2021-22 NHL Calder Trophy Candidates (Part 1 of 2)by Dom Lunardo August 28, 2021 1 comment
The annual race to bring home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie has been one a marvel at in 2021. From Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild last year to Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche the season prior, and Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks in 2019, there’s no shortage of dynamic young talent at hockey’s highest level.
The 2021-22 NHL campaign is no different. Next season will see a new era of uber-talented rookies with hopes of taking home the honour of the league’s top rookie. In the first of a two-part series, let’s dive in and profile four candidates with excellent chances of bringing home the Calder.
Jamie Drysdale, Defenseman, Age 19, Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks’ Drysdale starts us off as one of hockey’s premier teenage defensemen. Drafted in the first round, sixth-overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Ducks have themselves a potential generational blue-liner in the palm of their hands. Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Drysdale is a phenomenal talent with a hefty skill set. He’s a fantastic skater, possesses excellent vision, and has the ability to quarterback a power-play with extreme efficiency.
After being drafted, Drysdale spent a grand total of 14 games with the San Diego Gulls, Anaheim’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate club. During his time in the “A”, he scored four goals and 10 points. It became clear shortly after that he wouldn’t be in the minors long. He also played inside the “bubble” for Team Canada at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. Representing his country for the second consecutive winter, Drysdale did not disappoint tallying 2 assists in 7 games as one of Canada’s top players. Unfortunately for Drysdale, the Canadians fell to the United States and finished as runners-up with a silver medal.
Losing to your bitter rivals is always a tough pill to swallow, especially on the international stage. However, the future is extremely bright for one of hockey’s top prospects as he further establishes himself in Orange County with the Ducks.
Vasily Podkolzin, Right-Wing, Age 20, Vancouver Canucks
Over the past few seasons, the Vancouver Canucks have assembled an impressive crop of high-level prospects. Russian-born winger Vasily Podkolzin sits atop the list by a significant margin. At the tender age of 20, Podkolzin is already regarded as one of the best players outside of North America. Let’s meet one of hockey’s most dynamic and electrifying youngsters that’s just itching to step on the ice at NHL level.
Podkolzin is a unique talent that combines speed, skill, and power with the ability to play with an edge. He’s relentless on the forecheck, works hard, and will skate his socks off for his teammates on a nightly basis. With the puck on his stick, he’s confident, makes intelligent decisions, and processes the game at an elite rate. Couple this with his ability to make plays and score highlight-reel goals, and the Canucks certainly have themselves a real special talent on their hands. Many Canucks fans already have this kid pencilled in their top-six ahead of next season. I mean, why shouldn’t they when you have the skill set and the “drive” that he does? The collective hockey world better be ready for Podkolzin. This kid has “stud” written all over him.
Cole Caufield, Right-Wing, Age 20, Montreal Canadiens
It’s a Cole world, hockey fans! The Montreal Canadiens’ forward has probably heard the expression: “You’re too small to make it in the NHL.” Standing at 5’7, 162 pounds (on a good day) you can’t blame them, right? Wrong. This kid is an absolute gem who burst onto the scene last season helping Montreal reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. His stat line? Four goals and five points in 10 regular-season games. Add another 12 points in 20 postseason games. An impressive young player who’s just oozing with raw skill and untapped potential? Oh, you can say that again!
Selected in the first round, 15th overall back in 2019, this pick is already looking like one of the steals of the draft for the Habs. Caufield is a slick skater with a lethal shot, while having an uncanny ability to see the ice. He’s energetic, confident in his abilities, and plays the game with a real “swagger”. He’s already established himself as a fan-favorite in the hockey-crazed city of Montreal with his strong play and enthusiasm. Not to mention, he’s ridiculous with the puck on his stick and dangerous on every shift. Remember the name, folks. This kid’s a special talent.
Moritz Seider, Defenseman, Age 20, Detroit Red Wings
It’s been a long time since the Detroit Red Wings have owned a defenseman with such promise, hype, and anticipation. Well, Hockeytown, the wait is over. Seider has officially arrived on the scene.
Over the past couple of years, Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has committed (and invested) in a full-on rebuild. Brought into the organization via the draft have been the likes of Simon Edvinsson, Lucas Raymond, Joe Veleno, Jared McIsaac, William Wallinder, and Jonatan Berggren among others. Still, Seider sits atop Detroit’s prospect pool and it’s not even close.
As a player, the Zell, Germany native is the complete (powerhouse) package. He’s massive (6’4″, 208 Ibs), mobile, and plays a sound two-way game. Drafted in the first round, sixth-overall in 2019, there are few weaknesses in Seider’s game, even as a 20-year-old. He’s well-rounded, has a good head on his shoulders, and just wants to go out and win hockey games. Heading into next season, Seider has a legitimate shot of being one of hockey’s top rookie defensemen.
Next week, we’ll profile a new wave of candidates in contention for the 2021-22 Calder Memorial Trophy. Stay tuned for part No. 2, folks!
Follow Dom Lunardo on Twitter @TapetoTape88
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