A lot has happened since the last time the Vancouver Canucks took the ice for an official regular-season NHL game, but if you can remember all the way back to before March, one first-year standout was putting the league on notice.

Rookie sensation Quinn Hughes was having quite the season for the Canucks before COVID-19 suspended league play and now, to nobody’s surprise, he has been labelled a finalist for this year’s Calder Trophy.

The Calder Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie.

Also nominated alongside the Canucks defenceman was Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar and Chicago Blackhawks left winger Dominik Kubalik.

Hughes led all rookies in scoring with 53 points to his name – eight goals and 45 assists – edging out Makar for the scoring race by three points.

The 20-year old’s 53 points were the highest total by any rookie defenceman since 1991-92, when Nicklas Lidstrom tallied 60 in 80 appearances with Detroit. That is a pretty impressive mark considering the season was cut short.

Hughes’ exciting rookie campaign also marked just the third time that a defenceman led all first-year players in scoring in the NHL’s modern era – which started in 1943-44. He joins Brian Leetch (1988-89, New York Rangers) and Bobby Orr (1966-67, Boston) on that exclusive list.

Canucks fans are getting accustomed to seeing their young, up-and-coming talent featured in the Calder Trophy race.

This marks the third straight year that a Canucks player has been nominated for the NHL’s rookie of the year. Brock Boeser was the runner-up for the trophy in 2018 and Elias Pettersson won it last season.

If Hughes were to claim this year’s Calder, it would mark the first time a franchise boasted two consecutive winners since the Boston Bruins did it in 1966-67 and 1967-68 (Orr followed by Derek Sanderson).

The award is typically given out during the summer amid the NHL offseason, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic altering the hockey schedule, a Calder winner will be announced in September this year instead.

Currently, the NHL is preparing to restart the 2019-20 season using two Canadian hub cities: Edmonton and Toronto.

Graham Cox