Any other season, June means it’s trophy time. This year, we only have the trophies associated with statistics named for the regular season. Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton) has become the first German-born player to ever win the Art Ross Trophy for most total points with 110 (43G, 67A). Alex Ovechkin (Washington) and David Pastrnak (Boston) have both been awarded the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for scoring the most goals in the regular season. Both scored 48 goals, Pastrnak in 70, Ovechkin in 68. This marks Ovechkin’s 9th Rocket Richard Trophy in his career. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak (Boston) won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals scored against, only allowing 174 goals. This is Halak’s 2nd Jennings Trophy, the first having been with the St. Louis Blues in 2012.
Aside from those 3, the only other trophy to even have nominees announced thus far is the Masterton Trophy. That leaves at least 9 other play trophies to be determined. So, while waiting to see if the NHL will return as they’ve promised, I figured I would take a look at who’s eligible for what, and decide for myself who’s going to win. These will be the performance-based trophies. Buckle in, kids, this is going to be a long one.
“Perseverance, Sportsmanship, Dedication”*
Awarded We’ll start with the nominees we have first. I won’t list all 31 players, instead, I’ll give you the highlights. Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Oskar Lindblom (Philadelphia), and Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis), to me, are the front runners for the Masterton. For those who don’t remember, McDavid tore his PCL in his knee towards the end of last season and opted not to have surgery on it. He instead took his summer to rest and rehab it and was able to come back this season as if not much had changed. Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, back in December of 2019 at only 23 years old. He had his last round of chemotherapy in late April or early May and is expected to return next season. Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac event in February while on the bench during a game in Anaheim. He was not expected to come back for the rest of the season or for the playoffs as of March but was attending games.
While I have an immense amount of respect for all three players dealing with their individual battles, I think it’s going to be between Lindblom and Bouwmeester. If I was in the PHWA, I would vote for Lindblom. I almost picked Bouwmeester, because watching that happen during a game was terrifying. But, in the end, Lindblom had stated his intent to get back into training as soon as his treatments were over. With the pandemic, I don’t see him coming back for the playoffs, but the fact that he wants to get back out there after such an ordeal speaks to his perseverance and dedication to hockey.
“Rookie of the Year”
This one is probably the biggest debate. Here are my top 3: Makar (Colorado), Q. Hughes (Vancouver), and Elvis Merzlikins (Columbus). Before the season started, everyone was watching Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, but neither had the breakout start to their careers that everyone expected. In a funny turn of events, it’s Jack’s older brother Quin who has captured all the attention as the favorite for the Calder. He’s already spending time on the powerplay and notched 53 points in 68 games. He’s an assist machine. Cale Makar was a name thrown around early in passing, but he stepped up and proved that he deserved to be discussed for Rookie of the Year. His points are just as impressive, at 50 points in 57 games. He’s also earned a spot on the powerplay. Merzlikins came out of nowhere. While he flopped in his debut appearance, he managed to win 13 games outright and stretch 8 games into OT. He earned his .923 save percentage without a doubt.
It’s going to be a really close vote, I think. In the end, my guess is that the PHWA will choose Hughes, but Makar will be very close behind in votes.
For me, there’s a clear winner here, but that might be because I watched almost every game he played in. He had hot hands all season, even more so than in seasons past. He’s versatile and smart; you hardly ever see him make mistakes. While there are other choices, the only player I think could win the Norris this year is John Carlson (Washington). At the pause of the season, Carlson had 75 points in 69 games (15G, 60A). Stats alone put him 10 points ahead of the next best defenseman. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he logs a lot of ice time with Ovechkin, as well. For me, it’s Carlson without debate.
Honorable mentions: Roman Josi (Nashville) and Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay).
“Most Outstanding Player as Voted by the NHLPA”
This is another award that I feel there isn’t really a lot of debate about. While a few years ago it looked like this trophy was going to belong to McDavid forever, I think it’s his teammate Leon Draisaitl who deserves it this year. Whatever fire was lit in him at the start of the season continued to burn right up to the break, where he was left hanging at 110 points, with only about 10 more games to play. He had a phenomenal season, and he wasn’t even on McDavid’s line the whole season. If he doesn’t get the Lindsay, I will be shocked.
Honorable mentions: Connor McDavid (Edmonton), David Pastrnak (Boston), and Artemi Panarin (New York R).
“Top Defensive Forward”
When the PHWA released their midseason awards in January, the top 3 players for the Selke were Sean Couturier (Philadelphia), Patrice Bergeron (Boston), and Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis). I personally don’t think those spots have really changed all that much. O’Reilly was last year’s recipient, which was fairly obvious by the second half of their 2018-2019 season, and Bergeron has won it 4 times previously. Couturier was runner up in 2018, but this might be the year he takes it home. He has both Bergeron and O’Reilly beat in hits and takeaways. Unless something dramatic changes, my guess is Couturier.
Disclaimer on this one, guys, I’m not confident determining what makes a goaltender good, so I’m basing my decisions partially on fact and partially on personal bias.
That being said, there were a few stand-out goalies this season (by the numbers): Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), and Frederik Anderson (Toronto). They’re all within 6 games, 10 goals against, and 6 wins of each other. Anderson, of the three, is the weakest in terms of numbers, but not by much, Hellebuyck has the best save percentage, and Vasilevskiy has the most wins and goals against. Vasilevskiy won last year and Hellebuyck was runner up in 2018. It wouldn’t surprise me if they picked Vasilevskiy again this year, however, my pick is Connor Hellebuyck (go River Hawks).
“MVP of Regular Season”
Probably the 2nd most debated award of the season comes with a few very familiar names. As of the midseason awards, the top 3 were Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), and David Pastrnak (Boston).
McDavid has never not impressed us, okay? But as far as being the MVP, I’m not convinced. Honestly, I’m not even sure he would win Oilers MVP this year with Draisaitl’s performance. There is a case to be made for Nathan MacKinnon, however. With both Landeskog and Rantanen out early in the season with injuries, I’m sure MacKinnon felt a little like Atlas with the world on his back. Like a true champ, he handled the pressure with ease. He had 93 points in 69 games, which is definitely a large contributing factor to the Avalanche getting a bye-round. Not to be out-done, Pasta had 95 points in 70 games, also clinching a bye-week for the Bruins. He had 4 hat tricks this season and was keeping pace with scoring machine Alex Ovechkin. There’s no doubt that his performance put energy into the team.
So that leaves me with a tough choice, MacKinnon, or Pasta? I’d have to go with MacKinnon. His team faced adversity and he led them through it. That’s what an MVP does.
*Descriptions of awards quoted as written from NHL.com
**Photos from of NHL.com
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)