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Artemi Panarin leads rookie scorers, but other first-year players are shining, too

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KanePatrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Kane grabbed a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, increasing his league-leading point total to 88. That matches his career high and is 17 more than the next-closest player.


CondonMike Condon, Montreal Canadiens
Condon did make 35 saves, but he took the 3-2 shootout loss against the Anaheim Ducks, his second straight loss after a stretch that saw him win three of the previous four.


Is Artemi Panarin a shoo-in for rookie of the year?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: With Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid facing off this week in their first matchup in the NHL and then being named Wednesday to Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey, the NHL's rookie race has been brought into sharper focus. For me, McDavid and Eichel will be only on the fringes of the discussion. In some ways, the Blackhawks' Panarin has faded from the discussion a bit simply because, in my view, he's been so good all season long. He popped in two more goals last night, his 23rd and 24th of the season, as Chicago whipped Detroit. Panarin, named to Team Russia on Wednesday, now leads his closest competitor in the rookie scoring race by a whopping 17 points. That's the same lead linemate Patrick Kane has in the race for the overall league scoring title. Panarin has five more goals than Detroit's Dylan Larkin, the next-closest rookie. He has not wavered, and for me the only discussion is who fills out the Calder Trophy ballot and earns a trip to Las Vegas in June to watch Panarin pick up the hardware. Thoughts? Disagreements?


Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Not so fast, my friend. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere still needs to be part of the conversation. I would agree that Panarin has established himself as a favorite. I disagree that he's locked the award up. Gostisbehere, who wasn't named to Team North America but remains very much in the discussion, has been remarkable this year, and he's doing it as a defenseman. It will be fun to watch him and McDavid go toe-to-toe when the Flyers play the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Gostisbehere has been an absolute machine on the power play and is a big reason the Flyers are knocking on the wild-card door. Panarin has opened a gap among other rookie forwards, but how about the gap in scoring among rookie defensemen? Gostisbehere has an eight-point lead on Colton Parayko and has played in 19 fewer games. He's definitely in the discussion.


Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: Scotty, after watching McDavid play for the third time this season on Tuesday, I am now convinced (wait for it, Pierre) that if the centerman did not miss 37 games with a broken collarbone, he would have won the Calder. He's been limited to 28 games because of the injury, so he hasn't had a chance to experience all the ebbs and flows of a normal rookie season. Still, he's an unbelievable talent. Because McDavid's injury basically took him out of the running for the rookie of the year award, I'm with Craig on this one. Gostisbehere has been outstanding and should be in serious contention for the award. Last season Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad won the Calder with 12 goals and 27 assists in 81 games. "Ghost" has 12 goals and 23 assists in 44 games since making his NHL debut earlier this season. The award is about more than points, and Gostisbehere can produce at both ends of the ice just like Ekblad did last season. As for Panarin, he's 24 and was already considered a pro during his time in the KHL. He'll likely win the award this season, but I would give serious considerations to the 22-year-old Gostisbehere.


Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: I don't know, shouldn't we wonder whether McDavid still has a chance? I mean, if he ends up putting up more than a point per game in roughly half a season, doesn't that count for something? The whole world agrees he stands above any other rookie in the league in terms of talent. Heck, Craig said Wednesday on the Hockey Today podcast that McDavid might be a top-five player in the world -- period -- come next fall. If he's that much better than any other rookie, and I think he is, is a half-season enough to warrant the Calder? Going to be a lot of voters asking that question come April.


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