2015-16 Calder Poll: Red Wings’ Larkin leads the way in November

By Tony Piscotta
Dylan Larkin - Detroit Red Wings - HF Calder Poll, November, 2015

Photo: Detroit Red Wings rookie forward Dylan Larkin has made a smooth transition so far from NCAA hockey last season to the NHL in 2015-16 (courtesy of Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

A clavicle injury to Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, the first player taken in the 2015 NHL Draft, has sidelined the 18-year-old until mid-January at the earliest. With McDavid — the leader in the initial Hockey’s Future Calder Trophy staff poll last month — out of action, the Detroit Red WingsDylan Larkin and Chicago BlackhawksArtemi Panarin are out in front of the field after putting up big numbers in November.

McDavid, still among the rookie scoring leaders despite skating in just 13 games so far, slips to seventh while Buffalo Sabres‘ center Jack Eichel, third in the season-opening poll, dropped two spots to fifth.

The Arizona Coyotes‘ tandem of forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair continue to play well.

Domi drops one spot to third due more to the emergence of Larkin and Panarin rather than because of any deficiencies in his play. Duclair dropped two spots from sixth to eighth as St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko jumped all the way from ninth to fourth and New York Rangers winger Oscar Lindberg moved up two spots from eighth to sixth.

Once again, Parayko is the only defenseman in our poll, as forwards have dominated. There are no goalies in this month’s list, with Montreal’s Mike Condon being nudged out of the final spot by Winnipeg Jets‘ teenager Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers slipped from seventh to 10th.

One new player enters this month’s poll as Calgary Flames‘ winger Sam Bennett makes his debut in the ninth spot. Dallas Stars center Mattias Janmark, who was 10th last month, dropped out of the top 10.

All statistics below are for the month of November. Each player’s October ranking is in parentheses.

Hockey’s Future Calder Poll for November, 2015

1. (4) Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings
Drafted in the first round (15th overall) in 2014

 

Any concerns about Dylan Larkin making the jump directly from college hockey to the NHL after just one season at the University of Michigan has been put to rest by the 19-year-old Michigan native.

Skating on Detroit’s top line with veterans Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, he leads the Red Wings with 11 goals in 27 games — most amongst all rookies — and is a team-best +19. He is tied with Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar for the team lead with 21 points and is third amongst rookies with 10 assists, trailing only Panarin (18) and Domi (13).

Despite an eventful off-season which saw long-time coach Mike Babcock go from the Red Wings to Toronto and several personnel moves, Detroit has been one of the league’s better teams over the first two months — battling with Ottawa and Boston for the second spot in the Atlantic Division behind Eastern Conference-leading Montreal.

In 13 games in November, Larkin scored seven goals with three assists and 12 penalty minutes, and was +5 while averaging 16:16 minutes of ice time.

2. (5) Artemi Panarin, LW, Chicago Blackhawks
Signed as a free agent in 2015

 

Artemi Panarin joined the Blackhawks after leading KHL champion St. Petersburg SKA in scoring last season — a team whose second-leading scorer was Ilya Kovalchuk — so there was little doubt that he would step right into a full-time role in Chicago.

That the 24-year-old has been able to adapt so quickly, trailing only Patrick Kane in scoring for the Blackhawks, is nonetheless impressive. Like Kane, he is undersized for an NHL forward but Panarin has played in all situations for the Blackhawks. He is frequently teamed with Kane and fellow Russian Artem Anisimov, who is enjoying a bounce-back season with Chicago after three seasons in Columbus. Panarin leads all rookie forwards, averaging 19:25 minutes per night, which trails only defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Darnell Nurse.

Like Detroit, the defending Stanley Cup champions are in the middle of a battle for second-place, chasing surprising overall points leader Dallas in the competitive Central Division. Chicago is one of four teams within three points of each other behind the Stars.

Leading all rookies with 18 assists, Panarin has nine goals and is +5 with four penalty minutes in 27 games. In 13 games in November he scored five goals with eight assists and had an even plus/minus with two penalty minutes.

3. (2) Max Domi, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Drafted in the first round (12th overall) in 2013

 

There were some scouts who felt that Max Domi was ready for the NHL last season, when the Coyotes sent him back to junior hockey to play for the London Knights. Dominant at the 2015 World Juniors with Canada and a 102-point scorer during the OHL regular season in 2014-15, the 20-year-old is making up for lost time this year.

Through the first two months of the season, Domi is the Coyotes’ leading scorer and his combination of skill, speed and willingness to compete in tight areas has generated excitement for a franchise looking to turn things around.

Playing on the Coyotes’ top line with veterans Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal, Domi and his linemates have been a true first line that is dangerous every time it hits the ice, something that was missing the past few years in Arizona. The Coyotes’ leading goal scorer with 10 goals, he also has 13 assists in 27 games, trailing only Hanzal (15) for the team lead.

After missing the playoffs for the past three seasons, the Coyotes are in the thick of a Pacific Division race that should be entertaining all season. Arizona should only improve as several young prospects in the lineup gain more experience.

Domi scored three goals with six assists and was +5 with four penalty minutes, averaging 15:34 minutes of ice time in 12 November games.

4. (9) Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues
Drafted in the third round (86th overall) in 2012

 

Colton Parayko, unlike the other rookies in this poll, flew under the radar early in his career — not drafted until his second year of draft eligibility and spending three years in college hockey at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

A workhorse for the Nanooks during his college career, the now 6’4″ defenseman from St. Albert, Alberta has stepped into a full-time role with St. Louis as a 22-year-old.

With veterans like Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk already in the lineup it was thought that Parayko might need time to bide his time before assuming a larger role for the Blues. An injury to Shattenkirk forced him to miss 10 games, however, and Parayko made the most of his opportunity: flourishing in a second-pairing role. The leading scorer amongst Blues’ defensemen with five goals and eight assists in 25 games, Parayko has the top plus/minus (+11) for St. Louis.

The Blues finished first in the Central Division last season and are once again in the hunt this season, battling with Chicago, Nashville and Minnesota for second place behind the Stars.

Parayko skated in 11 games in November for the Blues, missing two games with a lower body injury. He scored one goal with four assists and was +3 with four penalty minutes while averaging 18:34 minutes of ice time.

5. (3) Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres
Drafted in the first round (second overall) in 2015

 

Jack Eichel was the second player taken in the 2015 NHL Draft, and like McDavid, who was taken before him, was expected to be a much needed presence for a franchise that finished last in its division.

His offensive numbers have not been as eye-popping as his former teammate Larkin (the two skated for the USA with both the U20 and men’s teams last season), but the 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner has been a steady presence for the Sabres.

Under former Pittsburgh Penguins‘ coach Dan Bylsma, who is in his first season in Buffalo, the Sabres have shown patience with a lineup full of high-profile prospects and the team is making progress. Eichel is one of six players 22 or younger that is skating for Buffalo, including 2014 first round pick Sam Reinhart (like Eichel, he was the second overall pick in that year’s draft).

Tied with Ryan O’Reilly for the team lead with nine goals, Eichel’s 14 points makes him Buffalo’s third-leading scorer behind O’Reilly and 20-year-old defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

The Sabres, after missing the playoffs for four straight seasons, are battling with Toronto to stay out of last in the Atlantic Division.

After finishing with a -6 rating after his first 11 games, Eichel had an even plus/minus in 13 games in November, scoring four goals with four assists while averaging 18:35 minutes of ice time.

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