The annual NHL Awards ceremony is Wednesday night in Las Vegas, and fans of the Buffalo Sabres will only be paying attention to one award in particular.
Buffalo D Rasmus Dahlin is nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year alongside Elias Petersson of Vancouver and Jordan Binnington of St. Louis. All three rookies were stellar in their debut campaigns and have strong cases for the honor, but whose chance is the greatest?
The answer is clearly Pettersson, and the statistics are all that need to be viewed to see why. The 21-year-old Canuck led all rookies with 28 goals and 38 assists for 66 points while the next closest behind him posted 45.
Binnington’s line is also quite formidable. After he was called up in December, the 25-year-old was the best goaltender in the NHL and finished the year with the league’s best GAA (1.89). It’s no coincidence that his arrival was the turning point in what had been an awful season for the Blues up to that point. Binnington helped turn St. Louis around and carried the team on his back all the way to the game’s ultimate prize.
So where does that leave Dahlin, the first overall pick of the 2018 Draft that was hyped as the best defenseman in a generation? Even though Pettersson and Binnington had remarkable years, Dahlin stacks up better than one might think.
For starters, the 18-year-old was no slouch in his first season, even though his Sabres were pitiful for the large part. He posted 44 points (9+35), and though that may not seem like a lot, it was the second-most by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history. The Swede also lived up to the hype and showed why he is going to be formidable for years to come, all you had to do was watch him skate with the puck. I understand I’m inherently biased because I’m a Buffalonian, but when was the last time you saw an 18-year-old defender skate that smoothly? I know I never have.
Yeah, Dahlin didn’t help turn around a last place team and lead them to the Stanley Cup or lead all rookies in production, but his season was remarkable in its own right and gives him a big chance at upsetting Pettersson for the Calder.
No disrespect at all to Binnington or what he accomplished, but I think it might be safe to assume his odds are slim because of his lack of games played compared to Pettersson and Dahlin, both of whom played the whole season. And though it may seem like Dahlin’s chances aren’t great either, it helps to remember that the last Sabre to win the Calder was in almost the exact same situation.
After the 2009-10 season, Buffalo D Tyler Myers was up for the Calder honors against Colorado C Matt Duchene, who led rookies in scoring, and Detroit G Jimmy Howard. It seemed like Duchene had the honor locked up despite Myer’s head-turning year that helped Buffalo win the Northeast Division. However, at the Awards Ceremony, it was The Big Easy who took home the hardware. This proves that voters for the Calder do examine more than just the stat sheet.
It is the NHL in 2019, though, and we all know the odds of Dahlin’s name being called still aren’t spectacular, even if he is really the most deserving. Is there an outside chance that lightning strikes twice for Buffalo?
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @Flat_Manigen74 and also be sure to check out the live video I posted in conjunction with the article. Check back to The Sports Chill for more Sabres coverage this week!