Minnesota Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov burst onto the scene in the NHL like a firework. He scored a goal and tacked on two assists for three points in his debut. Through 44 games, he’s collected 37 points and scored 18 goals to lead all rookies in scoring. He leads his team in scoring. In a system that isn’t known for scoring, that’s an accomplishment. His performance alone is a key reason for the Wild sitting third in the West Division and are comfortably on their way to the playoffs this season — and not as a wild card team, like has been the more common case in recent history.
So it’s easy to understand that the national media had all but locked up the Calder Trophy, given to the best rookie in the league, with Kaprizov’s name on it. But there’s a rookie that’s making noise down the stretch of the season — and coming in scorching hot on the Wild forward.
Dallas Stars rookie Jason Robertson’s campaign began as more of a slow burn. He didn’t show out in his first game. He didn’t even really do that in his first 10 games, scoring two goals and four assists in that stretch. He’s even spent some of the Stars’ games on the taxi squad or banged up a little, playing in 40 of the team’s 45 games to date.
But since March 1st, Robertson has scored 12 goals and 17 assists in 30 games — a nearly point-per-game pace. His run coincides with the Stars climbing back into the playoff picture. After struggling with a myriad of injuries to key players, the Stars are right in the thick of the hunt for the last playoff spot in the Central Division. For a team that has been devastated up front by injury — Alexander Radulov only playing in 11 games before getting shut down for the year, top center Tyler Seguin not returning from his offseason hip surgery yet, Roope Hintz playing on an injury that head coach Rick Bowness said most wouldn’t even dress for, Joel Kiviranta missing 25 games (and counting), all accounting for a significant portion of the team’s expected top six this year — Robertson has been a big part of getting them there.
It’s not just the goal scoring that’s why, either (though that certainly helps with yet another forward in the rookie scoring race in a system that doesn’t generate a lot in the way of offense.) He’s been setting up some clutch goals, like the one last night to give Joe Pavelski his team-leading 19th goal of the year:
Even with a better goals-per-game pace than Kaprizov, Robertson has one other advantage that should be considered: he’s not getting buoyed by the power play. Kaprizov has six power play goals, which accounts for a third of his goal scoring, and nine power play points, which is about a quarter of his points on the season. He’s also averaging 3:29 on the man advantage each game.
Enter Robertson, averaging a minute less on the power play (2:13 per game). He has scored just one of his 14 goals this year on the man advantage and has only three points in that game situation. Which is actually a little crazy when you consider the Stars have the sixth best power play in the league as of today.
Robertson is doing his damage at even strength, somewhere the Stars struggle to score as a whole. If the Stars should get into the playoffs, it’s going to be thanks in no small part to the way Robertson has played this year. His impact on the team, as well as his individual scoring, should make him a Calder Trophy favorite — if the voting members of the PHWA respond to the notice he’s given the league these last six weeks.