Taking a quick break from the playoffs, the nominations for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL‘s top rookie, were announced on Wednesday, and there was one name that was surprisingly left off the list.
Olli Maatta, the 19-year-old defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins who has worked his way into the top-four rotation, was left off of the nomination list. In fact, there were no rookie defensemen selected. Had the Penguins not suffered from injuries all season long, Maatta may have never even made the roster, but he stepped up when given his opportunity and was a big reason why the Penguins ended the regular season with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
McKinnon is the front-runner and I would be shocked if he doesn’t win the award, but Maatta deserved to be nominated and earned the right to attend the NHL Awards.
At one point in the season, the Penguins were without Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin and Deryk Engelland. Out of all the candidates, it was Maatta who stepped up and was taken under the wing of Matt Niskanen – his defensive partner – in order to lead the defensive corps. At just 19, Maatta played like a seasoned veteran and was averaging well over 20 minutes per game when the Penguins were without five of their top defensemen.
Maatta not only played for Finland in the World Juniors, but he was also a member of Finland’s 2014 Olympic team that competed in Sochi. He ended the regular season with nine goals, 20 assists and a plus-eight rating.