Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar has been nominated for the 2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year. He is one of three finalists, the other two being defenseman Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks, and Dominik Kubalik of Chicago. The voting for this award was done by the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) and the recipient will be announced during the Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Makar, 21, led all rookies in points per game with 50 points in 57 games, a rate of 0.88 points per game. Hughes needed 11 more games to beat Makar for the rookie lead in points with 53 in 68 games (0.78 ppg).
Jackie wrote about Makar and his chances for the Calder back in June, it lays out the argument for Makar and shows some pretty fun highlights of Makar’s short time in Denver.
“Makar’s arrival in Colorado coincided with several other roster additions which has yielded positive results thus far but none have had the impact Makar has made since his arrival. Less than 48 hours removed from his collegiate career Makar scored his first goal en route to total domination over the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs and the Avalanche have not looked back since. Before they had always been toiling in the borderline playoff tier and it’s no coincidence that with Makar the Avalanche now look like true Stanley Cup contenders.” - Jackie Kay, Mile High Hockey
Dominik Kubalik, a 24-year-old left winger, is the third finalist for the award after scoring 30 goals (26 of which at even strength) in 68 games for Chicago. Kubalik shot a staggering 19.1% playing most of the year next to Jonathan Toews, so this was definitely a Cinderella season for him. On the defensive end, Kubalik was a step or two behind Hughes and Makar in shot shares on a weaker Chicago team. Kubalik hovered around 50% in shots, goals, and expected goals, while Makar’s numbers were in the mid-50s and his goals rate was 61%. You can see the three matched up here.
Defensemen rarely win the Calder Trophy, so it’s a unique year that the two obvious front runners, Hughes and Makar, are defensemen. Only three defensemen have won the Rookie of the Year since the turn of the century and only 11 all-time. Forwards are more than five times more likely to win the award than defensemen; there have been 59 forward winners since 1933 when the award was first given out.
Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are two current Avs to have won the award, Chris Drury is the third in the franchise’s history. Here’s hoping Makar makes it four.