Earlier this week, I took a look at the Calder Trophy candidates for the teams in the NHL’s Central Division. Tyson Jost, Kyle Connor, and Joel Eriksson Ek are the favorites from that group. Those three will be in the conversation this season, but the Pacific Division is home to two players that start the season with better odds of becoming the rookie of the year - one in Arizona and one in Vancouver.
Now, here is a list of players from the Pacific Division teams that have the highest likelihood of becoming the rookie of the year.
Anaheim Ducks - Jacob Larsson(D)
With the loss of Shea Theodore to Vegas and the injuries to Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, Larsson is likely going to start the season with Anaheim, and the 20-year old is definitely good enough to hold on to the spot all year. After coming over from Sweden near the end of last season, Larsson got a taste of both the NHL and AHL, giving him the chance to get acclimatized before this season. He’s a big, defender that skates really well and is confident with the puck on the breakout. He’ll get PP time and eventually move into a puck-moving role in the top-4 for the Ducks. Likelihood of winning: Below average.
Arizona Coyotes - Clayton Keller (F)
Like the Maple Leafs last season, the Arizona Coyotes are going to have more than one player that could be a finalist for the Calder. Dylan Strome and Christian Fischer are likely to have very good rookie seasons but Clayton Keller is going to be the best of the bunch. At training camp, the Coyotes have been trying the left-handed shooting Keller out on the right side to let him attack on the forehand - the way the Blackhawks use Patrick Kane.
Keller is an elite offensive talent that has the potential to be near the top of the NHL scoring race in a couple years. He drives possession for his line and is able to create for both himself and his teammates. He’s going to get a top of opportunity in the desert this season and I suspect he’ll be near the top of the rookie scoring race. Likelihood of winning: Favorite
Calgary Flames - Mark Jankowski (C)
After four full seasons at Providence College, Jankowski was great in his first professional season last year with Stockton. As an AHL rookie, Jankowski put up 27 goals and 56 points - finally showing the type of talent that made him a first-round pick back in 2012. He’ll likely get 3rd line time with the Flames this season, but the fact that he might not break camp with the team will hamper any chance he has at being a legitimate contender for the award. Likelihood of Winning: Below average
Edmonton Oilers - Dillon Simpson (D)
I was all set to write about how Jesse Pulujarvi was likely going to end up McDavid’s wing and thus become a favorite - then I realized he played three too many games last season to be eligible. So, here we are.
Dillon Simpson is going to be an underwhelming rookie with the Oilers. He might not get more than a handful of games, but it will be more than any other first-year players in Edmonton. At best he’s a third pairing guy but there are no other options. Likelihood of winning: Next to none
Los Angeles Kings - Adrian Kempe (F)
Kempe is barely eligible for the Calder Trophy this year - playing one less than the 26-game limit to be counted as a rookie last season. He had six points in his time with the Kings, but more importantly, Kempe had time to become comfortable with the NHL after coming over from Sweden.
Kempe is a big player that can play any forward position and should spend most of his season in the Kings’ top-9. Given the right opportunity, Kempe has the ability to score quite a bit and a 25+ goal rookie season isn’t out of the question. Likelihood of winning: Average
San Jose Sharks - Julius Bergman (D)
After two years in the AHL, the former London Knights defender looks like he’s ready to crack the lineup in San Jose. The right-shooting defender is a very good puck-mover with great vision on the breakout.
He’s not going to wow anyone with his offensive numbers, and he’ll likely be relegated to bottom pairing minutes, but he might get a little powerplay time and should collect a lot of secondary assists thanks to his ability to start the breakout. Likelihood of winning: very low
Vancouver Canucks - Brock Boeser (RW)
After dominating for two seasons in the NCAA, Boeser was very impressive in his short stint with the Canucks last season. With four goals in only 9 games, Boeser showed why people in Vancouver are very excited about him.
He’s already got an elite shot and is going to score a lot of goals in the NHL. Boeser’s offensive instincts might be the best of any prospect in hockey and he’s going to be the catalyst for the Canuck’s top-6 for the next decade. He might start the season in a secondary role, but those who follow the team believe he would be on the top line as early as December. Thirty goals as a rookie is far from out of the question. Likelihood of winning: one of the favorites
Vegas Golden Knights - Alex Tuch (F)
When we learned the rules of the expansion draft last year, the Minnesota Wild were expected to lose a pretty good defender. In order to avoid that, they sent top prospect Alex Tuch to the Vegas in a trade for a 3rd round pick.
After two years at Boston College and a year in the AHL, Tuch looks ready for the NHL. The 21-year old is big, strong and will be given the opportunity to be a top-6 power forward in Vegas right away. On a team that’s going to struggle to find offense on most nights, Tuch could end up near the top of their scoring list. Likelihood of winning: Average