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A Look at the NHL Awards Race

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With the end of the calendar year approaching, it’s a good time to take a look at the races for the NHL awards given out at the end of the season. Barring a huge change in fortune for a Detroit player or the team, the Red Wings will likely not be in the running for any awards, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to take a look.

For each award, I’ll give you my front runner if the season ended today as well as some other players in contention. Additionally, I’ll predict who will win at the end of the year. Save this link so you can congratulate me at the end of the season (or more likely rub it in my face)

Hart Trophy

Current Leader: Connor McDavid

Predicted Winner: Connor McDavid

Keep an Eye on: Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk.

Since the award is supposed to be for the player considered most valuable to his team, I think McDavid is the clear front runner for this award. Crosby is having an amazing season, and is likely the best player in the world, but Pittsburgh without Crosby is still a playoff team, while Edmonton without McDavid is likely a lottery team (again). Price and Dubnyk both deserve a look as well, but this will likely come down to McDavid and Crosby.

Vezina Trophy

Current Leader: Devan Dubnyk

Predicted Winner: Devan Dubnyk

Keep an Eye on: Corey Crawford, Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby

Right now, Dubynk has a ridiculous .948 SV% and he is top three in GSAA with a 15.67. Crawford has the best stats in the league, but has been passed over in years past even with outstanding stats. Rightly or wrongly, some of his success is attributed to playing behind the Chicago defense. Holtby (last year’s winner), Bobrovsky, and Price are having very strong years as well. This is one of the hardest races to call right now with so many great performances this year. I would not be surprised if any of the five on this list wins the Vezina.

James Norris Trophy

Current Leader: Brent Burns

Predicted Winner: Brent Burns

Keep an Eye on: Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, Duncan Keith

Shea Weber looked to be the early front-runner, but he’s come down to Earth in the last month or so. If Burns wasn’t having such a hot year offensively (11th in the league in points with 34), I would likely pick Hedman as the favorite here. It’s hard to think of a defenseman that gives you so much at both ends of the ice. Karlsson is always in contention, and he is having another superb offensive year. Karlsson and Hedman are 15th and 16th in the league, respectively, in points with 32 and 31.

Calder Memorial Trophy

Current Leader: Patrik Laine

Predicted Winner: Zach Werenski

Keep an Eye on: Auston Matthews, Ivan Provorov, half the Maple Leafs’ roster, Matt Murray

This is going to be one of the most competitive Calder races in quite some time. At the end of the year, it’s likely going to come down to the best rookie goal scorer (Laine), the best overall rookie (Matthews), and the best rookie defenseman (Werenski). Because of how hard it is to make an impact as a rookie defenseman, I give the edge to Werenski. All three are top-notch players, so you will likely be able to make a strong case for any of the three. Don’t forget about Matt Murray, who is still eligible for the Calder this season. If he has a strong 2017, this could easily be a four-way race.

Art Ross Trophy (Most Points)

Current Leader: Connor McDavid / Sidney Crosby (tie)

Predicted Winner: Sidney Crosby

Keep an Eye on: Evgeni Malkin, Vladimir Tarasenko

I really thought this was the year that Connor McDavid began a mutli-year run of Art Ross Trophies. Then, Sidney Crosby showed that we need to hold off on the passing of the torch. Just a few weeks ago, it looked like McDavid’s scoring lead was going to be too much for anyone to overcome. Crosby is scoring at a 1.35 ppg pace, while McDavid is “only” scoring 1.17. Malkin and Tarasenko will make the race interesting, but barring injury, this looks like Crosby’s award to lose.

Maurice Richard Trophy (Most Goals)

Current Leader: Sidney Crosby

Projected Winner: Sidney Crosby

Keep an Eye on: David Pastrnak, Jeff Carter, Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews

Barring injury, this is probably the biggest lock based on the season thus far. Crosby is at a 0.84 gpg clip. Without the games lost to injury, Crosby would have over thirty goals so far at that rate. As it is, his 26 goals are more than the top 3 Red Wings combined to date. The other names on the list are within catching distance of Sid, but Crosby shows no signs of slowing down. Additionally, with Malkin and the HBK line, other teams can’t key on him as much as they would on the other names on this list.

Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)

Current Leader: John Tortorella

Projected Winner: Mike Babcock

Keep an Eye on: Bruce Boudreau, Mike Babcock, Guy Boucher

If you had told me going into this season that Columbus would be 24-5-4 right now, I would have laughed in your face. I’m far from a fan of Tortorella, but I can’t see anyone else could win the award if it was given out today. I think any of these four coaches could win, but even though I think Columbus will make the playoffs, I don’t think they’ll continue this pace. On the other hand, Toronto seems to be gaining steam. They are 3 points behind Boston for the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic, with three games in hand. Tampa is two points ahead of the Leafs, but Toronto has 2 games in hand on the Bolts. If the Leafs make the playoffs, I think that will be enough to tilt the voting Babcock’s way.

Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)

The difficulty in predicting this award is that you can evaluate best defensive forward in so many ways. Rather than make a prediction, here are a few names that should be in the mix.

Patrice Bergeron is always up for this award, and he has some good stats to support that. He has a CF% of 62% (first in the league for forwards over 400 minutes). Additionally, he has an unreal -13.5% CA60 RelTM (in this case, negative is good since is means that his CA60 is 13.5% lower than his team’s average CA).

Brad Marchand has similarly showy numbers.

Since the winner of this award is strong offensively, someone like Artemi Panarin could be in the conversation. He’s 8th in the league for forwards over 400 minutes with a 56.6 CF% (with a -11.71 CA60 RelTM). One thing possibly keeping Panarin out of consideration is his 9.8% Defensive Zone starts. Bergeron and Marchand are both at 28%)

Another player to keep an eye on is John Tavares (-9.83 CA60 RelTM).

Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player)

Just like the Selke, this one is so hard to predict that I’m just going to throw out a couple potential names. It typically goes to a player with a strong offensive season and very low penalty minutes. Vladimir Tarasenko has 39 points and 8 PIMs, so I’ll call him the front runner. Other possible names with similar numbers are Cam Atkinson and Auston Matthews.

So, what do you think? Was I way off on some of these? Most likely, yes, but which ones? Who do you think is making a case that I didn’t even mention?

Also, if a Red Wing were to have an outstanding second half of the year and be nominated for one of these awards, who do you think would be up for which award? My money would be on Nielsen for the Selke, although that’s admittedly a very long shot at this point.