The NHL rookie class for the 2015-16 season is one of the deepest in recent memory, with players like Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid, Artemi Panarin, Max Domi and Dylan Larkin all making significant impacts for their teams.
Coming into the season, many around the league and in the media expected that it would be a two-man race between McDavid and Eichel after they were taken one-two in the draft. NHL.com writes that the "generational talents" are both "living up to the hype" this season with how they have performed. While both players are definitely in the mix, it is certainly not a two-man race for the award.
While Eichel and McDavid have name recognition, there is a good chance that someone else could win the trophy this year. Panarin has been a standout for the Chicago Blackhawks, while players like Larkin and Domi should receive some attention. Here is a look at the top candidates for the award this season:
Artemi Panarin, Blackhawks
Panarin has emerged as the current favorite for the award, as he is leading the rookie class in points, goals and assists this season. Panarin is playing for the defending Stanley Cup champions, and he has been extremely consistent through the season. Panarin had a hat trick against the New York Rangers last week, and he now has 57 points with 22 goals and 35 assists through 60 games played. Panarin is leading Eichel and Domi in total scoring by 16 points heading into Wednesday's schedule.
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Eichel was considered to be the "less flashy" pick behind McDavid at number one for the Sabres, but he has been steady and impressive for Buffalo this year. Eichel ranks second among rookies in points and assists this season, and he is fourth in the league in goals. Eichel has 41 points in 60 games played, and he is expected to see some increased playing time with Ryan O'Reilly out for the Sabres with an injury. McDavid and Eichel will be facing off for the first time as NHL pros on March 1 after McDavid missed the first matchup between the Oilers and Sabres with an injury.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid doesn't have the numbers that Panarin, Eichel and some of the other rookies have, and that is because he missed nearly three months with a broken clavicle. McDavid was playing well before he was injured, recording 12 points in 13 games, and he has continued at that level after coming back from a 37-game absence. McDavid has 28 points in 24 games this season and has had at least one point in four straight games. McDavid has put up 11 points in his last eight games and could push himself toward the front of the rookie race if he keeps up that pace down the stretch.
Some other candidates for the award include:
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings: 39 points, 19 goals, 20 assists
Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes: 41 points, 17 goals, 24 assists
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers: 34 points, 12 goals, 22 assists,
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets: 13 wins, 2.34 goals against average, .918 save percentage