Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik was named as one of three finalists for the NHL’s Calder Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top rookie in the league. In addition to Kubalik, defensemen Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche were also announced as finalists.
In 68 games of a shortened NHL season due to Covid-19, Kubalik amassed 30 goals, 16 assists, 46 points, and a +2 rating. Quinn Hughes totaled 8 goals, 45 assists, 53 points, and a -10 in 68 games; while Cale Makar posted 12 goals, 38 assists, 50 points, and a +12 in 57 games. While Kubalik led all rookies in even-strength goals and points (26 and 38, respectively), he trails in both Hughes and Makar in assists and overall points. In addition, both defensemen averaged around 20-21 minutes of ice time per game, while Kubalik averaged 14:22 this year.
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At 24, Kubalik is the oldest of the three finalists. Makar (21) and Hughes (20) were selected 4th and 7th overall in their respective drafts (2017 and 2018), while Kubalik was selected 191st overall in 2013 by the Los Angeles Kings. Since being drafted, Kubalik had yet to break into the NHL, playing only in Swiss and Czech leagues until this year.
Although General Manager Stan Bowman’s managerial record remains debatable among Hawk fans, his penchant for acquiring highly talented players from European hockey leagues is one of his strongest attributes. Former Blackhawks Erik Gustafsson, Michal Kempny, Jan Rutta, and (most notably) superstar Artemi Panarin are just a few of the players who have been plucked from European leagues by the organization. It would only cost Bowman a fifth-round pick to acquire Kubalik from Los Angeles — a steal compared to that of his predecessor Dale Tallon’s acquisition of Patrick Sharp from Philadelphia.
Kubalik is the fifth player in Blackhawks history to score at least 30 goals his rookie season; and the first to do so since Artemi Panarin in 2015-2016, who won the Calder Trophy that same year. To date, the Blackhawks have had nine Calder Trophy winners in franchise history.