Breaking down NHL's 2022-23 Calder Trophy race

  • Owen Power the early favorite

  • Matty Beniers, Mason McTavish could challenge

  • Shane Wright has something to prove

  • Top pick Juraj Slafkovsky among intriguing longshots

Owen Power is looking like the cream of the crop among NHL rookies. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)
Owen Power is looking like the cream of the crop among NHL rookies. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

With the 2022-23 NHL season quickly approaching, this is the time of year where fans will catch up on transactions, signings and other news they may have missed during the summer.

It was a pretty busy offseason for league standards, with a few blockbuster trades, some surprises at the draft, and numerous head coaching changes.

Adding a level of intrigue to the upcoming year is the bumper crop of rookies, who ought to make an immediate impact. It’s going to be a deep and exciting freshman pool this year, so here's a breakdown of the Calder Trophy race.

The favorite

Owen Power, Buffalo Sabres

Power played eight games for Buffalo at the end of the 2021-22 campaign and he didn’t look out of place. In fact, Power proved he’s ready to stomach high-volume minutes, averaging over 22 per night, and could provide an instant impact that few teenage blueliners are ready for.

Towering over opponents at 6-foot-6, Power possesses a booming slap shot and an innate sense of when to join the rush. He appears likely to produce the type of offense required to win the Calder Trophy, and will graduate into more power-play minutes as the season progresses. Power played at the 2022 Winter Olympics and though Canada finished fifth, the 19-year-old was one of the few team standouts.

Power already displays excellent gap control and patience that belies his age, and because he will be heavily relied upon to help the Sabres back to respectability, he will be in the spotlight and could run away with this award. The idea that elite defensemen trail their forward counterparts from a developmental perspective seems like an outdated notion, especially when you consider that two of the last three Calder winners were D-men (Cale Makar and Moritz Seider) and the 2021 first-overall pick is ready to hit the ground running.

The leading contenders

Matty Beniers, Seattle Kraken

Beniers recorded nine points in 10 NHL games last year and while it would be wildly unrealistic to expect him to produce at a point-per-game clip, the Kraken’s first-ever draft pick will have a real chance to emerge as the team’s top center. During Seattle’s expansion season, the club struggled badly to generate offense and Beniers will be counted upon to remedy this drought.

Power even provided Beniers — his former college teammate —with his endorsement as the Calder Trophy favorite.

“If it’s anything like the end of last year, he’s going to have a really good year,” Power said of Beniers via Michael Traikos of the Toronto Sun. “I watched him in some of those games and he looked really good. And I heard he was lights out in his first preseason game, he had a nice short-angle, short-side goal. He can rip the puck. He can put it anywhere.”

It’s a pretty good scouting report and Beniers has scored prolifically at every level, notching 43 points in 37 NCAA games for Michigan last year. His case for the Calder is pretty simple: lead the Kraken in scoring and help the team improve upon its putrid 2022 showing.

Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks

McTavish straight up dominated the summer iteration of the World Juniors. He was the best player on the ice, along with presumptive 2023 first-overall pick Connor Bedard, and ended up compiling one of the best runs ever submitted by a Canadian. McTavish was clearly a man among boys, and now he has to prove his game holds up consistently against the world’s best, while being given every opportunity by the Ducks in a top-six role.

In his trial run last season, McTavish registered two goals and three points in nine games. He’ll be given an extended look this time around and if Trevor Zegras misses any time to start the year due to injury, McTavish may initially start out as Anaheim’s No. 1 centre. There will be growing pains, but the third-overall pick in 2021 has the shot and high-end playmaking ability to thrive in an offensive role. The baby ducks are still growing, and McTavish will be given plenty of chances to light up the scoresheet.

Marco Rossi, Minnesota Wild

Rossi is arguably the most pro-ready forward among the rookies and is coming off an AHL campaign where he posted 18 goals and 53 points in 65 games. Based on his offensive production and pedigree as a prospect, Rossi is ready to graduate and make an impact on a team that ought to push the leading West contenders this year.

