IT WILL BE interesting to see whether Connor McDavid can make an unlikely climb back into Calder Trophy contention.
The Edmonton star missed 37 games with a broken collarbone suffered against the Flyers after a collision into the boards with defensemen Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto. The play wasn't dirty, but it was unfortunate.
McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick last June, has played in only two full months, October and February. He was the rookie of the month each time. He has 31 points in 28 games.
With McDavid making his Wells Fargo debut Thursday evening, we thought a spin around the NHL to check on other first-year players was worthwhile. There's a pretty fair one here in Philly, ya know. These players are listed in the current order the Daily News would rank them in the rookie of the year race. Statistics are through Tuesday's games.
1. Artemi Panarin, LW, Chicago: Playing alongside Patrick Kane this season has had its benefits for Panarin, who leads all rookies in goals (22) and assists (35). As long as the Blackhawks stay in the chase for the Western Conference's No. 1 seed, and Panarin keeps producing, he should be out front of the Calder horse race - even if critics cringe at his eligibility, since he played the previous two seasons in Russia's KHL.
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Flyers: Gostisbehere easily has more goals than any other rookie defenseman and his 15-game scoring streak obliterated the previous mark of 10 games for first-year D-men. He's also scored four overtime goals, which is as many as all other rookies combined, and is directly connected to the most important stat of all. The Flyers were bobbing along at 5-8-3 when they called him up. They are 22-14-8 when he is in the lineup and are at least in the hunt for a playoff bid.
3. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton: Has been worth all of the trumpets and laurels that signaled his entry into the NHL, including a comparison to Sidney Crosby. McDavid's two biggest problems for rookie of the year, at least from here, are that the most games he could possibly play this season is 45 and that the Oilers - 10-16-2 with McDavid in the lineup - are a $50 cab ride from playoff contention.
4. Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit: A February slump could wind up costing him one of the three spots as a Calder Trophy finalist, but it shouldn't diminish what has been an excellent season. Larkin's 19 goals are second only to Panarin and his plus-21 is tops among all first-year players. He also was the first Red Wings rookie to play in the All-Star Game since Steve Yzerman in 1984.
5. Max Domi, C, Arizona: Domi's 42 points are second to Panarin among rookies and are more than his annoying father Tie ever scored in his 16 seasons.
6. Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo: The kid certainly has shown glimpses why the Sabres were happy to get him with the No. 2 overall pick behind McDavid, but he doesn't have a lot of help in Buffalo. Yet.
7. John Gibson, G, Anaheim: Has been terrific with a 15-8-2 record and a .918 save percentage. But he's splitting time with Fredrik Andersen and will need something unforeseen over the final six weeks to get into the rookie of the year discussion.