Most people believe that the Stanley Cup Final is the end of the NHL season, but we can’t forget about the award ceremony. This year the NHL Award Ceremony is taking place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 21st. For most of the categories, three players are selected as the finalists to take home each award. Let’s go through the awards and discuss who is most likely to win each.
Hart Trophy-The Hart Trophy is the award given to the most valuable player of the regular season. One of the main things to remember is that the playoffs are not taken into consideration here. The three finalists are Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Crosby and McDavid play center for their teams, and Bobrovsky plays goaltender for the Jackets. Let’s start with Crosby who has already won this award twice in his career. The 29 year old played 75 games this season scoring 44 goals and 45 assists to go with it. With 89 points, he played a pivotal role in leading his team to the playoffs which makes him a clear candidate for this award. Connor McDavid led the league in points this season racking up 30 goals and 70 assists to reach the 100 point plateau. He was a +27 and every time he was on the ice things were going right for the Oilers. For a team that has struggled mightily in the past, McDavid’s first full season had the Oilers one win away from the Western Conference Final. Finally, Sergei Bobrovsky was a rock in net for the Jackets. It is always a little extra special for a goalie when he is nominated for this award, because goalies also have an award for themselves. With a league leading goals against of 2.06 and a save percentage of .931, Bobrovsky gave the Jackets a chance to win every time he played. He also finished second in wins with 41, and 3rd in shutouts with 7.
Prediction- Connor McDavid– This is a very tough decision, and no one would be the wrong pick. When it comes down to being the most valuable player, I think without McDavid the Oilers would have missed the playoffs again.
Norris Trophy- This award is given to the Top Defenseman in the NHL. Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning are the finalists for the Norris. Hedman was one of the only bright spots in a dark season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. His 72 points in 79 games earned him second best for defenseman, and his 33 power play points led the league. Hedman averaged over 24 minutes per game playing against the league’s best. Brent Burns one upped Hedman in the points category with 76 on the season, including his 29 goals which led defensemen. His +19 rating is extra impressive considering he also plays against elite players every night. He is the Sharks’ best player and has been a huge part of their recent regular season success. Last, but certainly not least is Karlsson, who brought the Sens to the Eastern Conference Final. It seemed like every time you blinked, Karlsson was back on the ice as he averaged nearly 27 minutes. In the past, the one complaint about Karlsson has been his work in his own zone. That changed this season as he made much better decisions and focused more on his play in that zone. Prediction- Erik Karlsson- His versatility makes him unlike any other player in the league. One minute he is scoring goals, the next he is blocking shots in front of his net. Most teams can only dream of having a player like Karlsson.
Vezina Trophy- Goalie Award! Goalie Award! This award goes to the Best goalie in the NHL. There are 3 incredible finalists here. The first is Bobrovsky who was also nominated for the Hart. Joining him is Carey Price from the Montreal Canadiens and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals. Each of these finalists are previous winners of the award.We already spoke about Bobrovsky who won this award in 2013. His league leading goals against and save percentage may give him the edge here. The most recent winner, Braden Holtby, led the NHL with 42 wins and 9 shutouts. His stellar play helped the Caps to 118 points which was best in the league. Days off were a rarity for Holtby as he played in 63 of the 82 regular season games. Carey Price, the 2015 winner of the award had yet another great year. He is no doubt the long shot to win the award, but his .923 save percentage was among some of the league’s best.
Prediction- Braden Holtby- It will be a really close call between Bob and Holtby, but when you only lose 13 games in regulation out of the 63 starts: that is unbelievable. Bob only lost a few more games, but that could be the difference maker with almost identical stats.
Calder Trophy- Time to look at which rookies shined this season! There were a plethora of rookies that excelled this season, but these 3 were unreal – Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrick Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets. We will start with the only d-man nominated, Zach Werenski. He came on the scene this season and really bolstered up the back end for the Jackets. He led rookie defenseman with 47 points (21 on the power play) and was 7th overall in rookies. Averaging almost 21 minutes for a rookie is unheard of, but Werenski handled it efficiently. Auston Matthews was the #1 overall pick and he did not disappoint. His 69 points was tops for rookies along with his 40 goals. The 19 year old was instrumental in getting the Maple Leafs to the playoffs and will be an asset for many years to come. Patrick Laine already has cemented himself as a great scorer in the league. In 73 games he scored 36 goals which was second best for rookies. His 9 power play goals forced opposing teams to tighten up when they went shorthanded.
Prediction- Auston Matthews- His poise at such a young age is uncommon and the level of his play is even more impressive. The Leafs drafted a player who could be a point per game player by next season.
Selke Trophy- The final award I will be discussing goes to the best defensive forward. Two of the three candidates have been recipients of this award in the past. Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins is no stranger to this award as he has already won 3 times. Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks won the award in 2011. Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild has yet to win the award. Koivu has always been known for his defensive play, but he took it to a new level this season. He was a +27 going out against top players, and was a penalty killing specialist. Kesler was a pest per usual for the Ducks. He thrives by getting under opposing players’ skin and taking them off their game. He had 58 points to go along with his solid defensive play. Bergeron was great on the penalty kill as always, making smart plays in his own zone. It is no secret why he has had so much success with the award in the past.
Prediction- Patrice Bergeron- You cannot teach the type of hockey that Bergeron plays. Not many forwards can play as defensive minded as he does. He wins the award for the fourth time.