2018 Calder Trophy Sleepers
In the second of a series briefly examining the upcoming season’s Calder Trophy candidates, we’ll take a look at a few sleepers. In our previous post, we detailed several favorites as training camps approach.
Joshua Ho-Sang, New York Islanders
Ho-Sang impressed in a late season 21-game trial with the Islanders registering four goals and six assists. That’s not too bad in his first full season outside juniors.
The 21-year-old should garner plentiful power play minutes as well after averaging 2:25 in man-advantage time per contest last year, skating most frequently with Tavares, Lee, and Bailey.
Ho-Sang profiles as a dangerous playmaker.
He registered 292 points (82 goals, 210 assists) in 256 OHL career contests, adding eight goals and 37 assists in his 32-game juniors postseason experience and 36 points, all but ten of them on assists, with AHL Bridgeport before jumping to Brooklyn in March.
Last year’s 18.2 shot percentage is probably unsustainable but was very impressive for an NHL debut.
Ho-Sang’s a real threat for 50-plus points if the puck bounces right, and playing in a major media center he could ride the spotlight to top rookie honors.
Joel Eriksson Ek, Minnesota Wild
Eriksson Ek has proven he’s NHL ready, excelling on defense and racking up three goals and four assists in 15 Minnesota contests, and that’s while averaging only 10:37 minutes per game.
With a slew of versatile forwards capable of playing on the right, left or in the pivot, Eriksson Ek may slot into the third center spot with the NHL’s second-highest scoring squad last season.
That’s a line speculated to feature plenty of muscle with Marcus Foligno (whose 279 hits ranked 5th in the NHL last year) and playmaking potential with Charlie Coyle whose scoring total reached a career-high 56 points, including 38 assists in 2016-17.
If that arrangement doesn’t manifest, there are many other distributors and shot-takers to potentially help Eriksson Ek register impressive point totals.
While he may not maintain last year’s 20.0% shot rate, he has a golden opportunity to shine in his first extensive experience outside of Sweden.
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
It’s not likely, but if frighteningly quick left wing Connor can sneak onto one of the Jets’ dangerous top lines, he could do some serious damage.
His best shot to do so might be beating out established Mathieu Perreault who saw a 17-point hot streak in his final 12 contests.
That will be difficult. Whether it happens sooner or later, Winnipeg’s 2015 first round pick has the talent to excel alongside Scheifele, Wheeler, Laine, Little and/or Ehlers.
Unlike many speedy and young offensive threats, Connor sports a solid two-way game to go with a scoring resume that includes a 71-point, 38-game final NCAA campaign in 2015-16, and 44 points at AHL Manitoba in 52 contests last year.
He wasn’t spectacular in a 20-game Winnipeg stint (two goals, three assists) coming straight to the NHL from college to begin 2016-17, but redeemed himself with a hot second half skating for the Moose.
Connor is very aware and perceptive on the ice and an intuitive playmaker with a sharp nose for the net. He’s a star in the making. With the right luck that could land him the Calder next season.
Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators
As mentioned in our prior post, defensemen are rare Calder recipients.
While only four blueliners have taken the past 27 top rookie honors, Chabot is coming off a stellar campaign earning World Junior Championship MVP honors with Team Canada and registering 10 goals and 35 assists in 34 QMJHL regular season contests with Saint John, adding 23 points in their 15-game postseason run to the Memorial Cup Finals.
Chabot is very smart on the ice, can log tons of minutes, move the puck efficiently and skate well. His solid two-way game might compliment Erik Karlsson well on that top pairing in the future.
With a stellar camp and pre-season, that future might be soon.
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