In the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Awards in Nashville on June 26, we here at The Oil Rig have put together our own version of the program. We voted on each of the awards, the Jack Adams Award, Lady Byng Trophy, Selke Trophy, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Calder Trophy, and Hart Trophy, to give out our own accolades.
Next up is the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the rookie of the year—the player judged to be the most proficient in his first year in the NHL. The winner of this year’s Calder Trophy will join some impressive company of recipients over the past decade. There are two key players fighting for votes for this year’s award. Which one will come out on top?
The winner of The Oil Rig’s 2023 Calder Trophy is…
Matty Beniers, Seattle Kraken
Having won a close race with the player who finished second in voting, Matty Beniers takes home the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. And for good reason, he stepped into the Seattle Kraken lineup and looked like a well-established veteran. He made a huge splash early in the season, and even though he quieted down as the year went on, he is showing signs of becoming one of the top centres in the league after just one season.
With 24 goals and 57 points in 80 games, Beniers finished fourth in scoring for the Kraken while leading all rookies. Impressively, he only had two penalty minutes all season.
Often times, when a rookie enters the league, it takes some time to adjust to the speed and quality of play, especially defensively. But he did not skip a beat with his entrance into the NHL. His level of understanding of the defensive side of the game already makes him a name to watch in the coming years for the Selke Trophy.
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers
Finishing a very close second in voting is Stuart Skinner, the rookie goalie for the Edmonton Oilers who took over the crease early on in the season and led the team to a playoff berth and very nearly the Pacific Division title. His 29–14–5 record does not fully reflect how integral his play was to the Oilers’ success, especially in the last couple months of the season in which Edmonton was nearly unbeatable.
Goalies have a hard time winning the Calder, it has happened just twice in the past 20 seasons. But once in a while a goalie like Skinner comes along and takes over the crease for his team.
Owen Power, Buffalo Sabres
Rookie defenders can often have difficult transitions into the NHL, but Owen Power has made a seamless entrance in his rookie season. Leading first-year defencemen with 35 points in his 79 games, he demonstrated a quick ability to learn and adjust to the NHL game.
Averaging 23:48 in ice time per game, Power is showing early that he is destined to be a workhorse for the Sabres for years to come.
Vote scoring: 1st place = 10, 2nd place = 7, 3rd place = 5, 4th place = 3, 5th place = 1
The Oil Rig’s writer takes
Sean Laycock: Homer bias aside, Skinner was the best and most impactful rookie this season. Playing on the same team as Jack Campbell, his statline was significantly better and the Oilers had an increased chance of winning with him in net. That’s not to say that Beniers was not good, because he was fantastic and will be a player to watch for years to come, but the former was most impressive. Matias Maccelli flew under everyone’s radar but still finished second in rookie scoring. Wyatt Johnston played in every single game, recording 24 goals and 41 points. Amazing production for a midline forward on one of the deeper teams in the league.
Ray Boulette: This was the toughest award to judge for me because it would have been easy to use my Oilers bias and give it to Skinner. With that said, I honestly think it’s more impressive for a rookie to play number one centre on a playoff team than be a number one rookie goalie. There is also a small part of me that wants to be taken seriously and not just seen as a homer. So there, I picked Beniers over Skinner, put some respect on my name.
Gregory Babinski: Power is a common choice, authoring a strong season as a rookie blueliner, though for the same reasons Jake Sanderson of the Ottawa Senators deserves consideration as well. By the end of the season Sanderson was logging huge minutes for the Sens as they pushed for a playoff spot. He might be the Sens best defenceman sooner rather than later, and will be a huge part of the Senators successes in the coming seasons.
Full disclosure, Noah Cates earned a Selke vote from yours truly. A fascinating campaign buried within the cloud of irrelevance, at best, that hovered around a Philadelphia Flyers season. Skater defence, especially from the forward position, is both hard to qualify and under-appreciated, meaning the fact that Cates has earned any recognition for an award that often takes years to win is quite notable. Beniers will likely earn some Selke votes throughout his career as well, a new era of defensive centres dawning as Patrice Bergeron’s career comes closer to a close.
Michelle Nguyen: A completely biased and unapologetically homer statement: Skinner deserves the Calder. Carried the Oilers on his back when it wasn’t in October’s playbooks. It’s time the Oilers get a Calder winner and about time again for a goalie.