While Likely Not the Frontrunner, Pyotr Kochetkov Should Be in the Calder Trophy Race

The rookie netminder has shouldered most of the load for the team in the net this season, leading to one of the best rookie performances in franchise history.

Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs
Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

When the Carolina Hurricanes re-signed Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta in the offseason, I was worried that Pyotr Kochetkov was going to be lost in the shuffle. Injuries happen, but you never want that to be the reason someone else gets their shot. When he did finally get the call, he took control, putting himself in the hunt to be named the league's top rookie.

The season only has a few weeks remaining, so it's likely not enough time for him to overthrow Chicago's rookie sensation Connor Bedard for the award. However, I think there is a legitimate argument for Pyotr Kochetkov to be the runner-up. This season's class is full of incredible rookies who are going to be worthy of a nomination, but Kochetkov should not be lost in the shuffle.

While it's easy to show my inherent bias for the Canes, statistically, Pyotr Kochetkov has been one of the best rookie goalies in the league this season. He's in the top three among rookie goalies in games played (39, 2nd). wins (20, 2nd), shots faced (976, 3rd), saves (889, 3rd), and save percentage (.911, 3rd).

Kochetkov also enters April with a 2.38 GAA, leading not only the rookies but all goalies in the league, and his four shutouts are the most among all rookies. Kochetkov is also one of two rookie goalies, along with Anaheim's Lukas Dostal, to be named Rookie of the Month, earning the honor for his performance in February.

If Pyotr Kochetkov is nominated for the Calder, he'd be just the second Hurricanes goalie since relocation to be nominated for the award, joining Alex Nedeljkovic, who finished third in 2021. Only one Hurricane has ever been named the league's top rookie. Jeff Skinner stood ahead of his class in 2011 after leading all rookies in scoring, winning the award over guys like Logan Couture, Sergei Bobrovsky, PK Subban, Taylor Hall, and Brad Marchand.

Narratively, it would also be a cool story if Pyotr Kochetkov won. Starting the season in the AHL for an organization without an AHL affiliate, Kochetkov was up and down early in the year with injuries to the Canes' tandem. Once Frederik Andersen was knocked out with a blood-clotting issue, Kochetkov was back in the NHL for good. Eventually, he took control of the net and shouldered a lot of the load to help the Canes turn their season around before clinching their sixth straight postseason berth.

Again, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up. This has been one of the most impressive rookie classes in a while. Connor Bedard feels like the runaway choice, with Minnesota's Brock Faber and Marco Rossi, Arizona's Logan Cooley, and New Jersey's Luke Hughes holding solid cases to be nominated, along with several others. Not mentioning Pyotr Kochetkov's name in these discussions would be ridiculous. I'm not saying he's going to win, but a nomination would be just as important for his future. If I were on the list of voters, he's easily in my Top 3.