The Calder has emerged as a three horse-race between Nathan MacKinnon, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. I debated putting any of the three between No. 1 and No. 3, and there is a drop-off after that, but it's really close between the next nine players. Mark Scheifele and Valeri Nichushkin were the tough cuts, but there are good arguments for both to be No. 10, and decent arguments to put them higher.
These rankings are not a prediction of who will win the award, but are a continuous update of where my ballot has been tracking all season. This is the last in-season update until the ballots have to be cast. I approach the Calder by looking mostly at raw output, and also by evaluating how the players have looked. There is no age adjustment -- until it is specified in the award description, the Calder is not a "best prospect" award.
Note: Stats as of Sunday
1. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche (previous ranking: 2)
MacKinnon has been one of Colorado's top players all season, but he has really picked up responsibility in terms of deployment the last few weeks. He isn't going to be their best penalty killer anytime soon, but MacKinnon's elite speed, skill and power have made him a dangerous scorer, and he looks like a future elite NHL forward. It was close between him and the Tamps Bay kids due to their good defensive value. The Western Conference has a 55 percent winning rate versus Eastern Conference teams. Only one-third of games are played interconference, but that's enough to provide a small bump to Western players like MacKinnon due to tougher competition.
MacKinnon is a big part of why Colorado has had one of the best young cores in the NHL. What Colorado is missing is another key young defenseman who can play the left side, but may have one coming in Chris Bigras.
"[Bigras] is a great puck possessor who is a really strong puck mover and very agile," Colorado assistant general manager Craig Billington said. With players like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyson Barrie and MacKinnon at the NHL level, and a guy like Bigras on the way, the future is bright for the Avalanche.