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Hustler: These NHL rookies stand the greatest odds of winning the Calder trophy

Those in the current crop of rookies are making standout breakouts this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews celebrates a first period goal with teammate William Nylander during NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews celebrates a first period goal with teammate William Nylander during NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

As the NHL evolves into a faster, more skill-based league, rookies in the league are making major contributions to their teams and becoming impact players right out of the gate. This is not a new phenomenon, but it does seem that more rookies are becoming stars earlier and making Calder Memorial Trophy discussions that much more fun for hockey fans.

A year after the league welcomed a standout freshman class featuring Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Artemi Panarin, Dylan Larkin and Shayne Gostisbehere, those in the current crop of rookies are making similar breakouts this season.

Heading into the final quarter of the schedule, it’s a perfect time to examine the odds for the Calder trophy for the NHL’s top rookie.

AUSTON MATTHEWS, TORONTO  

GP: 55, G: 27, A:19, PTS: 46  

Odds: 1-2  

Matthews, last years first overall pick in the draft, has had an incredible rookie season and has played a huge role in the amazing turnaround of the Toronto Maple Leafs. A talented two-way centre, Matthews dropped jaws when he scored four goals in his first NHL game, but has done so much more than just put up points. While playing in Toronto certainly doesn’t hurt his chances, Matthews has been even better than advertised and deserves all the accolades he has earned this year.

PATRIK LAINE, WINNIPEG  

GP: 51, G:2 6, A: 21, PTS: 47  

Odds: 3-1

Just as Laine was selected 2nd in the draft – right after Matthews – the two players will continue to be compared to each other throughout their careers. The 18-year-old Finnish winger is probably the purest scorer to enter the league since Alex Ovechkin and already may have the best shot-and-release in the NHL. A midseason concussion cost him a few games but “the Finnisher” is back lighting the red light again and scored his league leading 3rd hat trick of the season on Tuesday. Laine could improve his Calder hopes with a few more goal-scoring outbursts like that and a strong final quarter of the season.

ZACH WERENSKI, COLUMBUS  

GP: 55, G: 8, A: 23, PTS: 31  

Odds: 5-1

It's even harder for rookie defencemen to make an immediate impact in the NHL but Werenski has done exactly that. A huge part of the resurgence of the Blue Jackets, the University of Michigan product leads all rookie defenders in scoring and is playing over 21 minutes a game for John Tortorella. Werenski will be a mainstay on the CBJ blue line for years and has a strong chance of becoming a Calder finalist this season.

MITCH MARNER, TORONTO

GP: 55, G: 15, A:33, PTS: 48

Odds: 5-1

Marner, the current rookie scoring leader, probably deserves better odds than 5-1. The problem is that no matter how well he plays, his teammate Matthews will continue to get most of the headlines and likely Calder votes. While probably only the second best rookie on his own team, Marner’s production and playmaking wizardry stands on its own, and he has proved he's certainly worthy of Calder consideration this year.

MATT MURRAY, PITTSBURGH  

W: 21, GAA: 2.27, SV%: .926  

Odds: 8-1

Murray already has a Stanley Cup ring from last season but is still eligible for the Calder this year. Based on the numbers, the Pens No. one goalie should also probably have better odds at winning the award, but playing on a star-studded championship team likely decreases his chances of winning the Calder.