Each season, the NHL presents the Calder Memorial Trophy to the rookie who has the strongest season. Several talented rookies are poised to headline the exciting race in 2023-24.
Connor Bedard is the clear favorite to win the 2023-24 Calder Trophy for the NHL player deemed most proficient in his first season. Is there a world where another player challenges him? It seems unlikely right now, but it’s possible. It will be an interesting race to see which two players are finalists alongside Bedard.
Being the first overall draft pick is not a guaranteed Calder Trophy win, though. An interesting point, as noted by Nick Villano of Pucks and Pitchforks, is that “the favorite for the Calder is rarely the player who wins it. Since 2000, five first-overall picks have won the Calder Trophy.” Connor McDavid didn’t win the Calder Trophy and neither did Jack Hughes or Taylor Hall. Although Bedard is a generational talent, history is not on his side.
In any other season, predictions would be split between players like Luke Hughes and Matthew Knies. With Bedard in the mix, the predictions are overwhelmingly pointing to him. The Athletic (subscription required) recently published an early predictions piece on the 2023-24 season. In the piece, they revealed that the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voted on who will win the Calder Trophy, and 96.8% of the votes went to Bedard, while 3.2% went to Matthew Knies.
A factor to consider is that Hughes and Knies are playing on much stronger teams than Bedard is. Even though Bedard is the favorite, there are several other rookies who will turn heads in the 2023-24 season. These players deserve to be in the conversation, and they’ll likely have plenty of special moments during their NHL rookie season.
First, here are some honorable mentions who could very well be in the Calder Trophy conversation.
NHL rookies to watch in 2023-24: Honorable mentions – Shane Wright, David Jiricek, Jakob Pelletier, Brandt Clarke, Devon Levi
Shane Wright was the fourth-overall pick in 2022 by the Seattle Kraken. He’s a two-way center with sharp hockey sense. David Jiricek was drafted sixth overall in 2022 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. His size and physicality make him a tough defenseman to get past.
Jakob Pelletier was selected by the Calgary Flames 29th overall in the first round of the 2019 draft. He’s a versatile forward who skates well. Brandt Clarke was selected eighth overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2021. The offensive defenseman is a force on the power play.
Devon Levi was selected 212th overall in the 7th round in 2020 before his rights were traded to the Buffalo Sabres. The agile goaltender is not to be overlooked despite being a late-round draft pick. He played seven games for the Sabres last year and is expected to sparkle between the pipes in 2023-24.
These players will be fun to watch. Now, here are five of the top rookies to watch this coming season.
NHL rookies to watch in 2023-24: 5. Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes)
2022 third-overall draft pick Logan Cooley was expected to head back to Minnesota for his sophomore season of NCAA hockey. The center had a change of heart and decided to sign his entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes, ending his college career. With Cooley ready to join the NHL squad, Arizona fans have a reason to be excited.
The 19-year-old two-way forward is a playmaker and a strong skater. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the top NCAA men’s hockey player. In 39 games with the University of Minnesota, Cooley scored 22 goals and made 38 assists. He played for the United States at the 2023 World Junior Championship, where he racked up 14 points.
Cooley attended the Coyotes’ development camp this summer, and GM Bill Armstrong was impressed. “He had some star quality moments in (development) camp for us like he had in Minnesota,” Armstrong told NHL.com. He shared that Cooley’s game is unique, and he’s one of their best players. The Coyotes expect big things from Cooley, and it will be exciting to see how he develops in the NHL.