Everyone loves when a young, exciting star comes into the NHL and dominates right out of the gate. The Calder Memorial Trophy is given out each year to the league’s best rookie, with many winners later taking home other hardware, such as the Hart Memorial Trophy for the league’s most valuable player.
So, which Calder Trophy-winning seasons have been the best in recent memory?
15. Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers – 2012-13
The lockout-shortened 2012-13 NHL campaign will always seem a bit weird when looking back and comparing it to other seasons. That season’s Calder Trophy winner, Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers, played all 48 games but scored 14 goals and 31 points. Even stretched out over an 82-game pace, that’s just 24 goals and 53 points across an entire season. On top of that, he registered a minus-15 rating while skating just a touch under 17 minutes per game.
14. Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche – 2011-12
The first of two Colorado Avalanche forwards on this list, Gabriel Landeskog played all 82 games at the NHL level his rookie year just months after being the second overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. Landeskog tied Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall selection that same year, with 52 points for the rookie lead. However, the Avalanche winger notched 22 goals, four more than his fellow first-year forward while recording an impressive plus-20 rating, helping him edge out Nugent-Hopkins for the award.
13. Aaron Ekblad – Florida Panthers – 2014-15
Just two years after his Panthers teammate took home the Calder Trophy, Aaron Ekblad stepped up and brought it back to the Sunshine State.
The Canadian blueliner was selected first overall in the 2014 NHL Draft and went straight to the league, sniping 12 goals and 39 points with a plus-12 rating. This showing made him an instant franchise face for the Panthers while showcasing that he would have a bright future in the league.
12. Tyler Myers – Buffalo Sabres – 2009-10
At 19 years old, Tyler Myers became the first defenseman to take home the Calder Trophy since Barret Jackman during the 2002-03 NHL campaign. Myers tallied 11 goals and 48 points during his rookie season and both are still the highest totals he’s produced in a single season. The massive 6-foot-8 blueliner also notched 133 blocked shots and 89 hits, showing that he was more than just offense for the Sabres.
11. Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche – 2019-20
Even with these questions, there’s no doubt that Makar had a breakout campaign in 2019-20. With 12 goals and 50 points in just 57 games, there was no telling just how high his scoring totals could have been if everything had gone perfectly.
10. Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks – 2007-08
Like several others on this list, Patrick Kane came into the NHL immediately after being drafted. The top pick in the 2007 NHL Draft scored 21 goals and 72 points during his terrific rookie campaign. He narrowly led all rookies in scoring but was the only one to eclipse the 70-point milestone. That same season, fellow Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews finished third in Calder Trophy voting after scoring 54 points.
9. Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanches – 2013-14
Another top draft choice, Nathan MacKinnon was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and lived up to expectations early. The 18-year-old Nova Scotian collected 24 goals and 63 points, the most he would score until his fifth NHL season.
MacKinnon took home the Calder Trophy just two seasons after Landeskog, outscoring him by 11 points in their respective rookie campaigns while showcasing how bright Colorado’s future could be.
8. Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes – 2010-11
Selected seventh overall in the 2010 NHL Draft behind names such as Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner’s Calder Trophy victory was a bit surprising. The 18-year-old winger was the lone rookie to surpass the 60-point plateau that season but finished third among rookies with 31 goals scored. Skinner’s 63 points remains a career-high, but he’s reached that exact total three times.
7. Elias Pettersson – Vancouver Canucks – 2018-19
Heading into last season, Elias Pettersson was the gambling favorite to take home the Calder Trophy and he impressively followed through on that hype. Despite missing 11 games with a concussion and a knee injury, the 6-foot-2 center still tallied 28 goals and 66 points, including 22 power-play points. The 2017 fifth-overall pick has cemented himself as one of the best young forwards in the game and should be part of the Vancouver Canucks’ resurgence in the coming years.
6. Artemi Panarin – Chicago Blackhawks – 2015-16
Artemi Panarin certainly didn’t have a standard rookie season. The Russian winger didn’t come to North America until he was 24 years old, becoming the oldest Calder Trophy winner since Evgeni Nabokov in 2000-01.
Still, Panarin was outstanding, collecting 30 goals and 77 points in 80 games. That same season, Conor McDavid finished third after scoring 48 points in just 45 games and likely would’ve taken the award home if not for suffering an injury.
5. Steve Mason – Columbus Blue Jackets – 2008-09
Steve Mason’s Calder-winning 2008-09 campaign was good enough to land him a second-place finish in the Vezina Trophy voting as well. The 22-year-old led the NHL with a ridiculous 10 shutouts, giving him a 2.29 goals-against average and .916 save percentage alongside a 33-20-7 record. More impressively, no netminder has taken home the Calder since then, making this win a rare occurrence for a goalie.
4. Mathew Barzal – New York Islanders – 2017-18
Mathew Barzal had two games of NHL action prior to his first full season with the New York Islanders. He was held without a point in those contests but put the league on notice the following year. The 20-year-old center ran away with the rookie scoring race, totaling 22 goals and 85 points, beating the second-leading scorer, Clayton Keller, by 20 points. Not only this, but Barzal was the first rookie to surpass the 80-point mark since Evgeni Malkin back in the 2006-07 season.
3. Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs – 2016-17
With the first-overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs were looking for a new face of the franchise and got just that in Auston Matthews. The 19-year-old lived up to all the hype, scoring 40 goals (including an NHL-best 32 at even strength) and 69 points.
With his absurd scoring potential on full display, Matthews cemented himself as one of the league’s young stars and has continued to prove it was no fluke since.
2. Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins – 2006-07
Evgeni Malkin became the second consecutive Russian forward to take home the award, following in the footsteps of Alex Ovechkin. The 20-year-old notched 33 goals and 85 points, a points total that would not be matched until Barzal’s Calder-winning campaign more than a decade later.
Also of note, this was the same season that Malkin’s new teammate, Sidney Crosby, won his first Hart Memorial award. Of course, those two would go on to become one of the best duos in NHL history, winning plenty of hardware and a few Stanley Cup titles.
1. Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals – 2005-06
Alex Ovechkin’s rookie campaign set the path for the rest of his career as an elite goal scorer and one of the game’s top skaters for over a decade. The big-bodied Russian became the first rookie to eclipse the 100-point mark since Teemu Selanne during the 1992-93 campaign.
Ovechkin racked up 52 goals and 106 points on the year, narrowly edging out Sidney Crosby’s 102 points for the rookie lead that season. Since then, no rookie has reached the century mark for points or the 50-goal plateau. At this point, there may not be a rookie like Ovechkin for a long time.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.