Jump to content
Hockey Wilderness
  • Minnesota's Superb Rookie Duo Won't Threaten Bedard's Calder Coronation

    Image courtesy of Matt Krohn-USA Today Sports
    Tony Abbott

    OK, Connor Bedard, so you got an assist on Sunday. That don't impress the Minnesota media much, at least not in the much-hyped generational talent's first trip to the Xcel Energy Center. Especially not when twin Minnesota Wild rookies Marco Rossi and Brock Fabth outshone the much-hyped generational prospect in a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Rossi knocked in two goals, bringing his season total to eight on the season, with Faber assisting on both tallies. Among Calder Trophy-eligible players, the 2020 first-rounder Rossi has sole possession of second place in goals and is tied with Luke Hughes for second with 14 points. The jewel of the Kevin Fiala trade, Faber is third among rookie defensemen with 10 points and first among all rookies in time on ice by 50 minutes. 

    Their seasons are great, adding to a recent legacy in great Wild rookies alongside Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy. So it's not surprising that the Minnesota media is giving them a spotlight now, and Hockey Wilderness is no exception. But after Sunday's game, the Wild media is setting their sights on another Calder Trophy going to the State of Hockey.

    Joe Smith of The Athletic floated the case after Sunday's game. "Bedard is certainly deserving of the hype," Smith concedes. "But Rossi and Faber should very well be in the conversation for the [Calder].... The two play some of the biggest roles on the team -- Rossi the No. 1 center, Faber a top-pairing defender."

    His colleague Dom Luszczyszyn backed up Smith on Monday and perhaps went even a step further. Not only does his Net Rating model put Faber on top of the rookie class, but Bedard ranked ninth among rookies on Luszczyszyn's list, one spot behind Rossi. "[Bedard's defense] is enough of a wart in his game to leave a window open in the Calder race," he writes. "There are a lot of people treating this as an open-and-shut case -- it shouldn't be."

    Debate makes NHL Awards fun, and admittedly, they're pretty low-stakes. No one should be mad at a writer for saying Bedard doesn't make the cut for their top rookie, nor should anyone disagree all that strongly saying Faber or Rossi don't belong in the mix. These are defensible opinions.

    Still, if you're banging the drum for the Calder Trophy to go to Minnesota this year, there's little debate about it: You'll be disappointed. Barring an injury, it's too difficult to foresee a world where Bedard doesn't walk to win the NHL's best rookie award. It's also hard to see a world where he doesn't deserve it. That's okay, and it doesn't have to take away anything from what Rossi or Faber are doing.

    A big reason is simply that Bedard is putting up numbers. He's not just leading rookies in scoring; his 11 goals and 20 points are three and six ahead of second place, respectively. He's on pace for 39 goals and 71 points as an 18-year-old rookie. If he does that, he'll be on a list of only three NHLers who've matched those totals at age-18: Sidney Crosby in 2005-06, and Steve Yzerman and Dale Hawerchuk in the 1980s.

    What Bedard is doing isn't just great. It's historic. If Bedard can maintain, let alone improve, his current paces, that kind of offensive output is so impressive that another rookie would have to be equally historic to wrench away the Calder. Voters aren't going to ignore just how rare of a performance Bedard is putting on, and frankly, they shouldn't.

    You also have to appreciate that Bedard is a borderline top-50 scorer in the NHL on a team where he's getting very little support. The Blackhawks signed Taylor Hall and Corey Perry in the offseason, ostensibly to give Bedard help on the ice. Instead, Hall has played just 65 minutes with Bedard at 5-on-5 and is currently hurt, and Chicago kicked Perry off the team last week.

    So, who are his top three linemates at 5-on-5 play this year? Meet Philipp Kurashev, Nick Foligno, and Wild Legend Ryan Donato. With 25, 26, and 27 points last year, respectively (in a combined 201 games), Bedard has a shot to put up more than the 78 points that trio scored in 2022-23. 

    None of Bedard's teammates is on track to be any kind of real scoring threat this season. The rookie is on pace to lead his team in goals by 14 (Dickinson is tracking for 25) and in points by 13 (assuming Kurashev plays every game until the end of the season). Bedard is truly on an island.

    That's why it's difficult to disqualify him for poor defensive numbers. What rookie is going to thrive in that environment? Comparing his on-ice numbers to the rest of the league is silly when his team gets just 41.6% of the expected goals share at 5-on-5. We need to compare him to his team, on which he's second among teammates (to Donato; minimum 100 minutes), controlling 45.8% of the expected goals.

    Without Bedard, the Blackhawks are playing like a team whose front office is shamelessly tanking. With Bedard, Chicago is merely "very bad." That doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, but it is. Whatever Bedard's defensive warts are, at least he's producing enough offense to offset them.

    It's also true that Bedard's role is simply not to play defense. Coach Luke Richardson is playing Bedard 19 minutes a night. What's he better served by when trying to win games? Telling Bedard to hang back and tighten up on D or create a goal because his team is 30th in the NHL in scoring?

