The Calder Trophy needs no introduction, but just to do our diligence: it’s a hotly debated annual NHL award handed out at the end of the season to the player who is the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL. The trophy’s name honors the NHL’s first president, Frank Calder.
In recent years the Calder has been won by the likes of Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner Cale Makar, Toronto Maple Leafs’ superstar Auston Matthews and most recently, Detroit Red Wings blueline prodigy Moritz Seider. With the 2022-23 NHL season merely a month away from puck drop, let’s take a sneak peek at five candidates who could compete for this season’s Calder Trophy.
1. Owen Power, Buffalo Sabres
Owen Power was the Buffalo Sabres’ first pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He was a highly touted prospect and a star at the University of Michigan. He was coming off a shortened season where he registered 16 points in 26 games. However, he opted to stay back in school for one more season as he knew the team was brewing a national title contender.
During the 2021 Draft, he and fellow Wolverines teammates Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson were selected in the first round. Power and Beniers became the first teammates since 1969 to be drafted in the first two selections. Beniers, of course, was the NHL expansion Seattle Kraken’s first-ever pick. We will get to Beniers later on. Power was right, though. There was a special team in Michigan, a group that boasted numerous NHL picks and future talent; 14 players had NHL rights. The Wolverines would dominate the NCAA season and post a record of 31-1-10 before having their hearts broken in an overtime loss to eventual national champion Denver in the Frozen Four.
Following his NCAA season, Power opted for the NHL and joined the Sabres during the last few weeks of the regular season. He played eight games and registered three points, which included two goals. His short but sweet impression is enough for him to be listed as the top Calder candidate this season. The 6-foot-6 Mississauga, Ontario giant shows a lot of promise stepping into the NHL full-time this season, and it’s easy to understand the appeal. According to Daily Faceoff’s Brock Seguin’s 82-game rookie model, Power projects to score 5.7 goals and 27.4 assists for 33.2 points.
Not many players at his height can maneuver the way he does on the ice. Power rarely makes mistakes and frequently will play the short-range passing game to let his teammates take control of a play. With a powerful shot and the ability to walk the blueline with poise, Power has all the right tools in his bag to be crowned the Calder Trophy winner at the end of the season.
2. Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks
When the Ducks chose Mason McTavish with the third overall pick in the 2021 Draft, I distinctly remember seeing some backlash on social media regarding the selection. However, McTavish has since silenced any critics.
McTavish has been successful at every level in his career. He’s coming off a monster major-junior season where he registered 20 goals and 47 points in 29 games with the Peteborough Petes and Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. He helped the Bulldogs win an OHL Championship and led them to the Memorial Cup Final.