New York Rangers’ rookie standout snubbed by NHL.com poll

Attention hockey world: Adam Fox had a great rookie season for the New York Rangers

Adam Fox was everything the New York Rangers could ask from a highly-touted rookie defenseman. Probably more. And certainly worthy of strong consideration for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

But you wouldn’t know it judging from the results of a poll the NHL tweeted last week. The poll asked 18 NHL.com writers to cast their votes for Calder Trophy candidates. Players received points on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.

Not surprisingly, defensemen Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche (86 points) and Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks (73) accumulated the most points — which is fine considering Hughes led all rookies in points (53) and assists (45), while Makar finished second in the same categories (50 and 38).

The problem?

Fox accumulated just 15 points and finished behind Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Dominik Kubalik (39) and Columbus Blue Jackets’ goalie Elvis Merzlikins (22).

Kubalik led all rookies with 30 goals and added 16 assists. Not to diminish that accomplishment, but he spent 49 percent of his even-strength minutes as a linemate of future Hall of Famer Jonathan Toews.

Merzlikins posted a 2.35 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, and five shutouts to go with 13-9-8 record in 31 starts. Nice, but 13 wins for a team that finished with 33, allowed the third-fewest goals in the league (187), and finished with the sixth-fewest high-danger scoring chances against (176)?

By contrast, Rangers’ rookie Igor Shesterkin won 10 of his 12 starts after being called up from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack last January. He posted a 2.52 GAA and .932 SP for a team that allowed the eighth-most goals in the NHL (22) and had the second-most high-danger scoring chances against (261).

Alexandar Georgiev won 17 of his 32 starts with a .910 SP. Even Henrik Lundqvist won 10 times with a .905 SP — and he endured the toughest season of his illustrious career, starting 26 games and being relegated to third-string status.

Meanwhile, “all” Fox did was shine on hockey’s biggest stage for a team not exactly known for its defense (the Rangers’ allowed 222 goals, eight-most in the league). placing fourth in points (42) and third in assists (34) among rookies.

 

 

When it comes to voting for awards like the Calder, the first place most voters look is a player’s points and goals totals. And that’s a shame because neither stat alone necessarily reflects a player’s overall abilities. Which is why Fox deserves more attention than he’s received.

In terms of points per game, Makar averaged 0.88, Hughes 0.78, and Fox 0.6. However, Makar and Hughes played big minutes on their respective team’s top power-play unit, while Fox played on the second group for New York. Tony DeAngelo was the Rangers’ main power-play quarterback.

Defensively, Fox had more blocked shots (92) and takeaways (57) than his defensive counterparts. Makar had 47 blocks and 34 takeaways. Quinn posted 46 blocks and 35 takeaways. Fox finished second among the trio with 35 hits. Makar had 45, Hughes 7.

Fox also led the trio with a defensive points share of 4.0. DPS is an estimate of the number of points by a player due to his defense.

As far as games played is concerned, Fox led with 70 matches before the season was paused (and ultimately concluded) on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hughes and Kubalik each skated in 68 contests while Makar, who missed time due to an injury, competed in 57.

The adjusted totals (player stats based on the usual 82-game NHL slate) have Hughes with 64 points, Makar with 59, Kubalik with 55, and Fox with 49.

That’s pretty close — and certainly warrants more consideration of Fox for the Calder.

 

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