When talking about the upcoming Calder Memorial Trophy candidates, two names appear quite frequently: Cole Caufield, and Trevor Zegras.
The two American players are almost certainly locks for a Calder candidacy this upcoming season, barring anything unsuspected, but the third candidate that appears to be making a strong run for the trophy before the season has even begun is seldom talked about.
Moritz Seider really first became known when Steve Yzerman unexpectedly called his name at draft day in 2019, taking the German defenseman from Mannheim at 6th overall. No one expected him to dominate the SHL, winning the best defenseman- as a German player– and then to later be named the best defenseman at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
There’s still questions about whether or not Seider should have been taken over players such as Zegras or Caufield, or just in general why Caufield was taken so low, especially when looking at the player he is shaping up to be in the Montreal Canadiens’ system, but what is not in question is whether or not Seider is going to be a good player. The answer is quite clearly “yes”, Seider is a clear-cut star defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves by this point. Never doubt the Yzerplan.
But what isn’t being spoken about enough is Seider’s potential at winning the Calder trophy. Everyone is banking on Caufield or Zegras right now, understandably so, because we’ve seen them both play at the elite level. The major difference between the two is that Caufield is surrounded by a core that just made a run for the Stanley Cup, he’s going to be surrounded by elite players that will set him up for a great rookie season. Zegras, on the other hand, is much like Seider, and is at the disadvantage of currently playing for one of the worst teams with one of the brightest futures.
So, assuming we all get what we want and the Calder is based off of how an individual plays and not which rookie players are surrounded by the best veteran players who can set them up and potentially project them to look only slightly better than what they are, there will be a battle between Zegras and Seider on who can be the best rookie on the worst team.
As mentioned before, everyone knows Zegras can play well at the elite level. But we haven’t quite seen that of Seider yet. Instead, let’s recap Seider’s statistics since being drafted.
Seider’s time spent on the Rogle BK Angelholm team in the SHL really solidified his potential for hockey fans across the globe, with 7 goals, 21 assists, a +/- of 14, and being a part of the team that took Rogle to the playoffs. Not only that, but he impressed hockey fans with the ability to absolutely bully the other team into submission, constantly laying massive hits on the opponent.
Seider, who stands at 6’4 and weighs around 207 pounds, is a force to be reckoned with on the ice. His ability to knock opponents off their feet has impressed everyone who has seen him play, and this is obviously a quality that neither Caufield nor Zegras possess. Seider was praised by European and North American hockey fans alike for his ability to terrify and bully the opponent at all times on the ice, as well as his very dominating presence.
While Zegras was most recently named the favorite for the Calder trophy, one thing remains uncertain amongst fans: Will Zegras be backed by a team that will allow him to play up to his full potential for his rookie season? This is something that also must be considered of Seider. My thoughts on it, however, are that if a rookie player is playing at an elite level on a bad team, that speaks a lot to the player’s potential, and shows undoubtedly that the player possesses talent, and it isn’t a fluke or the fact that they’re surrounded by seasoned players to help them along the way. So, if the battle comes down between Zegras and Seider, both outstanding rookies on two teams in rough spots, the question will be, who can battle their way to relevance with their own talent?
On the blueline this year for Detroit, it looks as though Seider will be surrounded by the likes of Nick Leddy, Jordan Oesterle, Filip Hronek, Marc Staal, and Danny Dekeyser. There is no doubt that once he is fully developed, Seider will be in charge of the Red Wings blueline for years down the line. The fact that even now, Yzerman is not having Seider train with the other prsecured his spot on the Wings roster this upcoming season, the only thing in question is who Seider will be partnered with. While his individual performance will speak volumes, having a strong defensive partner will also play a crucial role in his rookie season. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I could see a time in this upcoming season where Seider may be partnered with Staal, and I fully believe it will be a partnership that he earns.
When looking at Seider compared to Caufield, a few things come to mind. It’s important to remember that Seider was drafted before Caufield- 9 whole picks before him, in fact. The Canadiens selected Caufield at 15th overall, something that has fans of every team wondering how the 14 teams ahead of the Habs managed to overlook Caufield (Zegras was selected before Caufield as well, at 9th overall, but still after Seider). As we’ve seen how the Hobey Baker recipient played in Wisconsin, and how he adjusted well on a Canadiens team on the quest for the Stanley Cup, every team ahead of the Canadiens in the 2019 draft appears to universally be kicking themselves for not selecting Caufield.
But how does Caufield’s impressive resume thus far compare to Seider’s? Seider went straight to the AHL, coming off a winning season with his home team Adler Mannheim, where they won the German Championship in the DEL. Seider also captained team Germany at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. As mentioned before, he spent some time in the SHL during the season pause, missing out on the next WJC in favor of making a run for the championship and only just falling short. However, at the IIHF Men’s World Championship, Seider was awarded the best all around defenseman, and made the media All-Star team with German teammate Korbinian Holzer.
