Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin was named one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year today. The first overall selection of the 2018 Draft put up nine goals and 35 assists for 44 points in a highly impressive debut season. St. Louis G Jordan Binnington and Vancouver C Elias Pettersson are the other two nominees.
Dahlin’s chances of winning the award are unfortunately slim to none. As dazzling as the teenager was for pathetic Sabres team, fellow Swedish countryman Pettersson has the honor all but guaranteed since he led all rookies in scoring with 28 goals and 38 assists for 66 points. Dahlin’s only chance at winning is if the members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association look at more than just the score sheet.
And that’s really a shame too, because Dahlin really is the most deserving candidate when you look think of it. He finished the season having played in all 82 games and put up the second-most points by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history (second to only Phil Housley, ironically Dahlin’s Head Coach that Buffalo fired after the season ended).
There’s more than just scoring, however. I distrust the term “generational talent” in hockey because the NHL seems to call every hot young prospect that nowadays. But, after watching Dahlin for one season, it quickly became quite evident that he deserves the title. In additional to his offensive and defensive capabilities, the Swede skates with such smoothness and precision that one can easily tell he will only improve with age.
The annual NHL Awards ceremony will be held on June 19. Maybe the PHWA will surprise us and not just give the award to the scoring leader. That’s what happened when a Sabre last won the Calder Trophy (Tyler Myers in 2010). Will lightning strike in Buffalo’s favor again and prevent 2018-19 from being a complete waste of a season? I wouldn’t bet on it, but we can only wait to find out.