Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes still an underdog in top rookie race

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      Often, NHL players are taken out of awards consideration when they get injured. It makes sense—fewer games played obviously means that you have less chances to rack up points and provide value to your team.

      In fact, that’s the very reason the decorated Connor McDavid won’t ever have a Calder Trophy (which recognizes the best rookie in the league) to his name.

      A teenage McDavid took the NHL by storm in his first season, scoring 48 points in 45 games. But he was felled by a brutal clavicle injury that claimed almost half a season. Then-Chicago Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin (who was 24 years old) was able to pile up 77 points in 80 games playing with Patrick Kane and easily strode to a Calder Trophy win.

      The current Calder race is also seeing some injuries pile up. Up until recently, a three-way fight for the award was a foregone conclusion, with the Vancouver Canucks' Quinn Hughes battling fellow defenceman Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson.

      But while Olofsson still has the most points among rookies with 35 in 42 games, it was announced earlier this month that he would be out five to six weeks with a lower-body injury.

      Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Ilya Mikheyev was also looking somewhat promising, having registered 23 points in 39 contests before severing an artery and tendons in his wrist that will keep him out for an extended period. 

      So it’s become something of a two-horse race between the rearguards (though forwards like the Montreal Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki, the Blackhawks’ Dominik Kubalik, Carolina’s Marin Necas and defenceman Adam Fox of the New York Rangers and John Marino of the Pittsburgh Penguins could also score nominations).

      On that front, Makar has also missed games due to injury. Currently, he has 33 points in 37 games to Hughes’ 32 points in 45 matches.

      And, at least at the start of this month, Makar remained the favourite despite missing games. Sports betting site Odds Shark had the Av at -275 and Hughes at +275, essentially meaning that you have to bet $275 to win $100 on Makar where $100 on Hughes nets you $275.

      NHL.com also liked Makar at the start of the month—16 of a panel of 18 writers had the Avalance blueliner as their top choice for the award. The vote occurred before Olofsson’s injury, and the Sabres forward had more support than Hughes at the time.

      There have been some arguments in favour of Hughes though. He has excellent underlying numbers (better than Makar in some cases) and has logged huge minutes on a worse team than the Avalanche.

      However this figures out, it seems like a lock that the Canucks will have a third straight player nominated for the Calder Trophy after Elias Pettersson won it last year and Brock Boeser lost out to Matthew Barzal the year prior.

      Not bad.

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