The Calder Memorial Trophy race for NHL Rookie of the Year was all but decided near the end of the season, with the clear-cut favorite being Elias Pettersson. The Swedish-born forward sat at almost a point per game, registering 28 goals and 38 assists in 71 games of his rookie campaign.
However, St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington might have something to say about that foregone conclusion.
Binnington’s regular season numbers were stellar, posting 24 wins with a .927 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average. The weakness in his argument is sample size; he only played in 32 games, which is less than half of his team’s games. For perspective, most starting goaltenders, in a healthy campaign, play 50-60 games in a season.
Also holding Binnington’s chances back are the nature of the award itself. In the last 25 years, the Calder Trophy has only been given to a goaltender four times. Steve Mason, Andrew Raycroft, Evgeni Nabokov, and Martin Brodeur.
The award has turned into an offensive Rookie of the Year award in recent years, with seven of the last eight going to first-year forwards.
Binnington, however, is going to try to buck the trend that is steadfast favoring Pettersson as the next winner.
The strength of Binnington’s chances in the Calder race is his team’s playoff success. While the award is supposed to only take into account regular-season performance, voters will be hard-pressed to ignore the impact that Binnington’s play has had on St. Louis’ season. He made his first start on Jan. 7, right around the time that St. Louis was a basement-dweller in the NHL and undergoing massive amounts of turmoil.
His stellar play solidified their Achilles heel of recent years of sub-par goaltending most notably from Jake Allen, Brian Elliott, and Carter Hutton.
Riding Binnington’s hot play down the stretch, the Blues were able to come back from the depths of draft lottery territory all the way to a playoff berth. With that surge of momentum, the Blues rode the rookie net-minder all the way to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in almost 50 years. The fact that Binnington was able to be the catalyst that galvanized the Blues on such an unlikely run, whereas Pettersson could not carry his team to a playoff berth in general.
Regardless of the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, it will be interesting to see if Binnington did enough to secure himself the Calder Memorial Trophy.