If Anaheim Ducks Wunderkind Trevor Zegras clears COVID protocols today, he will play opposite Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider tonight in Anaheim (10 PM EST start on Bally Sports Detroit Plus/Bally Sports California/Bally Sports San Diego/97.1 FM). The Athletic’s Eric Stephens and Max Bultman discuss and debate the Calder Trophy merits of the trio of super-rookies this morning:
Does one have an edge over the others?
Stephens: Looking at it right now, I’d say it’s neck and neck and neck. It is amazing that the Red Wings have not one but two leading candidates. And if Zegras were to win, it would make him the first Anaheim player to capture the award. Not even Kariya can make that claim — Kariya would finish third in 1995 behind Quebec center Peter Forsberg and Washington goalie Jim Carey.
On one hand, Seider has an edge in that playing defense at a high level in the NHL is a hard task and for a 20-year-old to be outstanding right off the bat should earn some extra points. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill isn’t protecting him either. Seider takes regular turns on the Red Wings’ penalty kill while also playing a big role in their power play. To be trusted with prime defensive assignments while also leading the blue line in scoring is quite a feat for a youngster.
On the other hand, Zegras is also playing a demanding position in centering Anaheim’s second line as he continues his maturation toward one day taking the reins from Ryan Getzlaf and becoming the Ducks’ No. 1 pivot. And it doesn’t hurt that Zegras has made the Ducks a dynamic team when he’s in the lineup and relevant on a national scale with his charisma and penchant for pulling off the unexpected.
Bultman: To me, it’s way too soon to call this race. These three players have each been the NHL’s Rookie of the Month over the first three months, and they each look like they’ll be able to keep it up as the season wears on. There’s not much separation.
But Seider and Zegras each have one area where they stand out from the other two.
For Seider, it’s his usage. Playing 22 minutes a night as a defenseman at such a young age speaks to the immense responsibility he’s already taken on. The fact so many of those minutes are coming from tough defensive-zone starts only compounds that, especially compared to Zegras, who has started nearly 80% of his even-strength shifts (among those that start on face-offs) in the offensive zone. When you factor that difference in, Seider’s production as a defenseman becomes even more impressive.