Last year I wrote an article around this time where I predicted the NHL Award winners based on performance over the first half of the season. Before I get to this year’s predictions, here’s a brief rundown on how my prognostications panned out last time:
Hart: Connor McDavid (my selection)
Vezina: Sergei Bobrovsky (I chose Devan Dubnyk)
Norris: Brent Burns (my selection)
Calder: Auston Matthews (I chose Zach Werenski)
Art Ross: Connor McDavid (I chose Sidney Crosby)
Richard: Sidney Crosby (my selection)
Adams: John Tortorella (I chose Mike Babcock)
Selke: Patrice Bergeron (I didn’t make a choice, Bergeron was one of the names I mentioned as likely winners, but I personally don’t count that)
Overall, I did pretty well last year, even though I only got three correct. Dubnyk was the only choice who wasn’t a finalist for the award (Werenksi finished 3rd, Crosby was 2nd in points, and Babcock finished 2nd - I still say Babcock should have won).
Last year, I gave my current leader, predicted winner, and other names to keep an eye on. Since my current leader and predicted winner was nearly always the same last season, I’m just going to do my predicted winner and other names to keep an eye on.
Also, just to be clear, these are who I think will win, not necessarily who I think should win.
Predicted Winner: Nikita Kucherov
Keep an Eye on: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nathan MacKinnon, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos
Even though the Oilers are having a terrible season, Connor McDavid could be in this mix, probably even a front runner. The big problem is it’s hard to see the Hart going to a player from a team that doesn’t make the playoffs, and it’s looking unlikely Edmonton will make the postseason this year. Kucherov leads the NHL in both goals and points right now, and especially if Tampa continues their pace, choosing someone from that team seems a pretty easy choice.
I’m going to talk more about Vasilevskiy in the Vezina section, but it would not be surprising for him to take it home if he keeps going the way he has been. MacKinnon has had a breakout season in Colorado, leading the entire NHL in points since the day Matt Duchene was traded. Coincidence? Maybe. Giroux and Stamkos are both in my mix because they’ve rebounded from poor performance (Giroux) and continued injuries (Stamkos), and everyone loves a comeback.
Predicted Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Keep an Eye on: Corey Crawford, Sergei Bobrovsky
We all know that many of the people who vote on these awards still rely on stats that have been surpassed, for example unadjusted all situation save percentage for goalies. Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the NHL in wins win 27, and has a .930 SV% currently. The only goalie ahead of him in that category is Carter Hutton from St. Louis, who has only played 16 games this season.
If we look at goalie statistics that show us more context, Vasilevskiy remains at or near the top of the league. For goalies playing 1000 or more minutes so far, his 5v5 dSV% (the difference between his actual save percentage and his expected save percentage based on the quality of the shots he is facing) is 3rd in the league at 1.4. Crawford is at 1.52 and Bobrovsky leads the way with 1.65. Mike Smith is 4th at 1.09, so you can see there is a pretty large gap between the top three and the rest.
5v5 HDSV% (high danger save percentage) makes a strong case for Crawford and Bobrovsky, as they are 2nd and 3rd respectively. Ben Bishop is top in this category. Vasilevskiy is 7th.
Ultimately, I think Tampa’s success will lead to Vasilevskiy winning this, although I would not be surprised to see Bobrovsky take this home for a second straight year.
James Norris Trophy
Predicted Winner: John Klingberg
Keep an Eye on: John Carlson, Zdeno Chara, Victor Hedman*
If Hedman wasn’t injured recently, this would have been easy for me. He’s having another monster season for Tampa Bay. Also, this award has a history of going to a player “who’s due.” Hedman has had fantastic seasons without winning, so this should be his to lose. The problem is that this injury will put a major dent in his numbers.
There is a large list of defensemen I could have listed here, but that feels like throwing too many darts at the board. Chara is second in the league in +/- (it’s not a good stat, but people still use it) and has only won the award once in his long career. If an obvious candidate doesn’t emerge, I can easily see people voting for Chara. Unlike other awards I looked at for this article, there isn’t one person who is at the top of the list for many different stats. Carlson is second in the league in points from the blue line, which is why I added him in here.
I’m going with Klingberg because he leads the NHL in points, and we know how this award is often weighted towards offense. He’s also top in the league in 5v5 xGF% among defensemen playing more than 500 minutes.
At the end of the day, the Norris race is wide open, and I won’t be too surprised if its none of the four I mention here.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Predicted Winner: Mathew Barzal
Keep an Eye on: Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy
This is going to be a tight race. Barzal and Boeser are both electrifying players who are putting up big numbers. The former is on a point per game pace, and the latter is not far behind.
Then we have McAvoy, who is doing for the Bruins what Werenski has done for the Jackets. I’m in the camp that the Calder should be biased toward a standout defenseman, but it doesn’t seem to be.
Any of these three would be deserving winners, but right now I think Barzal has a slight edge.
Art Ross Trophy (Most Points)
Predicted Winner: Nikita Kucherov
Keep an Eye on: Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon
Kucherov is the clear front runner here, and I think he’ll hold on barring major injury. A large group of players aren’t that far behind, and I chose Gaudreau and MacKinnon as the two I think will emerge from that pack and challenge Kucherov.
Maurice Richard Trophy (Most Goals)
Projected Winner: Nikita Kucherov
Keep an Eye on: Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares
Kucherov and Ovechkin are no-brainers at this point. The third spot was tougher. Right now, Tavares has 22 goals, good for 7th in the league. The difference is that the players above him and below Kucherov are all shooting 18% or higher this season, while Tavares is shooting at 11.5%. I think it’s more likely that Tavares will increase that percentage as the season continues than Lee, Couturier, W. Karlsson, and Boeser maintain their current shooting percentages.
Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)
Projected Winner: Gerard Gallant
Keep an Eye on: John Cooper, Paul Maurice
Right now, this is a battle for second. It’s clearly Gallant’s award to lose, and I think at this point it would have to take a collapse of titanic proportions for that to happen. Vegas is not only a near guarantee to make the playoffs, they are the Pacific division leader by 7 points and second in the entire league behind Tampa Bay.
Tampa’s performance makes Cooper a likely finalist, and Maurice’s Jets are leading a very tough Central division. These three are the clear front-runners, but Gallant is miles ahead.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
Projected Winner: Auston Matthews
Keep an Eye On: Niklas Backstrom, Patrice Bergeron
The smart thing to do here would just be to predict Bergeron, since he always seems to be a finalist for this award. I’m at least a little smart, so I’ll go ahead and list him.
It seems like this award doesn’t just go to someone who is very good defensively, they are typically at least above average offensively. I looked at 5v5 score adjusted goals against as well as 5v5 SA GF% (for forwards playing more than 500 minutes) to try to pick out players who are providing top results at limiting the other team from scoring while also contributing offensively.
Backstrom and Matthews are both top 5 in GF%, as well as top 10 in GA, so they fit both my criteria.
The Lady Byng Trophy seems futile to try to predict because it is so subjective, so I won’t bother this year.
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?