It is now clear that Anton Lundell is not one of the three finalists in the race for the Calder Trophy in the NHL, which is awarded to this year’s rookie. Juuse Saros, on the other hand, can be the goalkeeper of the year, but he also knows that his chances are small.
The annual NHL gala will kick off after the Stanley Cup trophy is awarded, but the top league is already presenting the finalists this week for the prize that will be awarded on the basis of the regular season.
The bad news for all Finnish hockey friends? That Anton Lundell is not one of the three finalists in the battle for the title of rookie of the year.
Instead, in the name of honesty, as expected, Michael Bunting, Moritz Seider and Trevor Zegras make up the Calder Trophy in the poll.
Toronto player Bunting won the newcomers’ points with 63 sticks and was second only to the best goal scorer with his 23 hits. The 26-year-old is still one of the oldest to be nominated for the award ever and age can speak against him.
In the last weeks of the regular season, however, it sounded in the North American media that there is a consensus that Detroit’s World Cup-ready defender Seider is the pre-favorite. He became the third rookie back in the last 30 years to reach up to 50 points and clearly cut the most ice time of the current talents.
But do not be surprised if Anaheims Zegras takes home the prize. He is of course best known for his spectacular goals. Among other things, he managed to squeeze in two Zorro goals during the season.
The good news then? That Juuse Saros belongs to the trio that makes up for the Vezina Trophy, which in turn is awarded the league’s best goalkeeper.
– Of course it’s a big thing. I have always looked up to those who are finalists. And given the competition, it was perhaps a little surprise that I’m in, says Saros to Yle Urheilu.
The other two candidates: Jacob Markström from the Calgary Flames – and Igor Sjestiorkin from the New York Rangers.
Sjestiorkin had by far the best save percentage in the league (93.5 in comparison with, for example, Saros 91.8) and is the big favorite to win the prize. Saros knows that too.
– It probably feels quite given that it is Sjestiorkin who wins, he says.
In practice, the final place still does not mean much worse. The daily work is not affected by the attention.
– These are things you remember in the future, but I’m hungry to develop regardless. It’s cool anyway, says the goalkeeper.
Saros was forced to miss all of Nashville’s playoff games (of which there were four against Colorado) due to an injury. The injury also does not allow him to even think about playing the World Cup.
– As long as the body held together, I really enjoyed playing. I liked the responsibility, it was not a problem at all, says Saros.
There was at least a lot of responsibility this season. Saros played 67 games, which is the most a Finnish goalkeeper has played in an NHL season since both Pekka Rinne (72) and Antti Niemi (68) played more in 2011/12.
– It just felt natural. Then we checked with the coach when it pays for me to rest, says Saros.
– But I learned that you have to take one match at a time, even if it is a clichéd answer. We fought all season to go to the playoffs, but it was important to constantly focus on what happens on the ice – not what the result may mean for us as a team.
Will there be more Finnish finalists?
Three Finnish goalkeepers have won the Vezina Trophy through the ages: Miikka Kiprusoff 2006, Tuukka Rask 2014 and Pekka Rinne 2018. In addition to them, Antti Niemi has also been one of the finalists, but he finished third in the 2013 poll.
The other finalists will published over the next nine daysnext to the finalists for the basic series’ most valuable player (Hart Trophy) which will be made public on Thursday.
At least one other Finn may be eligible for the prize. Aleksander Barkov is Florida’s candidate for the King Clancy Trophy. That prize is awarded to a player who has actively contributed to community work outside the rink.
All teams may nominate one player, the three finalists will be announced on May 20.