By Jacob Wallman
Every year, the NHL awards the Calder Trophy to its most outstanding rookie. There are three nominees per season, and this year, the race is between right-winger Filip Forsberg, defensemen John Klingberg and Aaron Eklbad (who was the 1st overall draft pick and started the year at 18-years-old), and left winger Johnny Gaudreau (pronounced gud-row). Despite the title of the article, I will mostly be looking at who should win it, rather than who will win it.
Let’s Start With Even Strength Play:
This was a hard one to get my head around, because all four players have seen different usages and have different Even Strength On-Ice Shooting Percentages (which can artificially inflate or deflate a player’s numbers). To solve the latter problem, I used each rookie’s Even Strength On-Ice Shot totals (the amount of shots their team has had while they were on the ice) to calculate how many goals their teams would have scored with them on-ice if they all had a Shooting Percentage of 8% (which is about average, when you include defensemen), and used that number, along with the percentage of on-ice points that each player had a point on, to figure out how their respective EV P/60’s (Even Strength Points Per 60 minutes of Ice Time) would look with all things being equal. This is what I got (the numbers are rounded):
Forsberg: 1.8 EV P/60 (T-88th among forwards and among all players with 40+ games)
Gaudreau: 1.3 EV P/60 (T-132nd among players with 40+ games and T-86th among forwards with 40+ games)
Klingberg: 1.2 EV P/60 (T-12th among defensemen with 40+ games)
Ekblad: 1.0 EV P/60 (T- 31st among defensemen with 40+ games)
Klingberg does not only come out on top there, but also in usage. By looking at the handy-dandy player usage chart in the link below, we can see that Klingberg has had both the lowest Offensive Zone Start Percentage and Highest Relative Corsi Quality of Competition at Even strength, along with a lower Quality of Teammate (which is indicated by the dots’ respective colors) than Ekblad and Forsberg. Gaudreau has had by far the worst teammates, but that still does not (at least in my mind) justify his low Even Strength scoring enough to put him back into the conversation.
Handy-dandy Usage Chart:
Aaron Ekblad is the only rookie out of these four that has more than minimal Penalty Kill time, but at 29 seconds per-game, he does not exactly look to be a defensive powerhouse (and certainly does not receive enough PK minutes to convince me that he’s significantly better at defense than Klingberg, who averages 10 seconds of PK time per-game). I looked at how Klingberg and Ekblad affect their respective team’s penalty kills (Forsberg and Gaudreau have both played such little time shorthanded that there is no point in looking at how they did), and both players had a better Shorthanded Goal Against/60 than their team as a whole, but a worse Shots Against/60, so I cannnot declare anyone a clear winner there, either.
On the power play, Klingsberg was once again the best, and though Forsberg boasts the group’s best PP P/60 at 4.9, he is ranked 52nd in that category among forwards with 40+ games, while Klinberg’s 4.2 PP P/60 is good for 12th among defensemen with 40+ games.
I think you know who I’m going with here: John Klingberg, with the other nominees being Filip Forsberg and Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad, as a freshly drafted phenom, has been receiving the most attention, and he will probably get the trophy, but Klingberg has put up better numbers against tougher competition, with tougher Zone Starts and worse teammates, and he is who should win it.