The NHL's Calder trophy race has become the point of much interest as this season progresses. As the NHL has reached the halfway point of the season, the rookie race has gone a rather interesting path. Currently battling in the top three positions are Toronto Maple Leafs centreman Auston Matthews, Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, and Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski.
The 2016 NHL Draft saw the Toronto Maple Leafs select 6'3 centre Auston Matthews 1st overall. With high hopes for the 19 year old to be the savior of the franchise, Matthews did not take much time to impress, scoring four goals in his first game. The young man has had an impressive season thus far posting 21 goals and 14 assists in 39 games this season. The young forward from Arizona is in a tight race for the trophy, currently second in scoring for all rookies this season. Matthews centres a line with William Nylander and Zach Hyman on his wings.
Currently leading the league in scoring among rookies is the Winnipeg Jets star rookie winger, Patrik Laine. In this years draft, Laine was taken 2nd overall by the Jets, 2nd to only Auston Matthews. The 6'5 Finnish superstar has excelled in his first season with the Jets, posting 21 goals and 16 assists thus far. Laine has been an early candidate for the trophy, and with continued success he leads the race. Laine currently plays on a line with Mark Schiefele and Nikolaj Ehlers.
The NHL's top two picks Laine and Matthews were expected to be the front runners in the rookie race, but the 3rd candidate is one that come to surprise many. Columbus Blue Jackets star defencemen Zach Werenski. The 19 year old defencemen has 6 goals and 19 assists in 39 games this season and has been a pleasant surprise addition to Columbus' blue line. The 6'2 American defenceman was the 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft and has made a strong case for himself to win the trophy this year.
Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Zach Werenski are the three top rookies at the midway point of this season, but not far behind these three rookies trying to win the Calder are Toronto Maple Leafs Forward Mitch Marner, Pittsburgh Penguins Goaltender Matt Murray and Carolina Hurricanes Forward Sebastian Aho. The Calder race is growing more intense every game as the rookies battle to be better than one another.
The Toronto Blue Jays season came to a disappointing ending Wednesday evening after a 3-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Marco Estrada pitched yet another good game pitching six innings, and allowing three runs on five hits. However the Jays bats were once again nowhere to be found, and with the disappointing finish, many questions are looming surrounding the clubs future.
Blue Jays star hitters for the past eight years, both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are out of contract. The Blue Jays will need to pay the two of them 25+ million each, for at least four years. Also, after a career season, outfielder Michael Saunders will hit the free agent market as well as former CY Young winner R.A Dickey, along with relief pitchers Scott Feldman, Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit. The Jays also have an option on the final year of veteran reliever Jason Grilli's contract. The good news for the Jays is that all five starting pitchers in the rotation remain under contract. The Blue Jays management have some very big decisions to make that could make or break the future of this team. Although all of the pending free agents have expressed much interest in returning to the club, it will come at a high price.
Jose Bautista has made it clear that he wants a five year contract, nearing 30 million dollars a season, however, the Blue Jays feel that the term is quite excessive, given that Jose's skills and health have begun to diminish the older he gets. The 36-year-old right fielder had a .234 average this past year with 22 homeruns and 69 RBI's, however he is continuously battling nagging injuries, failing to play an entire season for the past three years. Edwin Encarnacion however, seems to have no change in production, after another great season, hitting .263 with 42 homers and 127 RBI's. The 33-year-old first baseman seems to be the better choice of the two, if the Jays opt to only sign one of them. Both players have made huge impacts on the Blue Jays that will possibly land them a spot on the Level of Excellence in the Rogers Centre. If the Jays intend to keep both sluggers, it will cost them nearly 60 million a season to keep the two. Both players will get their big contracts, whether it be in Toronto or elsewhere, however both would like to continue their careers with the Blue Jays.
The other pending free agents may not be Blue Jays come spring training. After a career season and an all star game appearance, Michael Saunders can expect a large raise from teams around the league, but for the Blue Jays, Saunders is not a necessity to bring back on the team with Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton Jr, and Dalton Pompey all under contract. Saunders will be a valuable addition to many other teams around the league looking for a big right handed bat. As for the bullpen, Brett Cecil would like to remain a Blue Jay, and has been heavily relied on for the past two seasons out of the bullpen, although he struggled throughout this season. The Blue Jays should bring Cecil and 39-year-old Jason Grilli back for at least the next season, as Cecil's contract should not be anything more than eight million, and the Jays can use the option on Grilli's contract. Scott Feldman, Joaquin Benoit and R.A Dickey however, will more than likely hit the free agent market at the end of their contracts, and nearing the end of their careers. The free agency pool for relievers is quite deep this offseason, and the Jays could look for better replacements for whoever they lose.
The Blue Jays have a lot of big decisions to make in the next couple months, but hope to once again be a World series contender in the upcoming 2017 season.
Auston Matthews has officially played his first NHL game as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Matthews made his debut in last nights 5-4 OT loss to the Ottawa Senators, where the 19 year old broke history by scoring four goals in his first NHL game.
Matthews played on the Leafs third line last night centering William Nylander and Zach Hyman. The young line stole the show, as the three players had seven points combined. Matthews opened the scoring in the first to give the Leafs an early first period lead, but the Sens Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson helped the Sens take a 2-1 lead. Matthews then tied things up for the Leafs heading into the second. An early second period goal saw Auston Matthews complete his first career NHL hat trick in his first game. He later added a fourth to end the second period, becoming the first player in NHL history to score four goals in an NHL debut.
Despite the amazing performance put on by the Leafs 2016 1st overall pick, it was not enough to hold off the Senators as centreman Kyle Turris tied the game at four in the third, then added another goal to win the game in overtime. Frederick Andersen showed poor form, and Auston Matthews explosive debut had a disappointing finish. The Auston Matthews era has begun, and Leaf fans have a lot to look forward to being led by this talented young centreman. The Leafs are back in action Saturday night for their home opener as they host the Boston Bruins. Puck drop is at 7PM.