My McCalder Prediction:
Connor McDavid will score 75 points minimum and win the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.
If anyone is hoping I am going to lessen my prediction and claim that Connor McDavid will score somewhere in the vicinity of 50-65 points, you'll be hoping for nothing. Connor McDavid is the 1 side of a 1 and 1A duo of generational talent that was just drafted in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The other member of his duo is Jack Eichel, the power forward who torched NCAA competition last season, scoring 71 points in 40 games and was the first freshman in over 20 years to win the Hobey Baker Award (Hockey's heisman). His stats were sick, and then you look at McDavid's stats, he scored 120 points in 47 games in the Ontario Hockey League, considered by some to be a better developmental league for the NHL than College. Eichel led College hockey in points and McDavid was third in OHL scoring, though he missed 20 games due to breaking his hand during a fight mid season. Even though these two played in different leagues, they had one tournament in common, the World Junior Championships, a U20 tournament where top prospects represent their countries for a chance at gold. In the WJC Jack Eichel scored a modest 4 points in 5 games while Connor McDavid tied for the tourney lead with 11 points in 7 games. Take those totals with a grain of salt though because Eichel had the pressure of being USA's captain for a sub par squad while McDavid's team Canada was loaded with top picks including fellow rookies for the upcoming season, Anthony Duclair and Max Domi, both of the Arizona Coyotes. Domi and Duclair will also receive votes for top rookie by season's end. Though I predict McDavid will win the Calder, here are a few guys who I think will put up a challenge for the hardware.
Jack Eichel is very close to being as good as Connor McDavid, some may think he is as good or better due to playing in the NCAA. You may question my statement because above I stated that the OHL is regarded as a better league to prepare NHL prospects than College hockey is, but the NCAA does have benefits. Eichel did not play as many games at BU as McDavid did in junior hockey, but that did leave more time for practice, as well as working out where he could be a gym rat and add to his frame which is already bigger than Connor's. Jack also played against older competition, ages for college hockey range from 18-25 while The OHL ranges from 16-20, with the occasional 21 year old. Not only did Jack play against men in college, he also was able to represent USA at the World Championships, scoring 7 points in 10 games playing against NHL and AHL players and helping USA to a surprising bronze medal. The concern with Eichel is that he only played 40 games last year in the NCAA compared to Connor's 70 plus including the CHL memorial cup playoffs. If Eichel can endure a full 82 game schedule, he could very well surpass McDavid. One Major difference between Eichel and McDavid is that Jack can score 70+ points, while Connor WILL score 70+ points, this statement relies on both being able to stay healthy of course.
Jack Eichel has played against men and I don't think Connor McDavid will struggle against them, but the Russian Panarin IS a man, he enters this season at 23 years of age. Not only is Artemi a man, but he has been playing professional hockey since 2008 and scored better than a point per game pace last year in the KHL, considered by many as the world's second best professional hockey league. It is curious to wonder how this guy could be a rookie, but he was actually never drafted and had to prove himself in his home country before the Chicago Blackhawks chose to sign him this summer. Ironically the knock on Artemi is his size, though he is 5 years older than Generational 1 and 1A, he is almost half a foot shorter at 5'7 and 20-30 pounds lighter than both of them, weighing 170 pounds. Though Artemi Panarin is short in stature, he plays a big game and will more than likely get top line minutes for the defending Stanley Cup champs, sliding in with veteran all stars such as Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. I expect the Russian prospect to eclipse 60 points this season and give the younger Calder candidates a run for their Money.
Max Domi and Anthony Duclair:
I put these two together because I don't foresee teammates both being named Calder finalists, and their individual success might very well hinge on each others' performances. Max Domi is the son of former NHL enforcer, Tie Domi, and that is where the similarities stop, Domi uses his hands for producing points and not knocking opponents out. Anthony Duclair actually got a taste of the NHL last season with the New York Rangers who he was with before being traded to Arizona at the trade deadline in March, the talented forward put together 7 points in 18 games, respectable numbers for a first year player. Max scored 102 points in 57 games for the London Knights of the OHL, lighting the league up in his final year of eligibility and scoring 10 points in 7 games at the World Junior Championships for gold medal winning Canada, Duclair scored 8 points in 7 games at the same tournament. Domi and Duclair made up 2/3's of Team Canada's first line alongside Buffalo prospect Sam Reinhart and just tore up the competition with Max winning top forward of the tournament. Arizona is in a rebuild 4 seasons after making their last playoff appearance where they reached the Western Conference Final, Domi and Duclair are on a very bad team where they will both be relied upon regardless of their young age, both are 20 years old. I predict anywhere from 45-60 points out of either one of Domi or Duclair, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that both of them could top that output.
This may be my easiest prediction of the season, but I almost hope that I am wrong. I don't wish that McDavid does poorly, but I would also love to see guys come out of the wood work and out perform him. The competition in the NHL these days is incredible, no longer are 100 point seasons the norm, but rather guys scoring 70-90 points top the scoring races, guys who get less than a point per game now are considered elite players. The drop in production is vast considering Wayne Gretzky had a couple of 200 point seasons under his belt in the 1980's and both he and Mario Lemieux consistently topped 100, most of the time by a long shot. This all being said, it is quite possible that expected generational talents such as Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel could have stellar seasons while only scoring around 65-70 points, the last time two generational talents entered the league the same year was exactly 10 seasons ago when Sid the Kid and Alex the Gr8 first stepped on NHL ice, those two scored 102 and 104 points respectively and have gone on to collect major hardware in the past decade. Each year I hope to see a rookie score a point per game, only to be disappointed, I think Eichel and McDavid have that potential to break the streak. The 2015-2016 rookie class will surely be one to remember, and I hope it's even better than I expect.