net minders (Marc-Andre Fleury).
Some other players I have my eye on include the Wild's Brock Faber, Matthew Knies with the Leafs, Leo Carlsson (if he decides to forgo another SHL season) with Anaheim, Ridly Greig for the Sens, Amadeus Lombardi and Simon Edvinsson with Detroit, maybe even Riley Kidney or Joshua Roy in Montreal breakout if the season goes awry for the Habs. Either way you look at it, this season will be full of young players making big impacts for franchises.
I ran a poll yesterday posing this exact question and while it was a run-away victory for Bedard (87% of the vote) it is worth pointing out that 13% of nearly 350 voters thought one of either Cooley, Fantilli, or Hughes could take home the Calder Trophy.
So what will transpire this year? Time will tell, but for me this might end up being one of the best rookie classes ever in the NHL. While Connor Bedard is the odds on favorite to hoist the hardware, let's not hand it over to him just yet.