The 2019-20 NHL campaign is just over two weeks away, making it the perfect time to preview what might be ahead.
I’m going to predict each of the major award winners alongside honorable mentions I believe to have a realistic shot.
Today we’re looking at the Calder Trophy.
Winner: Jack Hughes – New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes is the boring choice. I also think Jack Hughes is the right choice.
His mix of speed, creativity, and dynamic puck skills would allow him to step in and contribute almost anywhere. When you consider the situation Hughes is joining, it’s hard not to be excited about what he can do as a rookie.
The Devils have an impressive stable of quality wingers including Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds, Jesper Bratt and, quite possibly, Jesper Boqvist (one of the SHL’s leading 5v5 producers as a 20-year-old). While he is expected to start with Gusev and Simmonds, there will be quality around him no matter which line he’s on – at even-strength and on the power play.
With P.K. Subban, Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Sami Vatanen, and (likely) fellow rookie Ty Smith on the blueline, the Devils have an abundance of capable puck movers and offensively inclined defensemen to get Hughes the puck.
Something tells me he’ll be able to take advantage of that.
Honorable mention: Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche
Makar has all the talent in the world and it was on full display during his cup of coffee with the Avalanche in the playoffs.
He produced six points in 10 games while recording 5v5 scoring chances at a higher rate than all but Morgan Rielly, Roman Josi, Tyson Barrie, and Tyler Myers. He was supremely dangerous, and productive, despite stepping in against two of the league’s best teams when the games mattered most.
With a lot more opportunity coming Makar’s way – the expectation is he’ll take Barrie’s place on PP1 alongside Nathan MacKinnon and co. – I think he could put up 40-50 points, which would be awfully impressive for a player of his age.
Honorable mention: Kaapo Kakko – New York Rangers
Between SM-liiga play and the World Hockey Championships, Kakko recorded 28 goals and 45 points in 55 games last season. He has already proven he can not only handle himself – but excel – while squaring off against men.
That’s not exactly surprising given he possesses elite puck skills and, at just 18 years of age, is already as strong as an ox.
Kakko should have every opportunity to step in and contribute right away on a retooling Rangers team. He certainly has the talent to do just that.
Much like the push to be drafted 1st overall, Kakko should give Hughes a run for his money once again.