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Making the Case for Each Calder Candidate

The Calder Trophy race has been hot this season. Take a look at the reason why these four candidates stand out among the rest.
Moritz Seider

Fun fact: Before becoming the remarkably mediocre sportswriter I am now, I was intent on becoming a lawyer.

I have a political science degree and barely-opened LSAT study books to prove it.

Obviously, that did not happen. But one of the main reasons that placed me hot on the path to law school is that my parents always told me, through gritted teeth, that I was very good at arguing.

So, that's what I'm going to do today.

With you lovely readers as the jury, I'm going to select the four leading candidates for the Calder Trophy this season and present a case -- pro bono, of course -- for why each should take home the hardware.

Let's do this, shall we? Court is now in session. 

Trevor Zegras, F (Anaheim)
Age: 21
Stat line: 68 GP, 20 goals, 35 assists, 55 points, 18:01 TOI

When it comes to the rookie most beneficial to hockey's future as a culturally-relevant product, Trevor Zegras is the runaway winner. 

Zegras has spent his rookie season pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished on NHL ice, crafting not one but two different styles of goals that will forever be associated with his namesake: his over-the-net feed to Sonny Milano, and the lacrosse-style wraparound that, to be fair, most people will still dub 'The Michigan'. 

But that's not all. Zegras has also dragged hockey culture kicking and screaming into the future, causing crusty old hockey men to throw temper tantrums over his antics that, in turn, spark conversations about the sport's desperate need for reform. 

In terms of impacting the actual game on the ice, Zegras is pretty darn good, too. 

Scoring 20 goals and averaging over 18 minutes per night as a freshman is quite the accomplishment. But Zegras' fancy stats showcase a truly impressive player, with the Ducks generating 52.52 percent of the expected goals, and 51.84 percent of the scoring chances whenever Zegras is on the ice. 

And considering how Zegras has managed to do that while playing on one of the worst possession-driving teams in the NHL that sits at the bottom of the standings, it's downright remarkable. 

Zegras is all but destined to have a long and fruitful career. His rookie season, though, has been pretty great in its own right, too. 

Moritz Seider, D (Detroit)
Age: 21
Stat line: 73 GP, 5 goals, 41 assists, 46 points, 23:09 TOI

Seider doesn't really need me to make a case for him here given that he's almost certain to win this thing anyway. 

It's not every day that a 21-year-old breaking into the league and puts up such lofty point totals as a defenseman while treading water defensively in a top-four role on a team that will once again finish near the very bottom of the standings. 

Say what you will about the stat, but Seider has still somehow managed to stay only a minus-9 despite the Red Wings' dumbfounding minus-71 goal differential. 

At least by Detroit's standards, when Seider is on the ice, bad things tend to happen far less frequently. And that's about as much as you can ask from the youngster at this point. 

Seider has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone in the future, solidifying the Red Wings' blueline for the next decade to come. For now, though, he's a remarkable young defender with acute offensive instincts who is giving beleaguered Motor City fans something to cheer for on a nightly basis. 

If votes were cast today, Seider would be your 2021-22 Calder winner. 

Lucas Raymond, F (Detroit)
Age: 20
Stat line: 73 GP, 22 goals, 33 assists, 55 points, 18:15 TOI

Alongside Seider, Lucas Raymond has been a rare bright spot in a disastrous Red Wings season, bursting onto the scene as the youngest Calder candidate on this list and making a compelling case for himself. 

Raymond's 22 goals and 55 points are head-turning enough. But the fact that the Red Wings nearly break even in generating expected goals and high-dangers goals-for in Raymond's even-strength usage is downright remarkable when factoring in just how bad the team really is. 

It's as simple as this: when Raymond is on the ice, the Red Wings are an even match for their opponent. When he's not, they get dominated. 

That's quite the impact to have as a 20-year-old. 

Raymond has made something out of nothing all year long. And if that doesn't earn you a look for the Calder, I don't know what will. 

Michael Bunting - Toronto Maple Leafs
Age: 26
Stat line: 73 GP, 20 goals, 37 assists, 57 points, 15:39 TOI

If you have a problem with Michael Bunting's Calder eligibility, take it up with Gary Bettman. I'm just the messenger.

Obviously, Bunting's age plays a major factor in his Calder case, given that he's four-to-five years older than the rest of the field despite technically fitting the criteria to make him eligible for the award. 

And if we were to judge Bunting's performance like we would any other candidate, then he'd be near the head of the pack. The Scarborough native has carved himself out a crucial role on perhaps the best line in hockey, playing third fiddle to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner for most of the year and looking wholly comfortable doing it.

As a rookie, Bunting is a first-line player. He currently leads this year's class in points, was the first member to reach 20 goals, and has become one of the league's best at rendering his opponent shorthanded by drawing penalties.

What more do you want?

Important to note, too, is that Bunting was not greeted with the same advantages that draft pedigree and prospect status typically provide rookies when arriving in the big leagues. The 26-year-old worked his way up the lineup beginning in training camp, spending time on all four of the Leafs' lines and contributing regardless of where he was placed. His versatility and relentless drive, both on and off the ice, has been vital to the Leafs' success this season, with Bunting more or less replacing Zach Hyman's value after the latter departed in the off-season.

If the rulebook says he's eligible, he's eligible. And he's been among the best.

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