    If Richardson is doing the former, that's a fireable offense. It's the same situation as early-career Connor McDavid: Bedard's team needs as many goals as possible, and Bedard's one of arguably one player who can get goals. Therefore, he should expend his energy on the offensive side of the puck. Punishing Bedard for playing his role to great effect seems silly.

    It's true that some measures of overall impact aren't particularly bullish on Bedard. Luszczyszyn's Net Rating clearly isn't, and neither is Evolving-Hockey's Standings Points Above Replacement (SPAR). According to SPAR, Bedard has been worth only 0.8 points in the standings, which is tied for 12th (with Rossi) among rookies, and his impact has been far behind Hughes (2.2 SPAR) and Faber (2.0 SPAR), who occupy the top two spots.

    Those aren't the only measures of all-around impact, though, and these models aren't in lockstep. Evolving-Hockey has a second all-in-one measure of value, xStandings Points Above Replacement* (xSPAR), and that has Bedard firmly in first place (2.2 xSPAR) among this year's rookie class. Rossi also does very well in this model but sits tied for fourth place (1.4 xSPAR), with Faber (0.6 xSPAR) tied for 14th. Bedard isn't just first among rookies; he's tied for 23rd in the entire NHL, and his peers include Erik Karlsson, Leon Draisaitl, and Crosby. 

    You can pick some nits in Bedard's game, but those weaknesses aren't going to meaningfully threaten his Calder coronation, should he keep up this pace. Fans and media are always looking for a way out of a coronation; it's natural to resist it. It's also natural for fans and media to make a case for the players they see every day to win their respective awards. Hockey Wilderness isn't immune to that, nor are we throwing stones. 

    By all means, get invested in the race. It's just that you probably will (and probably should be) disappointed come awards time. That's no slight to Rossi or Faber. Both are having great rookie seasons. But "great" isn't "historically great." As long as Bedard can be the latter, it will be tough for any other rookies to supplant him as the Calder favorite.

    All data via Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise stated.

    *xSPAR is from Evolving-Hockey, but was based heavily on Emmanuel Perry's now-lost WAR model.

    Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    • Like 3

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    I really don't keep up with the awards as it highly favors teams in large markets. However, team success does sometimes play a role in the awards. This article assumes a healthy Bedard throughout the season, a huge assumption I think. Yes, he's putting up points, but sitting injured doesn't do that. 

    It took Rossi a huge offseason of training to do this. Bedard is still 18 and quite slight in build. Turning the wrong way into someone in the Foligno class (even a teammate) could send Bedard to the sidelines for a prolonged period of time.

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    No big mystery to me.  Bedard will win the Calder, Hughes (big market / playoff team) will be second.  Nothing wrong with having the #3 and #4 Calder vote getters on the same team...

    • Like 7
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    As has been mentioned, larger markets have an advantage.

    Not mentioned though is that I think Rossi closes the gap some.  If the Wild can be as aggressive offensively as they have been by driving up ice more, I see this benefitting Rossi a lot.  I think his point rate speeds up a bit as a result.

    Granted, being on a line with Kaprizov and Zuccarello, he should have opportunities.  He's also not looked like a passenger on that line and it's allowed his offensive abilities and awareness to be more prominent in his game.  He's definitely got a lot to learn, but he seems a little quicker to diagnose things each game.  As a result though, I think he would need to outscore Bedard by about 10pts to get real consideration and even then I think Bedard gets the votes to take it.  That said, if Rossi plays that well - good on him. Even being in the upper tier of players considered for votes is great to see after where he was last year.

    I'm also in the group thinking that Bedard is one good hit away from being destroyed.  He looks like a good, stiff gust from a Zamboni would knock him over, but he doesn't play like it.  I genuinely hope he stays healthy.  I don't like to see anyone get hurt.  A few that I enjoy see getting totally embarrassed on the ice or getting hit hard, but not actually injured.

    • Like 4
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Let him have the ordained award.  Kaprizov got one, so it's not impossible for the Wild to get trophies of their own every once in a while.

    I just want Rossi and Faber to continue to get even better.  Their reward will be fat chunks of those $15m coming in a couple years.

    Edited by Citizen Strife
    • Like 5
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Faber is a bit like Spurgeon and Brodin.  Few in the league recognize them in discussions about who the best D in the league are... yet when we play against players like Connor McDavid... Brodin and Spurgeon do a fantastic job shutting them down.  Faber will be a reliable staple in the foundation of our D for the next 10+ years.

    I'll be curious to see how Rossi turns out.  He is having a great rookie year.... His hockey IQ is off the chart.  If he continues to strive to improve he could find himself in rare company... if he settles and has a softmore slump it may be difficult for him to reach his potential.  Stay on the Gas Pedal Rossi.  

    • Like 6
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Beard will win unless he gets injured. Should the fact that he is 18 factor so heavily...I don't think so. Without that he is only having a great rookie year but nothing really unusual. (KK was significantly better) IMO what Faber is doing is MUCH more unusual for a rookie.  But... Bedard will win.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...