The Professional Hockey Writers Association gave Dallas Stars rookie forward the respect some forgot to give Miro Heiskanen his first season: they voted him as a Calder Trophy finalist. He joins Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov and Carolina Panthers goaltender Alexander Nedeljkovic as a finalist for the award given to the best rookie in the league this year.
Robertson started this season shuffling between the taxi squad and the NHL team for a few games before solidifying his space on the Dallas roster. As he got comfortable and discovered his niche on the team, Robertson heated up. Kaprizov dazzled the league from the drop of the puck this season, and was a light-years-ahead favorite for the Calder. Robertson’s strong play down the stretch of the season made the race incredibly close:
Kaprizov: 55 games played, 27 goals, 24 assists, +10, 13 power play points
Robertson: 51 games played, 17 goals, 28 assists, +13, 6 power play points
The decision isn’t as easy as it looks on the surface (if voters are willing to look past just points, of course):
For the Calder I think I prefer Robertson to Kaprizov. Better net impact on 5v5 shots outweighs the shooting and the power-play strengths on the other side. I think. pic.twitter.com/JjDhjgdyLh— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) June 3, 2021
Scoring at even strength in this league is hard. The fact that Robertson’s scoring is not buoyed by power play points should give Dallas Stars fans confidence that his season isn’t some flash-in-the-pan, that it’s repeatable success that he can achieve in years to come.
Robertson is just 21 years old and had only one full AHL season of experience at the professional level before making the NHL team full time. If he doesn’t win the Calder, that’s not some indictment on him. Being a finalist with a 24-year-old forward that had a few seasons in the KHL under his belt and is one of the only players on his team that can score goals and a 25-year-old goaltender with four full seasons in the AHL that backstopped a structured, defensively-sound team to a playoff position is worth celebrating.
After all, he’s got a few more years to catch up to those other rookies. As a finalist for the best rookie in the league, that bodes well for the Dallas Stars in the future.