The Calder Trophy in the NHL recognizes the “player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition” and is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The PHWA announced the finalists today: forward Elias Pettersson (Vancouver Canucks), defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres), and goaltender Jordan Binnington (St. Louis Blues).
Heiskanen’s exclusion from the Calder Trophy finalists is an absolute travesty.
The 19-year-old blueliner plays with a poise that matches up with the most veteran defenders in the league. He rarely gets caught out of position in his own end and drives offense when he is in the opposition’s end. He led all rookie defensemen in goal scoring with 12 goals in the regular season. He was second only to Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres) in scoring from a blueliner, as he put up 44 points this season.
Though Dahlin had more points, 21 of those were secondary assists (47.7% of his points) whereas Heiskanen had only 10 secondary assists (30.3% of his points), which is a metric often looked at in the hockey community to better illustrate who drives offense as opposed to noise, as secondary assists are often called. Heiskanen also did not have a large bump in points from the man advantage — Dahlin had 20 points in 2:51 average time on ice per game on the man advantage while Heiskanen had just eight points on the man advantage while averaging just 1:40 per game on the power play. Heiskanen also played a crucial role in killing penalties for the Stars. He averaged 1:23 on the kill this season per game on a unit that was the 5th best in the league in the regular season. Dahlin barely played in penalty kill time.
Last time I checked, penalty killing is nothing but being good defensively, the main tenant of a blueliner’s job.
What you won’t see in the statistics, though, is how Heiskanen stepped into a 1D role when John Klingberg broke his wrist in November. Without Heiskanen playing the tough minutes and leading the team missing their top blueliner, the Stars may not have been able to keep pace and stay in the playoff fight those four weeks Klingberg were out.
Pettersson is going to win this award — it was his to lose from the start of the season. On a Vancouver Canucks squad that wasn’t expected to do anything and had to replace the contributions of future Hall of Famers Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Pettersson made them fun to watch. Even though he had an injury that sidelined him a bit, his 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games played this season were by and far the best among rookie forwards.
Binnington is also worthy of being a finalist. The Blues don’t have their mid-season turnaround without his stellar play. He was the biggest piece of their last-to-playoffs story arch this season.
If the voters wanted to recognize the best defenseman to go with the best forward and best goalie amongst rookies, they got this one wrong. Anyone that has watched Heiskanen this season knows how good he has been this season. This just goes to show that sometimes the high draft pick with the name recognition is always going to get the edge — even if the advanced stats and the role on the team played show that that shouldn’t be the case.