This week, the NHL has been revealing the three candidates for each regular season award. That includes the Calder Trophy which goes to the league’s top rookie.
We knew both defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes would be locks. The only question was would Adam Fox be joining them for a unlikely D trio. That wasn’t the case as top rookie finisher Dominik Kubalik was tabbed as the third choice over Fox, Nick Suzuki, Victor Olofsson and Elvis Merzlikins.
Even though Fox was snubbed, it doesn’t matter. The 22-year old Jericho, New York native was outstanding in his first NHL sesson for the Rangers. His 42 points (8-34-42) placed second among team defensemen and ranked seventh in scoring. He also was impressive at five-on-five finishing plus-22 to pace all NHL rookies.
Of the 42 points he put up, 29 came at even strength. The breakdown is 7-22-29. He also went 1-12-13 on the power play. An area he’ll improve upon in the coming years. Due in large part to leading Rangers offensive defenseman Tony DeAngelo, Fox played mostly on the second unit. An area you’ll see him in the upcoming preliminary series versus the Hurricanes starting August 1.
It’s also worth noting that the chemistry between Fox and fellow rookie Ryan Lindgren has been a big reason for the Blueshirts renaissance. The cohesion between each is uncanny. In the past, they played together for Team USA at the World Junior Championship. It still is extremely hard to duplicate that success against the game’s best players.
While Fox possesses the game breaking skating and offensive instincts, Lindgren does the nuts and bolts of the work. A strong defensive defenseman who is a solid skater that can play physical while limiting mistakes, he’s been a pleasant surprise. In his first full season, the player who came over from Boston as part of the Rick Nash trade was superb. In 60 games, he totaled 14 points (1-13-14) with 47 penalty minutes and a plus-16 rating.
To say the cohesive rookie pair is important would be an understatement. They were the team’s most dependable. Both Fox and Lindgren will be tested by Carolina in the best of five play in round. They could see a lot of Canes trio Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov. Given that it’s their first postseason, I’m sure the Rangers coaching staff will try to balance out the match-ups. Especially with vets Jacob Trouba, Brendan Smith and Marc Staal having necessary experience.
For Fox, it’s not about individual awards. Would it have been nice if he was recognized? Sure. But being able to contribute to team success starting next month is more important. He said the same thing recently as the Rangers continue to prepare for Carolina.
Of course, he has the strong support of his coach.
Not surprising considering how valuable Fox has been to the team. David Quinn always has his players’ backs. That’s why the team is so close knit and capable of making a run. In order to do that, they’ll have to get by a more experienced Hurricanes, who made last year’s Conference Final. It won’t be easy.
Personally, I don’t view Fox as a snub. We know either Makar (my pick) or Hughes is going to win the Calder. Kubalik was a good choice for third. He came out of nowhere to score 30 goals and tally 46 points on the Blackhawks, who’ll battle the high scoring Oilers. There’s nothing wrong with him being nominated.
While it could’ve been Fox, you could easily have made strong cases for Suzuki and Merzlikins, who was vital in taking over as the Blue Jackets starter and keeping them afloat following Joonas Korpisalo’s injury.
Now if Artemi Panarin, who was nominated for the Ted Lindsay Award, isn’t up for the Hart, that’s highway robbery. Then, we’ll talk. For now, let’s just enjoy the bonus hockey this summer. Hopefully, it goes off without a hitch.