The Calder Trophy race: Can anyone catch Filip Forsberg?

Updated: February 17, 2015 at 8:20 am by Cam Lewis

Along with the NHL’s playoff races, the competition for the league’s individual awards is heating up as we head into the final stretch of the season. Of all the awards, the Calder Trophy seems to be the most obvious choice at this point. Filip Forsberg has already put up 19 goals and 50 points and has helped his Nashville Predators transform from a middling team into a legitimate Stanley Cup threat. While Forsberg’s season has been incredibly impressive, a few other guys — including a 19-year old rock in Florida — may give him a run for money when it’s all said and done.

Let’s take a look.

There have been a handful of strong performances from the fresh faces in the league this season. Actually, a lot of rookies have really flown under the radar due in part to Forsberg’s dominant campaign. For example, Mike Hoffman in Ottawa already has 20 goals this season, and Damon Severson in New Jersey is averaging 23:01 minutes of ice time per game — both of those statistics lead their respective categories for rookies. Another guy who has stood out for me this year is Michael Hutchinson. While he has been somewhat inconsistent, his 0.920 save percentage, 7.17 saves above average, and 5.3 point shares are strong for a rookie goaltender. With that being said, the race for the Calder Trophy is being led by three guys in particular: Johnny Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad, and of course, Filip Forsberg. 

Johnny Gaudreau 

Goals: 15

Assists: 28

First assists: 10

Points: 43

Offensive point shares: 3.7

Point shares: 5.1

Shots: 108

Shooting percentage: 13.9

5 on 5 Advanced stats:

PDO: 102.0

GF%: 53.8

GF60: 2.87

GA60: 2.46

CF60: 52.95

CA60: 60.91

CF%: 46.5

Off. zone starts: 55.4%

Gaudreau has been everything Flames fans expected — and everything Oilers fans feared he would be: fantastic. As a slim rookie, he already looks like the Flames’ most dangerous scoring threat most of the time and he still has a lot of room to grow. He currently sits third on the Flames in scoring with 43 points, behind only Mark Giordano and Jiri Hudler, and his 5.1 point shares is good for sixth on the entire team and second among forwards. On top of that, when Johnny Hockey is on the ice, his team has 53.8% of the goals scored, which is solid. While his Corsi stats may not look strong, they’re good in relation to his teammates, as everybody on the Flames who has played at least 400 minutes (at 5 on 5) has a sub 50 CorsiFor% this season. We’ll see how his numbers stack up against Forsberg in a little bit.

Aaron Ekblad

Goals: 9

Assists: 23

First assists: 8

Points: 32

Offensive point shares: 3.0

Point shares: 6.0

Time on ice per game: 22:16

5 on 5 Advanced stats:

PDO: 100.0

GF%: 55.7

GF60: 2.43

GA60: 1.94

CF60: 56.05

CA60: 49.30

CF%: 53.2

Off. zone starts: 60%

Everything that Aaron Ekblad is doing in Florida as a 19-year old is incredibly impressive. The first stat that jumps out is the fact he logs more than 22 minutes of ice time per game. On top of that, he also has 3.0 offensive and defensive point shares, which is second on the team behind only Roberto Luongo, suggesting he provides the Panthers with a ton of value on both sides of the puck. It’s one thing for a rookie defenceman to log a ton of minutes, it’s another thing to be able to stay above water, and it’s a whole other thing for them to thrive and produce at a solid clip offensively. Ekblad is doing that and more, as his 32 points is good for fifth is rookie scoring and 19th among all defencemen. The one thing against Ekblad is the fact he seems to face relatively easy competition. He starts 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and his opponents rank towards the bottom of the league on both oppCF60 and oppGF60. That being said, Ekblad is doing a phenomenal job dealing with whatever situations the Panthers are throwing him into game in, game out.

Filip Forsberg 

Goals: 19

Assists: 31

First assists: 8

Points: 50

Offensive point shares: 5.0

Point shares: 6.9

Shots: 166

Shooting percentage: 11.4%

5 on 5 Advanced stats:

PDO: 104.2

GF%: 69.2

GF60: 3.62

GA60: 1.61

CF60: 65.83

CA60: 52.63

CF%: 55.6

Off. zone starts: 67.3% 

As promised, here’s a look at what Filip Forsberg has accomplished this season in Nashville. Long story short, let’s just say I wouldn’t trade this guy straight up for Martin Erat. When he’s on the ice, Nashville has 69.2% of the goals scored — which is second best in the league behind only Colin Wilson — meaning he’s scoring a hell of a lot more goals than the other teams are. Not surprisingly, Forsberg also has a really good CorsiFor percentage, and he’s provided a ton of value to his team, putting up 5.0 offensive point shares. This is all really, really impressive, but a couple things stand out for me. First of all, Forsberg has a 104.2 PDO at 5 on 5 (15th in the league) and he starts 67.3% of his even strength shifts in the offensive zone. A combination of good puck luck and being put in a really favourable position has certainly helped his production for the better, but the question is, by how much? It’s difficult to sum up Forsberg’s accomplishments to the fact he plays on a really good team because he’s a huge reason why the Predators are as good as they are. 

So how do these guys stack up? It’s easiest to compare Gaudreau and Forsberg because they’re both forwards who play in the Western Conference, so we can start there. Forsberg has produced more in terms of scoring and point shares, but his team is stronger offensively than Gaudreau’s team and Gaudreau plays in a less favourable situation. With that being said, Forsberg appears to face more difficult competition by a slight margin and his production in relation to his teammates has also been slightly stronger. So Forsberg wins the head to head battle with Johnny, it’s a little bit tougher with Ekblad. Ekblad has a much lower PDO and makes a lot less starts in the offensive zone than Forsberg, and he’s produced 6.0 point shares to Forsberg’s 6.9. With that being said, like Gaudreau, Ekblad faces easier competition that Forsberg does, which somewhat outweighs the whole favourable situation thing. 

In sum, this may seem like a runaway, but it really isn’t. While I would put my money on Forsberg winning the Calder, Ekblad isn’t too far behind at all and I could certainly see why some would vote for him. 

Stats from: Hockey Analysis and Hockey Reference