To the surprise of absolutely no one, Oilers rookie, Connor McDavid, has been named as one of the three finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the league's top rookie. Joining McDavid in the top three - no surprises here either - are Artemi Panarin from the Chicago Blackhawks and Shayne Gostisbehere from the Philadelphia Flyers. When the vote tallies are released it will be interesting to see what other rookies got votes, but for my money these three were far and away the three best in the league this season.
McDavid becomes the third Oilers player to be nominated for the Calder, following Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011/12 (he lost to Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog) and Jason Arnott in 1993/94 (he was the runner-up to New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur). And like those Oilers who were nominated before him, I suspect that McDavid will not be the winner when the award is announced on June 22 in Las Vegas. I thought this a month ago, I think the same thing today. Panarin will win the Calder Trophy.
McDavid had an amazing rookie season, there is no denying that. And of the three, he will have the best career. I don't think many people would argue with me on that point. With 16 goals and 42 assists, McDavid was the only rookie to play at a point per game pace this season; unfortunately for him though, he only played in 45 games. Even though McDavid scored 1.07 points per game, the third most in the NHL this season, I expect that a number of voters will look at those games played and say that it's not enough to rank him ahead of Panarin. Ahead of Gostisbehere, sure, but not ahead of Panarin.
The argument against Panarin is that, at 24, he's not really a rookie. This isn't a ridiculous argument by any means, but as long as the eligibility rule is what it is, he going to get votes, and based on his play this season he's going to get a lot of votes. It is certainly possibly that he might lose a few votes here and there because of his age and/or previous experience, but it won't be nearly as many as McDavid loses for only having played 45 games. And let's not forget that Panarin, like McDavid, had an excellent season. With 30 goals and 47 assists, Panarin's 82 games pace would land him only nine points back of McDavid.
Given that Panarin played the whole season and not just half of it, I expect that what he did will be seen as superior to what McDavid might have done (more likely would have done, but you never know), and that it'll be Panarin's name that is announced as the NHL's 2016 Rookie of the Year. Sorry, Connor, you'll have to settle for having a much better overall career.