As the regular season is winding down, more and more members of the media are discussing the potential NHL award nominees in various articles, on podcasts, on radio, and television segments. As someone who reads and listens to many of these opinions I have noticed an alarming trend: Clayton Keller isn’t even being discussed in the Calder Trophy nominations anymore. This is preposterous!
There’s no denying that there are a lot of good quality Calder candidates: like Mathew Barzal, Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy, Will Butcher, Nico Hischier... really the list goes on and on. But Keller absolutely needs to be one of the names on the list and especially near the top among rookie forwards.
As of this writing Keller is second in points and assists among all rookies and fifth in goals. More importantly Keller has been in the top five for scoring all season long, he’s never dropped lower than fourth. He also tops all rookie forwards in ice time averaging 18:01 minutes a game over 23.1 average shifts per game. He’s even had more penalty kill time than Barzal and Boeser, the top forwards in the Calder candidacy.
In addition to being on top of the rookie scoring race Keller is breaking all kinds of records including the Coyotes* records for rookie goals assists and points.
With his 23rd goal, Clayton Keller owns the Coyotes' single-season rookie goal-scoring record. Keller also owns the Coyotes rookie records for assists (38) and points (61).— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) March 27, 2018
Normally this sort of drop off could be attributed to recency bias but that’s not the case with Keller. He’s in the top 15 in scoring for the month of March, not rookie scoring, league scoring. Keller is tied with Taylor Hall and Torey Krug with 18 points. He’s only one point behind guys like Tyler Seguin, Evgenii Dadonov, Anze Kopitar, Claude Giroux, and Nicklas Backstrom. That’s some pretty good company. Here’s more good company:
The Calder trophy is meant for the rookie that is “most proficient” which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. What isn’t open for interpretation is the value that Keller is providing his team in his first NHL year. Despite being one of the youngest players at 19-years-old, on one of the youngest teams, Keller is well above his teammates in most categories. Here’s how other forwards in the Calder conversation compare:
Rookies compared to their respective teams
Clayton Keller should not be punished for being on a team that doesn’t have a large media presence. Like the other Calder candidates, he shouldn’t be punished for being on a bad team. Most importantly his accomplishments shouldn’t be ignored or overlooked. So why isn’t he still in the Calder Trophy conversation?
*Please note: the author is aware that the franchise records for a rookie are held by Teemu Selanne but as they haven’t been broken they aren’t relevant to this argument. Also Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Jeff Skinner, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin, and Auston Matthews were able to win the Calder without breaking Selanne’s records either.