2021-22 NHL Calder Trophy Candidates (Part 2 of 2)by Dom Lunardo September 2, 2021 0 comments
When it comes to elite-level young talent, few leagues in North America can compare with the National Hockey League. Last week, we examined the likes of Jamie Drysdale, Vasily Podkolzin, Cole Caufield, and Moritz Seider with regards to their “bids” to hoist the Calder Memorial Trophy. This week, four new names enter the fray. Let’s meet the cast in part two of the NHL’s Calder Trophy candidates for the 2021-2022 season.
Check out Part No. 1 of our 2021-22 NHL Calder Trophy Candidates here.
Quinton Byfield, Center, Age 19, Los Angeles Kings
First up is the Los Angeles Kings’ Byfield, the multi-faceted center. Over the past few seasons, the Kings, under the tutelage of general manager Rob Blake, have assembled a deep and talented prospect pool. Standing atop the mountain as the club’s most coveted prospect by a significant margin is Byfield.
Born and raised in Newmarket, Ontario, the former second-overall pick in 2020 possesses one of the most unique skill sets in hockey. He’s big (6’4″, 220 Ibs), physical, powerful, a smooth skater, and can score goals at an elite level. Not many players can check each and every one of those boxes. Scouts have also marveled at his defensive awareness, and his ability to play a sound two-way game. This is impressive to see for a player who just celebrated his 20th birthday. After appearing in just six games last season with the Kings, “Big Q” should be given every opportunity to show what he can do when training camp opens next month. It goes without saying that Byfield has all the makings of hockey’s next superstar power forward.
Spencer Knight, Goaltender, Age 20, Florida Panthers
Next up on our list is Knight, the Florida Panthers’ netminder. Last season, Alex Nedeljkovic finished as a Calder finalist after a strong showing for the Carolina Hurricanes. The 2021-22 campaign is slated to be Knight’s coming-out party in the Sunshine State and then some. If you’ve never heard of Knight before, it’s suggested that you tune in.
As a goaltender, Knight is technically sound with a real calming presence. He’s good on his edges, tight with his movements, and has mastered the “butterfly” technique even at the tender age of 20. Born and raised in Darien, CT, Knight is one of the most talented young goalies in the show and a star-in-the-making. A former first-round pick (13th overall in 2019), who’s represented Team USA in three consecutive World Junior Hockey Championships, is just oozing with potential and ready to roll on hockey’s grandest stage. He’s super-competitive, passionate about winning, and is always trying to find ways to improve his game. Don’t be surprised if you see Knight win the starter’s job in Florida right out of training camp. This kid is one heck of a talent.
Trevor Zegras, Center, Age 20, Anaheim Ducks
Next up is Zegras, an electrifying, all-world talent. The Anaheim Ducks have themselves yet another raw, young talent on their hands after the likes of Drysdale. Without question, the Ducks hit the proverbial jackpot landing Zegras, who’s easily one of the NHL’s top prospects.
The hockey world got their first glimpse of the Bedford, NY native at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships. In just five games, Zegras tallied a whopping nine assists and established himself as one of the single-best playmates in the tournament for the Americans. A year later at the 2021 World Juniors, Zegras was the leading scorer with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists). He also won tournament MVP and took home a Gold Medal after scoring in the championship game against their arch-rivals Team Canada. A proverbial star was born.
Drafted by the Ducks in the first round, ninth-overall back in 2019, Zegras is a gifted goal-scorer with all the intangibles of a real superstar talent. As a player, he combines a strong hockey sense with the uncanny ability to make plays with a real elusive skillset. He’s physical, not afraid to play the body, and has a real competitive nature to him. Zegras is strong along the boards, excellent in open space, and can “wow” players, coaches, and fans alike with his balance, strong edgework, and vision. Are we all set for the Zegras train, Orange County?
Bowen Byran, Defenseman, Age 20, Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog: do the Colorado Avalanche not have enough elite-level studs on their hands? Well, hockey fans, let’s meet Colorado’s budding new superstar waiting in the wings. Born and raised in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Byram first emerged onto the scene with an incredible junior career with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Over the course of 177 games (spanning three seasons), Byram amassed 46 goals and 150 points to go along with a plus-49 rating. Not too shabby for a defenseman, wouldn’t you say? Byram was also a standout for Team Canada at the 2020 and 2021 World Junior tournaments, easily cementing himself as one of the finest Canadian prospects. The Avalanche, under the tutelage of general manager Joe Sakic, knew exactly what they were getting when they drafted Byram in 2019. He’s an absolute dynamo of a blue-liner and capable of taking over a game at the drop of a hat.
As a player, Byram plays a fast, up-tempo, and high-octane game 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He’s strong on his edges, excellent in transition, and loves to jump into the rush. He’s aware of his surroundings, has an active stick, and defends brilliantly by eliminating passing lanes and separating others from the puck with his speed and incredible ability to anticipate plays. Byram is also an effortless skater with a real smooth stride to him. In short, he’s everything you want (and more) in today’s NHL.
“Must-See” Race for the Calder
Of the many breathtaking storylines set to take center stage in 2021-22, the race for the Calder Trophy will certainly be “must-see TV” for hockey fans from coast to coast. This upcoming campaign promises to be an absolute dandy!
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