After a month that felt like an eternity, the Blackhawks flipped the calendar to February and find themselves in the middle of the All-Star break. The week off is a much-needed reset for a team at the bottom of the NHL standings, as Chicago has been shut out in four of its last six games.
Much of that can be attributed to rookie superstar Connor Bedard having been out since January 5th with a fractured jaw. The primary source of the Blackhawks’ offense won’t be healthy in time to represent his team in the All-Star Game, but it shouldn’t be long before he’s back producing in a lineup that desperately needs his offensive firepower.
We usually celebrate the culmination of each month of the season by highlighting Bedard’s accomplishments, which seem to get impressive each time. However, with the 18-year-old only playing in just over two games this month and held without a point, his month gets analyzed a bit differently: can he still win the Calder Trophy?
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Bedard was once the favorite to win the award, which is given annually to the league’s best rookie, but he’s missed quite some time. By the time he’s ready to play, Bedard will have missed more than 15 games, a huge disadvantage in a typically tight race. Nevertheless, Bedard’s impact on the woeful Blackhawks can’t be overstated. Despite the missed time, he still holds a significant lead over the rest of his team in points with 33, and it’s clear the team’s offense can’t really function without him. On an NHL-wide level, Bedard still leads all rookies in points, goals, and shots.
Still, as Bedard continues to miss time, other rookies like Brock Faber continue to slowly catch up. Among major sportsbooks at the start of the new year, Faber had the second-best odds to win the award at +1200. As of January 30th, though, Faber’s odds had shortened to +350 on DraftKings, with Hughes close behind at +700. Translation: Bedard needs to make his return sometime soon if he still wants to receive one of the league’s most prestigious honors.
When Bedard does make his return, he’ll have to knock any rust off fairly quickly. With only 25-30 games left to make his case for the Calder, the rookie will have to continue the terrific pace he set before his injury in order to erase any doubt about the league’s best rookie season.
With the Blackhawks’ most miserable month yet coming to a close, Bedard finds himself back in the thick of the race for the Calder Trophy. Will his premier talent win out over the last stretch of the season? Time will tell.