The Detroit Red Wings‘ Dylan Larkin narrowly edged Artemi Panarin in our staff vote as the two Central Division forwards have created some separation from the rest of the field in the Hockey’s Future Calder Trophy poll for December of 2015.
Buffalo’s Jack Eichel — who was eligible to play for the USA in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki — instead had his biggest scoring month of the season and moves up two spots into the third slot.
The Arizona forward tandem of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, though not as impressive as they were in the first two months of the season, remain in our poll. Domi is second only to Panarin among rookie scorers with 28 points and is in fourth place on our list while Duclair occupies the seventh spot.
St. Louis Blues‘ defenseman Colton Parayko, the only defenseman in last month’s poll, is in the fifth spot and is joined this month by Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere, who leads all defenseman with three overtime goals, makes his debut in our poll in the sixth spot.
Eichel’s Buffalo teammate Sam Reinhart enters this month’s poll in the eighth spot, nudging out Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. McDavid has not played since undergoing clavicle surgery but could be back on the ice by the end of the month.
The December poll also features the first goalies to make the list this season as Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and Anaheim’s John Gibson were both impressive in handling the bulk of the goaltending for their respective clubs, tying them for the final spot.
New York Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg, sixth in the November poll, scored one goal in 12 games in December and dropped out of the list; as did Calgary’s Sam Bennett (9th) and 19-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers (10th) of Winnipeg.
Hockey’s Future Calder Poll for December, 2015
(November ranking in parentheses. NR – indicates player was not in November rankings)
1. (1) Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings
Drafted in the first round (15th overall) in 2014
Like Eichel, Dylan Larkin skated for the USA at the 2015 World Junior Championship and was eligible to return to the tournament this year. Instead, the Waterford, Michigan native continues to be one of the top forwards for Detroit in his rookie season.
Tied with Tomas Tatar for the team lead in goals (14), Larkin trails only veteran Henrik Zetterberg for the team lead in points with 29 points in 42 games. Larkin’s +22 rating is one behind the Los Angeles Kings‘ Tyler Toffoli for the top mark amongst all NHL players. He will be one of two rookies taking part in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game along with Anaheim’s Gibson.
The Red Wings continue to be in the heart of what is a very competitive Atlantic Division race, sitting six points behind red hot Florida.
In 13 games in December, Larkin scored three goals with four assists and was +6 while averaging nearly 18 minutes of ice time.
2. (2) Artemi Panarin, LW, Chicago Blackhawks
Signed as a free agent in 2015
Artemi Panarin continues to provide a perfect complement to Patrick Kane and center Artem Anisimov on the second line for Chicago. In his first NHL season after playing in Russia’s KHL, the slick playmaker leads all rookies with 15 goals and 24 assists in 44 games while compiling a +4 rating. Panarin is averaging just under 19 minutes of ice time per game, most amongst all rookie forwards.
The defending Stanley Cup champions continue to chase surprising Dallas in the Central Division and have reduced the Stars’ division lead to four points.
In 15 games in December, Panarin scored four goals with seven assists — tied with Eichel for most points by a rookie in the month — and was -2, averaging 18:34 minutes of ice time.
3. (5) Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres
Drafted in the first round (2nd overall) in 2015
Eichel had his best month as a pro in December, scoring three goals with eight assists in 14 games, playing with a maturity well beyond his 19 years of age. The sky appears to be the limit in terms of Eichel’s potential and he is beginning to make the most of the significant stickhandling and passing skills that made him the second player taken in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Buffalo continues to scuffle at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings, but with young players like Eichel and fellow rookies Reinhart and defenseman Jake McCabe seeing significant ice time — and 20-year-old defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen emerging as a significant offensive threat — things are looking up for the Sabres.
Currently Buffalo’s second-leading scorer behind Ryan O’Reilly with 13 goals and 14 assists in 42 games, Eichel is -10 while averaging 19 minutes of ice time.
4. (3) Max Domi, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Drafted in the first round (12th overall) in 2013
Max Domi continues to put up solid offensive numbers but slipped one spot in this month’s poll after the Arizona Coyotes opened December with five straight losses. The 20-year-old is one of Arizona’s top scorers, three points behind team leader Mikkel Boedker with 10 goals and 18 assists in 41 games. His even plus/minus is a bit of a concern as he was -8 (worst among rookies) in 14 games in December.
Like Buffalo, the Coyotes are undergoing a youth movement after struggling for much of the last decade, a period in which they missed the playoffs in nine of the past 12 seasons. With only Los Angeles distancing itself from the rest of the pack in the Pacific Division, Arizona should be right in the thick of things for one of the division’s remaining two playoff spots.
Domi and fellow rookie forwards Duclair and Jordan Martinook, as well as first-year defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, are all seeing a lot of ice time and should only continue to improve as they gain experience.
Domi scored two goals with five assists, averaging 16:33 minutes of ice time in 14 games in December.
5. (4) Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues
Drafted in the third round (86th overall) in 2012
Eichel’s big month drops Colton Parayko down one spot in our poll, but the former University of Alaska-Fairbanks star continues to play as a seasoned pro, providing both sound defense and playmaking skills from the Blues’ back end.
Largely unknown coming out of Junior A hockey in Alberta, Parayko flourished seeing a lot of ice time for the Nanooks, while adding size and strength to his now 6’4″ frame.
In 43 games for the Blues this season he has scored six goals with 10 assists and is a team-best +13 while averaging 19 minutes of ice time.
After finishing first in the Central Division in 2014-15, St. Louis is again in a tight race with Dallas and Chicago for the top spot.
Parayko skated in 16 games in December, scoring one goal with three assists and was +2 with 10 penalty minutes while averaging 18:44 minutes of ice time.
6. (NR) Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Drafted in the third round (78th overall) in 2012
Shayne Gostisbehere joined the Philadelphia Flyers in November after opening the season with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms and has provided an instant jolt of offense to a team that has struggled to score goals.
Playing a key role for the Union College team that won a national champion in 2013-14, Gostisbehere suffered a knee injury last year; appearing in just two games with the Flyers and five games with the Phantoms after undergoing ACL surgery. He was recalled by the Flyers in mid-November this year after scoring two goals with eight assists in 14 AHL games.
After recording an assist on the game-tying goal in the third period of a 3-2 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes on November 14th, he scored his first career goal three nights later against Los Angeles.
Gostisbehere has been especially effective in the three-on-three overtime periods, where only Chicago’s Jonathan Toews has scored more goals (4). Despite playing just 23 games for Philadelphia, he is the team’s leading scorer amongst defensemen with seven goals and nine assists.
In 12 games in December, the Florida native scored three goals with six assists and was +5 while averaging 18:34 minutes of ice time.