By: Rossy Pasternak
Its still early in the NHL season, only a month in, but it is never too early to guess who will win the awards. This article will outline SportsNak’s predictions for the NHL Awards after a month of entertaining play so far. For length and logistical purposes, we will limit the awards to the Calder, Hart, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Norris trophies.
This was never a one-man race, but with the injury to Connor McDavid (broken clavicle), the competition just broke wide open. There are a few frontrunners, but this year’s rookie class is one of the strongest in recent memory. Get ready for a spectacular season from the guys on this list
1. Max Domi
Domi, playing on the surprisingly decent Arizona Coyotes, is a known commodity. After playing outstanding for Canada in last years World Junior Championships (WJC), the hype was at an all-time high for Tie Domi’s son. Max has stepped out of his father’s shadow in his first month in the NHL, and is proving the doubters wrong. At only 5’10”, people have always doubted Domi because of his size, but he is proving that with determination, and that quick release of his, he is capable of succeeding. With 5 goals and 6 assists in just 11 games, Max is averaging a point a game for the Coyotes, and is looking like the favourite for the Calder Trophy.
2. Connor McDavid
While McDavid broke his clavicle last night, he already had amassed 12 points in his 13 games, and was looking like the dominating player he was pegged to be when he was picked 1st overall this past draft. A broken collarbone usually has a recovery time of 6-8 weeks, which would mean McDavid would miss around 23 games, if you assume he will be out 2 months, and look at Edmonton’s schedule. Even while missing those games, it is plausible that McDavid can make a big enough impact for the Oilers that he would still be named Rookie of the Year. It will be interesting to see if McDavid slows down his game to protect himself when he returns, I think not, but it will be something to watch.
3. Nikolaj Ehlers
What a surprise Ehlers has been so far. Everyone knew this kid was good, but no one thought he could be this good this quickly. He has 9 points in 12 games this year, and has been playing unbelievably well so far. Ehlers has showed he can be an elite player in the past at the WJC, but I sure didn’t expect him to have this large of an impact within his first month in the NHL. Look for Ehlers to make things interesting in this race.
Also in the hunt: Dylan Larkin, Jack Eichel, Sam Bennet, Anthony Duclair, Artemi Panarin
The Vezina is always hard to predict early in the season, as goalies tend to go on hot-streaks, and their performance is usually directly impacted by the way their team is performing in front of them. Nevertheless, here are my frontrunners for the Vezina.
1. Carey Price
Once again, Price is playing like a god among men. Not only is he stopping nearly everything that comes his way, but he affects the opposing players in other ways as well. Opponents are missing the net a lot against Price, as they try to be perfect because they know Price will stop anything that isn’t. Price has a 2.01 GAA, and a .936 SV%. These stats are once again absurdly terrific, and Price is once again the frontrunner for the top goalie in the league.
2. Henrik Lundqvist
Hank the Tank, one of the best goalies in NHL history, is back at it. Usually a slow-starter, Lundqvist has started scorching hot, with a .943 SV% so far this year. With one of the best teams in the NHL playing in front of him, Hank and the Rangers have the chance to do some serious damage once again.
3. Braden Holtby
Holtby is quietly becoming the best goalie not named Carey Price in the NHL. Holtby is leading the Washington Capitals in a season in which they have title expectations. Coming off a great playoffs, Holtby picked off where he started. a .909 SV%, and 2.25 GAA are stellar numbers for the goaltender. Look for Holtby to improve as the season goes on, and prove the Caps right to sign him to that lengthy extension this summer.
In the Hunt: Marc-Andre Fleury, Cory Crawford, Roberto Luongo
The Norris was the toughest to pick last year, but this year there is a crop of frontrunners that are ready to run away with the award.
1. P.K. Subban
Subban is playing unreal so far this season, recording 12 points in 14 games. He has done this in surprising fashion, with 11 assists, as he is known as a goal-scorer first. He is not only chipping in offensively, but also is playing stellar defence. I know plus-minus is a flawed stat, but Subban is a +10 already this season. With his stellar defence, and added playmaking to his offensive game, Subban is looking like the best defenceman in the league, and its not even close.
2. Victor Hedman
The Tampa Bay giant defenceman is looking like a young Zdeno Chara. Hedman chips in offensively, he has 10 points in 13 games this season, but his real value comes on the defensive end. Hedman is a +10, and uses his long reach to his advantage. Its almost impossible to win a battle on the boards with Hedman, as he uses his size extremely well. If anyone can give Subban a run for his money for the Norris, it will be Hedman.