On paper, Seider and Caufield are more comparable than people might think.
So, what makes Seider a viable candidate and serious underdog for the Calder?
It’s merely the fact that he has all the potential in the world to break out and have a tremendous rookie season. It’s something that everyone is counting on for both Zegras and Caufield, but only because everyone has seen what they can do. When Seider seemingly came out of the woodworks in 2020 for all those paying close attention to the Detroit prospect, it shocked everyone and solidified Yzerman’s draft day decision. However, there will always be negativity and speculation, or the idea that he simply cannot bloom under the current Red Wings team.
What makes him special is his drive to prove everyone wrong. Seider has said it himself in interviews; what he wants more than anything is to prove to everyone that he was worth the pick. He’s noted that he’s well aware of the criticism and scepticism surrounding him, and his biggest goal is to change that. He has all the potential in the world to do it his rookie season.
When looking at who Seider will be up against for the Calder, aside from Zegras and Caufield, he also faces teammate Lucas Raymond, who was drafted in 2020, Alex Newhook, Vasily Podkolzin, and Spencer Knight (all ranked ahead of him), as well as Quinton Byfield (who seemingly has no ceiling), Vladimir Tkachev, Nick Robertson, Matt Boldy, and another well-known and highly touted Duck, Jamie Drysdale.
Something Seider has over Raymond, in my opinion, is maturity and experience. It becomes complicated when looking at European players compared to North American players, because European players will play in their respective elite professional leagues for years prior to making the show (much like Seider did). However, Seider has the benefit of familiarity with North American ice, and recently participated in the Men’s World’s, allowing him to play against some more seasoned players. Seider should, by now, have the maturity that comes with his age and experience (despite only being a year older than Raymond), while Raymond will be entering fresh as one of the first in his draft year to play on NHL ice, assuming he gets called up and actually sees ice time this season. It would not be a shock should Yzerman decide to keep him down and develop him more, as Yzerman is known for wanting to rightfully take his time to develop prospects, and is not looking to rush them.
Alex Newhook was drafted 16th overall in the 2019 draft class by the Colorado Avalanche. In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of great players come out of the Colorado system, including Cale Maker, who won the Calder trophy in 2020. Newhook has been praised for his agility and skating level, his energy, his offensive drive, and the way that he plays with absolutely no fear. He is surely a Calder contender for the upcoming season. In fact, I could see him and Seider being head-to-head for that third and final candidacy spot when it comes to the Calder trophy. I disagree with the current rankings, I would put Newhook over Raymond. Newhook, in my opinion, is a good example of an individual player on an outstanding team that will also pave their own way and prove themselves with or without elite players surrounding them (Cale Makar was someone I was once sceptical about, admittedly, assuming he only played well due to being surrounded by elite defensemen, but he has since proved me wrong). Seider and Newhook will for sure make an interesting race against one another.
Podkolzin is a Vancouver Canucks prospect, selected 10th overall in 2019. He’s a right winger notable for being able to plow his way through defensemen on his way to the new- something Seider will have to watch out for, especially given that they are comparable in size as well. He appears to be yet another star player coming out of the Russian system, and will likely be following in the footsteps of Kirill Kaprizov in terms of great, young Russian players. With 11 points in 35 games last season with the SKA St. Petersburg, Podkolzin seems promising for Calder consideration. His confidence level and the fact that he appears to be a complete package will serve him well going into his rookie season. However, an electric attitude does not always relate to a good hockey sense, which Seider possesses both of, and that is where I could see Podkolzin falling short of Seider. Seider possesses a strong defensive mindset and the ability to see the game from all perspectives, which is a certain level of maturity a lot of 19/20 year old players don’t have in their first season, and it will ultimately prove to be a quailty Seider will hold over his peers.
It’s truly hard to compare a goalie to any other player, because the game is so different. Skaters can be compared all day long, defense or offense, but a goalie is an entirely other beast. Spencer Knight is in the unique position of being the highest ranked rookie goalie going into this upcoming season, joining a Panthers team on a mission to prove the world wrong. Spencer Knight, in my opinion, has all the potential right there, it’s just a matter of how well that shines through this season, and thus my opinion on him remains to be seen.
Seider will be up against some good candidates, but I truly believe he’s been underrated and overlooked thus far in predictions. There are a lot of great rookies going into this season, and it will be interesting to see how Seider fairs against the likes of Newhook and Podkolzin, but ultimately, I think his confidence, strong hockey sense, reliability, and defensive ability will prevail and he could truly be in the top three standings.