SportsPulse: NHL columnist Kevin Allen discusses if the Islanders’ recent success is enough to keep star John Tavares around long term and what other big names could be on the move before the trade deadline.
USA TODAY Sports
In the first few weeks of the season, it looked as if Arizona Coyotes winger Clayton Keller might be on his way to becoming a landslide winner in the Calder Trophy race. Today, Keller, despite his 31-goal pace, can’t be sure he will even be a finalist.
With almost one-third of the season played, here is how the rookie of the year race is shaking out:
1. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks: He’s leading rookies in goals (13) and points (25). His arrival has been a significant factor in the Canucks’ better-than-expected start at 13-10-4.
His wicked, quick shot release and spirited play has helped energize a Canucks team that has committed to giving their younger players more of an opportunity to carry the load.
2. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: The argument for Barzal being No. 1 is just as strong as the Boeser case. He has a “wow” factor to his game because of his dazzling skating ability. He can be a dynamic presence, proven by a five-assist game earlier this season.
His 24 points in 25 games are one reason why the Islanders are 15-8-2.
3. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: He’s already playing 23:35 minutes per game. Only 29 other defensemen are logging more minutes than him.
He plays a confident game, showing no trepidation about moving up into the rush. He has 14 points in 24 games, and his plus-minus is at zero. He is like a young Drew Doughty, owning an ability to make things happen in a variety of ways.
4. Keller: Although Keller is currently in the grip of 13-game goal drought, he still leads rookies with 86 shots on goal. That ranks 19th among all players.
He’s playing for a team that is still trying to find its rhythm under new coach Rick Tocchet. Keller has demonstrated he is a difference-maker. He has an innate ability to find seams in defensive coverage.
5. Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils: He’s another defenseman whose value has to be determined by measuring the impact he’s having on his team. Although he is playing only 16:10 per game, his…