ESPN’s Wyshynski polls the PHWA, and everybody loves…Zegras

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski posted an update on the various awards that the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes upon for ESPN+ this morning, and it should not surprise you that his polling of PHWA representatives confirmed that the Trevor Zegras Hype Machine has overtaken the Lucas Raymond one:

Calder Trophy (top rookie)

Leader: Trevor Zegras, C, Anaheim Ducks
Finalists: Lucas Raymond, LW, Detroit Red Wings; Moritz Seider, D, Detroit Red Wings

Ever since he set up Sonny Milano with a pass that went over the back of the net to the front of the crease, Zegras has been the center of an all-out fan and media lovefest. It also helps when he does press conferences with Baby Yoda strapped to his chest or becomes a meme after being frightened by Kevin Shattenkirk dressed as a giant teddy bear:

Of course, it also helps that he’s a dynamic hockey player, too. Zegras has 25 points in 30 games, including eight goals, while skating 17:08 per game. He’s basically living in the attacking end, with 83% offensive zone starts. But he’s getting results.

Raymond, who led the Calder Awards Watch race last month, still leads NHL rookies in goals (10, tied with Tanner Jeannot of Nashville), points (29) and points per game (0.85). As our survey of voters might indicate, his buzz has been dwarfed by that of Zegras. But rookie of the year honors are typically linked to offensive stat leaders for forwards.

If Raymond can continue his consistent play — he hasn’t gone more than two straight games without a point this season — he’ll likely end up leading in some offensive categories. The betting market still likes him, too, as his +140 odds make him the favorite for the award ahead of Zegras (+200).

Two other factors to note: Zegras had 24 games of experience in 2020-21 and is just over a year older than Raymond, who is 19. Not saying these should be factors, mind you.

Seider was actually named atop more ballots than Raymond in our poll of voters. He’s been by far the best rookie defenseman in the league, averaging 22:24 in ice time per game, generating 22 points in 34 appearances and getting the opposite of “protection” in his deployment, with over 50% defensive zone starts. He’s playing on the power play and the penalty kill for the Red Wings. Not as flashy as previous Calder defensive darlings like Makar and Hughes; just a solid rookie playing like an old pro.

Other rookies of note: Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who was a Calder finalist last season but is still eligible this season; Jeannot, the Predators forward who keeps hitting the scoresheet consistently; Devils forward Dawson Mercer, who is excelling in all situations; Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting and Panthers forward Anton Lundell, who are having solid seasons but won’t likely catch up to the offensive leaders. One wild card: Ducks defenseman Jamie Drysdale, the only player in the conversation with Seider.

Continued (paywall); Zegras made a beautiful play, don’t get me wrong, and I get that he is media and soundbyte friendly in a world where Raymond and Seider both possess, “Aw, shucks” personalities. I’m sure that Zegras is going to have a hell of a career.

But as someone who is partial to Raymond and Seider, I watch them making small plays, subtle plays, and I see truly special things happening. I grew up in the early days of Sergei Fedorov’s career and watching Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov as rookies, and I’m not afraid to say that I see some similar qualities in Raymond and Seider.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.