3. John Klingberg
The Dallas Stars have a gem on their hands. Drafted 131st overall in 2010, nobody expected Klingberg to be this good. He is an exceptional playmaker, with 11 assists, and 13 points. Kilngberg excells at moving the puck up the ice, one of the most valuable assets a defenceman can possess. Klingberg is the anchor to an improving Dallas defence, and his 7 year, $30 million contract extension he signed this summer is starting to look like a steal.
In the Hunt: Erik Karlsson, John Carlson, Ryan Suter
Jack Adams Award
The Jack Adams Award for best coach in the NHL seems to always go to the coach who leads his team to an overachieving season, with the most recent winners being Bob Hartley, Patrick Roy, and Paul MacLean, with great coaches such as Joel Quenneville and Mike Babcock going without a win (Quennenville won in 1999-2000). For this article, we will follow that trend.
1. Lindy Ruff
The Dallas Stars were expected to be good, but not this good. Ruff has his team playing exceptionally so far, and looks to win his second Jack Adams Trophy, winning with the Sabres in 2005-06. Ruff is a great coach, and was behind the bench for the Sabres for a long time before being fired and going to Dallas. He has righted the ship for the Stars, and is one of the rare coaches who both deserves this award because of his coaching ability, and because of his team situation.
2. Michel Therrien
The Montreal Canadiens are off to a historic start, and look like the Chicago Blackhawks of the 2012-13 season all over again. Therrien, like Quennenville before the 2012-13 season, was on the hot-seat coming into this season. The Blackhawks then went on to have a historic start, and then went on to win the cup. Quenneville didn’t win the Jack Adams Trophy that year, but Therrien has a real chance to this year. Not only are the Habs doing exceptionally well this year, but they were also a team that was expected to regress this season.
3. Barry Trotz
Any man who can get Alex Ovechkin committed to playind defensive hockey should be on this list. Trotz, known for his defensive prowess in Nashville, came over last year, and got a mixed reaction from Ovechkin. So far this season however, Ovi has been focused in the defensive end, and has been playing a responsible game. On top of that, the Capitals are playing great hockey, and looking like the real deal. Not all of this is because of Trotz, – they have a great roster – but he is a big factor in the way they are performing.
In the Hunt: Mike Babcock, Joel Quenneville, Paul Maurice
The Hart Trophy for Most Valuable Player is one of the hottest debated awards in sports. Does MVP mean most valuable to the team? To the league? Does it mean the player who got the most points? There are many different points of view on this topic. For this articles purposes, I will use a sort-of combo of all of those views.
1. Carey Price
Many people think that choosing the best player on the best team is an easy way to choose the MVP. Last year, Carey Price won the Hart Trophy because he was the best player in the NHL, and made the biggest difference to his team – bigger than anyone else to their team. Once again, Carey Price is making that difference. The difference between this year and last is that Price’s team has finally caught up to him. Now, with his team showing what it can do, and with his god-like goaltending, Price is the easy choice for this award. I don’t think anyone can argue that Carey Price is the best player in hockey right now, a rare feat for a goalie. Carey Price is the anchor of the Montreal Canadiens, the best team in the NHL. Carey Price is this seasons MVP so far, and will claim the Hart Trophy at seasons end.
2. Tyler Seguin
As a Leafs fan, I hate putting Tyler Seguin on the top of this list, but as a hockey fan, Tyler Seguin is no doubt the most valuable player in the NHL so far. It is about time that Seguin be discussed as the best in the league, along with the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin, Tavares, Stamkos, and Toews. Seguin has 20 points in 13 games, and even though his linemate, Jamie Benn, is tied with him in points, there is no doubt Seguin is the more valuable of the duo. Benn exploded once paired with Seguin, but Seguin showed the ability to be this good while still on Boston. Seguin plays well defensively, is a well-rounded centre, and has one of the best shots in the league. Seguin is the anchor to the best offence in the league, and is looking like the superstar he is.
3. Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane, amid controversy, is having one hell of a start to his season. With 16 points in 12 games, Kane is proving again that he isn’t just a second-wheel to Jonathan Toews. Kane is playing well on a Blackhawks team that is looking like a team who has played a lot of hockey games recently. With the past few years being filled with high intensity playoff hockey, the Blackhawks seem to now coast through the regular season, much like the Spurs do in the NBA. In the end, however, the ‘Hawks will be there, and that will likely be in large part because of Patrick Kane.
In the Hunt: Jamie Benn, Jonathan Toews, Alex Ovechkin
What do you think of the predictions? Do you agree? Disagree? Comment Below!
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