When Edmonton Oilers rookie phenom broke his clavicle in November, the hockey world mourned the chance at a truly historic rookie season.
After all, McDavid is one of the most highly touted rookies in NHL history. And he was already lighting up the league before he got hurt. But missing three months had to take him out of Calder Trophy consideration as the league’s best rookie. Right?
I’m here to tell you it’s entirely possible. Here’s why.
The “what if” factor
McDavid’s pace is already pretty historic. With 24 points in 19 games, his 1.26 points per game average is light years ahead of the next closest rookie (Artemi Panarin, 0.93).
And it puts him with some pretty heady modern-era company.
|2||Teemu Selanne||1992-93||22||WPG||Right Wing||84||76||56||132||1.57|
|7||Real Cloutier||1979-80||23||QUE||Right Wing||67||42||47||89||1.33|
|8||Joe Mullen*||1981-82||24||STL||Right Wing||45||25||34||59||1.31|
|9||Alex Ovechkin||2005-06||20||WSH||Left Wing||81||52||54||106||1.31|
Sure, 19 games is a small sample size. But then you watch him do on Thursday what he’s done in most of those 19 games and you start to think maybe he can already keep up a pace like that through 82 games.
After all, Panarin leads rookies with 54 points. McDavid’s 1.26 P/G rate puts him at about 71 points right now if he had stayed healthy all season. Ridiculous, unsustainable rate? Sure. But for a guy like McDavid? There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be battling for the Art Ross at this point.
But if you think “what if” scenarios don’t play into voter’s minds, then maybe they’ll be swayed by …
The recency effect
In McDavid’s absence, we’ve had a good three months to talk and awe about the efforts of Panarin, Dylan Larkin and the like.
On one hand, that’s been a good thing. Eichel and McDavid so dominated headlines before the season that we neglected to pay attention to the rest of an excellent crop of rookies. Larkin and Shayne Gostisbehere exceeded already decent expectations, while guys like Panarin and Max Domi came out of nowhere to pleasantly surprise the league. It was a much stronger class than we gave it credit for, and they all got their chance to shine.
But now they might be victims of timing. Nothing influences awards voting quite like spectacular, end-of-season performances and McDavid is certainly full of spectacle every time he touches the puck. He gets the benefit of dominating the highlights at a time when the microscope is on every playoff-hunting opponent he torches.
Sure, the other rookies have done well but we haven’t seen any of them play like THIS.
Or so the thinking might go. McDavid will certainly put long-term memory to the test.
Nobody’s running away with the Calder
Oh, they’re all running towards it. But no one has broken from the pack yet.
For awhile it looked like Panarin would. But once Patrick Kane’s streak ended, the rest of the group started catching up. Dylan Larkin turned heads at the All-Star Game, and his excellent play all year long for Detroit is getting deserved credit. Eichel and Domi are still neck-and-neck with him, though. And Gostisbehere’s record-setting points streak with the Flyers is catapulting him into the discussion, as well.
The race is so up in the air that McDavid was able to come back from injury, put on two weeks of sensational performances and jump right back into the discussion as if he hadn’t left it for three months. Too many special rookies means nobody can stand out. Except for McDavid.
He could break into the top five in rookie scoring
This one is actually fairly likely. McDavid is 10th, with 24 points in 19 games. Shayne Gostisbehere sits in fifth, with 29. If McDavid reaches his pace of 33 points in his remaining 26 games he’ll finish with 57. None of the players in front of him (Gostisbehere, Sam Bennett, Nikolaj Ehlers, Domi, Anthony Duclair, Sam Reinhartand Joonas Donskoi). It’s not ridiculous to imagine McDavid blitzing past all of them to finish with more points in about 20 less games.