Calder Trophy Watch: MacKinnon chased by Bolts pair

Ryan Kennedy
Nathan-MacKinnon-COL2

Heading into the Olympic break, most of the top rookies in the NHL will get a unique cooling-off period, where they can assess their performances to date and get some bonus rest before heading into the home stretch. Some even made the cut for Sochi, including Valeri Nichushkin, Aleksander Barkov, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas and Olli Maatta. So they won’t get rest, but won’t be complaining, either. Here’s a look at the top candidates for rookie of the year in the NHL.

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

The first overall pick from this summer is in steamroller mode, riding a seven-game point streak that has seen his lead in the NHL rookie scoring race increase over Tampa’s Tyler Johnson. MacKinnon now has 21 goals and 43 points through 57 games.

2. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

Playing on the Bolts’ top line with fellow freshman Ondrej Palat and veteran Martin St-Louis, Johnson has been logging big minutes lately and continues to put points on the board. The pivot is also a threat short-handed.

3. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning

Though he made his name as a skilled winger, Palat can be very responsible defensively too. That diversity is good to see, though it’s hard to ignore the way he has shot up the scoring charts and is now just four points behind linemate Johnson with 32 in 57 games.

4. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

The confidence Trouba has in his game right now is obvious when you watch him, as well it should be: This is a strong young man with some nice offensive instincts, even though he’s better known on the back end as a physical D-man. Trouba’s average ice time of 21:46 leads all rookies.

5. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks

Playing on the Ducks’ top pairing with Francois Beauchemin, Lindholm has continued to impress as a two-way blueliner and has played more than 23 minutes in two of his past three games. Otherwise, he still leads all rookies with a plus-23 rating.

6. Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames

Though he recovered from a foot injury a while ago, Monahan only recently got his groove back offensively and now has four points in his past five games. Given that the Flames will be sellers at the trade deadline, he will likely get even more responsibility on the squad.

7. Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins

With the news that Kris Letang is beginning his recovery from a stroke, Maatta will be counted on even more by the Pens once he returns from Sochi. The big Finn has two points in his past five games and should expect even more ice time after the Olympics.

8. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins

Still the defensive leader in points by a rookie, Krug has 31 through 56 games for the Bruins and has picked up the pace recently after a bit of a slump in December. According to his CORSI rating, the B’s are most active offensively when he’s patrolling the back end.

9. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have maintained their hotness under new coach Paul Maurice and Scheifele continues to play well, with three points in his past five games. He’s now tied for third among freshman scorers with 32 points in 59 appearances.

10. Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

Kreider has gone cold, failing to score a point in his past six games. But he’s still playing on New York’s top line and leads the team in CORSI among regular skaters. His 30 points in 51 games ranks third among Calder hopefuls.