The National Hockey League continued on with the announcement of award finalists in the league on Wednesday with the three candidates for the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Calder Trophy is awarded every year "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League," and is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
If the coronavirus pandemic had not shut down the 2019-20 season, Hughes was on pace to score nine goals and register 54 assists for 63 points in 81 games played. The 20-year-old was signed late in the 2018-19 season out of the University of Michigan and managed to get into the Canucks lineup for the final five games, where he managed to put up three assists.
Vancouver's season went well this year as the Canucks went 36-27-6 record and finished the 2019-20 campaign in fourth place in the Pacific Division. They will take on the Minnesota Wild in the upcoming Stanley Cup Qualifying Round as part of the league's Return To Play format.
Like Hughes, Makar was also a late signing by the Avalanche last season, but ended up joining Colorado for their playoff run, where he appeared in 10 games and scored a goal and five assists. In his first regular season with the Avalanche, the 21-year-old scored 12 goals and registered 38 assists for 50 points in 57 games. Makar actually had a better points per-game average than Hughes during the season, but an injury earlier in the year forced him to miss 13 games. He was on pace to end the 2019-20 season with 15 goals and 46 assists for 61 points in 69 games.
The Avalanche finished as a top-four team in the Western Conference this season with a 42-20-8 record and 92 points, which was good for second place in the Central Division. Colorado will compete in the seeding round-robin tournament during the qualifying round for the right to be the top-seed in the Western Conference side of the playoffs.
As for Kubalik, the 24-year-old finished the season as the NHL's leading goal scorer among rookies with 30 goals in 68 games played. He would go on to register 16 assists to make up 46 points in his first season in North America after playing five professional seasons split between the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
The Blackhawks managed to earn a spot in the Return To Play format as the 12th seed in the Western Conference after a 32-30-8 regular season record and eighth place finish in the Central Division. Chicago will take on the Edmonton Oilers in the play-in qualifying round.
Although Kubalik was named a top-three finalist for the Calder Trophy, it is expected that the award will go to either Hughes or Makar.
Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson missed out on being a finalist for the Calder Trophy after an impressive first season in the NHL. The 24-year-old was able to net 20 goals and 22 assists this season for 42 points and finished fourth in league scoring among rookies. He was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for both the months of October and December, but suffered a significant ankle injury on Jan. 2 that forced him to miss 15 games. If the season had been played to its full conclusion, Olofsson was on pace to score 25 goals and amass 27 assists for 52 points in 67 games.
One other notable rookie that was left out of the running for the Calder Trophy was New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox. The 22-year-old had an impressive first season in the NHL with the Rangers, where he scored eight goals and put up 34 assists for 42 points, and averaged 18:54 of ice-time in 70 games played.