By all accounts, Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen had a very good rookie season last year. Twenty goals in your first full NHL season, is definitely impressive - even more so when you put it in the context of how bad the Avs were. Though he was very good, the 20-year old wasn’t even in the conversation for the Calder Trophy thanks to an abnormally strong rookie class in 2016-17.
This season, Tyson Jost is going to be a full-time fixture in the Avs lineup and he is going to try to become the third Avalanche forward in seven season - joining Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog - to win the NHL’s rookie of the year award.
The odd for Jost to win the Calder are much better than Rantanen had last season. Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are good, but they're not Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine good. Also, it’s going to be hard for the older rookies to be nearly as good as the group of Nylander, Werenski, Marner, Aho, Murray and Tkachuk were.
What to expect from Jost
Tyson Jost is an offensively dynamic player that has the potential to lead the Avs in scoring in the not too distant future. Though Jost likes to compare himself to Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, that likely isn’t the best comparison stylistically. Jost is a more creative player and creates offense at a higher speed than Toews - though there are a lot of similarities to their game. If we continue the comparison, Jost had a better freshman season at the University of North Dakota than Toews. With that said, Jost was a year older and while playing one less year in the NCAA, he’ll be entering his first full professional season at the same age as Toews.
Toews ended his rookie season with 54 points in 64 games and finished second in points per game behind his teammate Patrick Kane. He had a very solid supporting cast around him, one that we shouldn’t count on Jost having - that Blackhawks team went on to the conference final the following season.
We should assume that Jost is going to be given every opportunity to play a big offensive role with the Avs. A top-6 role with powerplay time is something that Jost will be able to take advantage of. The one question is motivation. When last year fell off the cliff, motivation was lost and the production for a lot of the Avs top players suffered. The hope is that the same thing doesn’t happen this year, but it’s something that could derail a Calder calibre season.
I expect him to exceed Rantanen’s production from last season - both goals and points - but is that enough to get into the Calder conversation.
The Other Candidates
Jakub Vrana - He might be my pre-season favourite to win the award. After playing 21 games with the Capitals last season, Vrana is likely going to be relied upon to play a big role as a secondary scorer in Washington. If he gets regular shifts with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana has all the talent to finish the season as the leading point producer among rookies.
Pontus Aberg - As a 23-year old rookie, Aberg is coming off a season in which he finished third in scoring in the AHL (31 goals) while playing 14 and 17 games less than the top two goal scorers. He played a big part in Nashville’s playoff run this past year and he should be expected to make a major impact in his first full NHL season.
Josh Ho-Sang - The Islanders are going to need Ho-Sang to carry a huge load this season if they’re going to have any chance of making the playoffs. He has the talent to be a top line player and if he gets to line up next to John Tavares - who is still one of the best centers in the NHL - the sky is the limit.
Clayton Keller - After putting on a show at Boston University last season, Keller is set to be a huge part of a young Arizona Coyotes team. Possibly the best prospect in all of hockey, Keller is a guy that has the talent to be a superstar but fell to #7 on draft day because some scouts fear his size. After seeing what he did as a freshman at BU and during the World Juniors last year, Keller is putting all doubts to rest.
Joel Eriksson Ek - He’s big, strong and has the ability to carry a team offensively. Eriksson Ek was absolutely dominant at the World Juniors last year and more than held his own during his brief stint with the Wild. The one thing that could prevent Eriksson Ek from being near the top of the rookie scoring race is the depth that the Wild have at center. He’s not likely to get a top-6 role - at least not for the first part of the season - and that could prevent him from truly flourishing.
Charlie McAvoy - After making his Bruins debut in the playoffs last season, McAvoy was able to show that he already belongs in the top-4 of an NHL lineup. He’s great with the puck, strong in his own end and will eventually be the anchor of the defense group in Boston.
Brock Boeser - Thanks to the narrative that the Canucks are a joke of an organization, people often don’t notice just how good Brock Boeser is. He was dominant through two seasons at North Dakota and scored 4 goals in his first 9 games in the NHL. This year he’s likely to start the season on Bo Horvat's wing on a line that could be their #1 by December.
Other Candidates: Mathew Barzal, Thomas Chabot, Mikhail Sergachev, Dylan Strome, Julius Honka, Nico Hischier, Nolan Partick, Charles Hudon, Kyle Connor
Will He Win The Calder?
I think that given the right opportunity, Tyson Jost will fall somewhere between the 52 points Max Domi scored as a rookie two seasons ago and the 61 points put up by Mitch Marner last season. It may be a lofty expectation, but Jost has the offensive talent to pull it off. With that said, I’m not sure it will be enough to win the Calder. With the likes of Vrana, Ho-Sang and Keller eligible, even a great season from Jost might not be enough to win over the voters - especially if Avs games become as irrelevant as they did during the second half of last season.
What do you think are Jost’s chances of winning the Calder?