Elvis Merzlikins' Recent Play Has Set the Goaltender Up for Entry into the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) Conversation

By Max Steele on January 19, 2020 at 8:15 am
Dec 31, 2019; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) salutes the crowd after the game against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Elvis Presley may have wanted "A Little Less Conversation," but Elvis Merzlikins should be getting anything but.

The Latvian goaltender has been one of the biggest narratives in the NHL since New Year's Eve, posting 3 shutouts, an NHL-best .955 save percentage, and a goals against average of 1.51 in that time.

His recent bout of tremendous goaltending has also rocketed his overall statistics to among the best in the league.  After a rough start to the season and his NHL career, Merzlikins is now 5th in the entire NHL in save percentage and 9th in goals against average.  

But the NHL's top 10 statistical goaltenders isn't the only list Merzlikins should be joining in the second half of the 2019-2020 season.

Merzlikins' recent play should earn the 25-year-old rookie a chance to enter the Calder Trophy conversation, the award given every year "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League."  If Merzlikins continues to be spectacular, he would have every opportunity to finish the season as a Calder nominee.

We've even seen similar stories as recently as last year when Jordan Binnington backstopped the Stanley-Cup-bound St. Louis Blues to a playoff spot in his first full season, earning himself a nomination for the Calder.  While Merzlikins' numbers aren't quite to Binnington's 2018-2019 level, it proves that a hot second half can lead to a bevy of Calder votes.  To be like Binnington, Merzlikins would have to keep up his strong play and he's showing no sign of slowing down.

So far this season, the narrative for the Calder Trophy conversation has concerned two young defensemen, Cale Makar (believed to be the overwhelming Calder favorite) and Quinn Hughs.  While there may not be an opportunity to unseat either player, the third nominee spot is ripe for the taking, no other rookies making strong cases right now.  It would be the first Calder nomination for the Blue Jacket organization since Zach Werenski in 2016-2017 and would be the first Columbus goaltender since Steve Mason won the award in 2009.

A Calder nominee would do wonders for the notoriety of the Columbus organization that was supposed to have lost all its stars last off-season.  And Merzlikins has looked like a star in the making the past few weeks. 

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