The NHL on Wednesday announced its three finalists for the Calder Trophy, given annually to the league’s top rookie.
Leading the trio is 18-year-old Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon, whom most believe will win the award in a landslide.
The first overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, MacKinnon led all rookies in nearly every offensive category this season, including points (63), goals (tied for first with 24), assists (39) and power-play goals (eight), for an Avalanche team that’s playing its best hockey in years.
Rounding out the finalists are two previously unheralded Tampa Bay Lightning forwards: center Tyler Johnson and winger Ondrej Palat. Unlike MacKinnon, neither Johnson (undrafted) nor Palat (seventh-round pick) were stud prospects when they entered the league, but both played major roles for a Lightning squad that earned a playoff bid despite being without star forward Steven Stamkos for much of the season.
Johnson finished tied with MacKinnon for the rookie lead with 24 goals, and Palat ranked second in points (59) paced all first-year players in plus/minus (plus-32).
Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug made a case for Calder consideration by finishing third among rookies with 40 points (behind the three finalists) and first among first-year D-men in all three scoring categories (14 goals, 26 assists). Krug also was a key part of the Bruins’ power-play unit, finishing tied for third in the rookie class with six goals on the man-advantage.