Trophy Tracker: Thompson, Beniers leaders for Calder rookie of the year
To mark the fourth quarter of the 2022-23 regular season, NHL.com is releasing the second installment of its Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL rookie of the year, selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Logan Thompson it’s proof that good things really do come to those who wait.
After going undrafted after four seasons with Brandon of the Western Hockey League, then one more season in college in Canada, he’s making the most of his opportunity as the starting goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 25-year-old, who earned his chance due to injuries to Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit, is 13-3-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and two clean sheets in 14 games (all starters).
Thompson is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy according to a panel of 14 NHL.com writers, receiving 11 first-place votes and 62 points in the poll. He was tied for ninth with two other players in the NHL.com preseason poll in October.
“This [stinks] When you don’t get drafted or you’re always told you’re not good enough,” Thompson said. “You have to use that as motivation. There are a lot of skilled hockey players out there, but you definitely have to work at it and that’s something I’m happy with, how hard I’ve worked.
“And I’m not going to stop.”
Matty Beniersa center with the Seattle Kraken, is second in the poll with two first-place votes and 52 points, followed by the Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto with 35 points (one first-place vote), Senators defender Jake Sanderson with 26 points and Buffalo Sabres’ defense Owen Power with 15 points.
Beniers has been a key cog in Seattle’s offense this season. The 20-year-old ranks first among all NHL rookies with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) while averaging 17:18 of ice time to help Seattle (11-5-3) take second place in the Pacific Division.
“He’s a young center in this league,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “His effort and his intentions are outstanding. His confidence is a real strength. Playing in the middle, you have a lot of different responsibilities.”
Pinto has nine points and leads all NHL rookies with eight goals and 41 shots on goal in 19 games.
Thompson could become the 17th goaltender to win the Calder Trophy and the first since Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009. No Golden Knights player has won the Calder Trophy.
Thompson attended Brock University to play in a Canadian college league, U Sports, which offers opportunities to graduates of the Canadian Hockey League and Canadian Junior Hockey League. He finished 18-6-0 with a 2.22 GAA and .934 save percentage in 24 games and was named the U Sports Rookie of the Year and Goaltender of the Year in 2018-19.
After two seasons in the ECHL, the 25-year-old signed a two-year entry-level contract with Vegas on July 13, 2020.
He went 16-6-1 with a 1.96 GAA, a .943 save percentage and two shutouts in 23 games with Henderson to win the Baz Bastien Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s top goaltender in 2020-21. He also made his NHL debut with Vegas in a relief appearance against the Minnesota Wild on March 10, 2021, before signing a three-year extension on January 30, 2022.
Thompson has helped Las Vegas to first place in the Pacific to a 16-4-1 start under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy. He is 9-1-0 with a 2.30 GAA and .925 save percentage in his last 10 starts, making a career-high 42 NHL saves in a 5-4 win at Ottawa Senators on November 3rd.
“I didn’t see him play last year other than on film in the summer, but what impressed me is his confidence,” Cassidy said. “He’s got a little bit of drag at the net. He’s a good athlete, but he’s still composed and, for a guy, he’s got some good technical merit to his game.”
Total votes (points awarded in 5-4-3-2-1): Logan Thompson, Vegas Golden Knights, 62 points (11 first-place votes); Matty Beniers, Seattle Kraken, 52 points (first two votes); Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators, 35 points (one first-place vote); Jake Sanderson, Senators, 26 points; Owen Power, Buffalo Sabres, 15 points; Matias MaccelliArizona Coyotes, 13 points; Stuart SkinnerEdmonton Oilers, three points; Mason McTavishAnaheim Ducks, two points; Kaiden GuhleMontreal Canadiens, one point
NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this story.
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