This is subject to change throughout the season but Rossi is currently on Minnesota’s second power-play unit, flanked by Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman. He’s an excellent skater who is built for the modern NHL and is being trusted, at least during the preseason, to play on both special teams. If Rossi emerges as a player who can be leaned on in all situations while providing top-six offense for a likely playoff team, he could leapfrog his main competition for the award.

Jack Quinn, Buffalo Sabres

Quinn has cemented a role for the Sabres and while we have to calibrate our expectations for rookies, he’ll be expected to contribute meaningful offense right away. The 20-year-old scored at will in the AHL last year, recording 26 goals and 61 points in 45 games and was named the league’s rookie of the year. He is thriving during the preseason and the Sabres won’t be shy to use him in a top-six role for the duration of the season.

His scoring output in the AHL and the narrative about leading Buffalo out of its rebuild could steer voters toward Quinn. One of the lone drawbacks to his campaign is that he may split votes with Power, who very well may be the superior rookie. It seems like a good problem for the Sabres to have.

Strong candidates to compete for the trophy

Shane Wright, Seattle Kraken

Wright will be given every chance to break into a top-six role and his game is pro-ready. Fuelled by the slight of being passed over not only by the Montreal Canadiens, but two other teams at the 2022 NHL Draft, Wright is playing like a man possessed during the preseason, and his all-around game lends itself well to the pro ranks already.

It’s tough to make an impact on the scoresheet immediately and Wright was lauded as a top prospect not necessarily because of his scoring, but the totality of his game. That may not translate to a gaudy scoring output, at least not initially, and that is the lone drawback to Wright’s candidacy.

Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators

Sanderson projects to be a future star, his game is mature beyond his years, and he possesses elite gap control, which should allow him to play heavy minutes for the Senators. Selected fifth overall in 2020, Sanderson also has a nasty streak and crushes opposing forwards with some well-timed hip checks. He’s an excellent skater and the Senators have badly needed help along the blue line, as Thomas Chabot has operated as a one-man island.

It’s unlikely he’ll produce the offensive totals needed to win the Calder, and voters don’t necessarily gravitate to sound positional play and zone exits alone. Sanderson could be a future star, but he will need to show an unforeseen level of offensive production to take top rookie honours.

Kent Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

Johnson played the hero at the 2022 World Juniors, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime for Canada to capture the gold medal. It was an interesting tournament for Johnson, who led most shot-creation and offensive categories but was rarely rewarded on the scoresheet until it mattered most.

Columbus is anxious to see what it has in the 19-year-old but Johnson won’t be promised top-six minutes right away. He’ll have to fight for his spot in the top-nine, and he certainly won’t unseat Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine for top billing. Johnson is known to be a playmaker rather than a pure goal scorer and though he’s ready to graduate to the NHL, his campaign is contingent upon moving into a top-six role and lighting the lamps early.

Compelling longshots

Juraj Slafkovsky, Montreal Canadiens

Slafkovsky was famously taken with the first-overall pick over Wright, thus creating a new layer of expectations for the booming winger. He has dominated against men at the Olympics and can score in bunches, but he’ll need to acclimate to the NHL game quickly. Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes bluntly assessed Slafkovsky’s preseason performance as underwhelming and because he’s eligible to play in the AHL, it’s possible Montreal keeps its star prospect in a developmental role this year.

Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets

Perfetti received an extended look with the Jets last season, posting two goals and seven points in 18 games before shoulder and back injuries wiped out the remainder of his rookie year. He still has rookie eligibility and is a lock for the top-six. Winnipeg has advertised Perfetti as a scoring machine, gifted with the playmaking ability and touch that will make him a future star. Will Perfetti be able to make an instant impact and elevate a Jets team that appears to be aging and descending quickly in the West?

Simon Edvinsson, Detroit Red Wings

Edvinsson is a technically gifted skater who has the ability to physically overpower opponents, hovering at 6-foot-6. He has all the raw tools to become a future star in the NHL but it appears he will be afforded room to let his game mature, as Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman made it clear he’s in no rush to accelerate him. Stranger things have happened and the Red Wings did unearth last year’s Calder Trophy winner in Seider, a fellow defensemen taken with a top-six pick. We’ll be monitoring Edvinsson throughout the year as a sleeper pick.

More from Yahoo Sports