30 Jan NHL Awards: All-Star Break Edition
By: Joel Forman
The NHL season is past the midway point in the season heading into the All-Star break weekend, and it’s time to look at what players are making an impact this season. Here’s a look at the leading candidates for each NHL award at this point in the season:
1) Sidney Crosby (PIT) – 42 GP: 28 Goals, 27 Assists, 55 Points, +15, 17 PP Points
Is there anyone in hockey who has had a better year than Sidney Crosby? After his slow-start last season and people writing him off as “Non-Elite”, he surged in the 2nd half under Mike Sullivan leading the Penguins to their 2nd Stanley Cup since 2009. Crosby then had a very short summer with the World Cup of Hockey in September, but he looked in top form as he captained Team Canada to Gold. He finished 1st in the tournament with 10 points en route to MVP, while his linemates Brad Marchand (8 points) and Patrice Bergeron (7 points) were 2-3 respectively.
He was red-hot coming into the season, but a concussion kept him out of the Penguins first 6 games. However you would have never guessed he was hurt because he came out on a tear with 8 goals in his first 6 games and hitting 20 goals by December 20th. He currently leads the NHL with 28 goals, while sitting 2nd with 55 points in 42 games, 4 points back of Connor McDavid despite playing 9 less games. Despite the offensive dominance of Connor McDavid, Crosby is still the best player on the planet and without a doubt the MVP at this point in the season.
2) Connor McDavid (EDM) – 51 GP: 17 Goals, 42 Assists, 59 Points, +18, 16 PP Points
Speaking of elite centers, the 20-year old phenom looks absolutely unstoppable this season leading the NHL in points while leading a revamped Oilers team. McDavid burst onto the scene last year with 48 points in 45 games as a rookie, despite missing 27 games with a broken collarbone he was still a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He followed that up by being named Captain of Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, a sign to come as McDavid would be named Oilers Captain weeks later.
He has 17 goals, an NHL-best 42 assists for 59 points in 51 games, but more importantly he has hockey in Edmonton relevant again as the Oilers are tied for the Pacific Division lead with 64 points. After years and years of failed rebuilding in Edmonton, “McJesus” has the Oilers pushing for their 1st playoff bid since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, the longest current playoff drought in the NHL at 10 years. There’s no question that McDavid is going to be the best player in the world one day, and he could be well on his way to a 1st Art Ross Trophy this season. For now he is a very close 2nd to Crosby in the Hart Trophy race.
3) Brent Burns (SJS) – 50 GP: 21 Goals, 30 Assists, 51 Points, +14, 14 PP Points, 194 Shots
You rarely see a defenseman in the mix for the Hart Trophy, but it’s hard to ignore what the bearded wonder manning the blueline in San Jose is doing right now. Burns has been one of the best defenseman in the NHL the last few years, with 60 points in 2014/15 and a career-high 75 points last season. He was a very important part of the Sharks Stanley Cup run last season (24 points in 24 games), a big reason he was named to Team Canada at the World Cup. After such a strong performance last year he has shown a whole new level of confidence this season.
Burns leads all defenseman with 21 goals and 51 points, more than 12 points than the next closest defenseman. Perhaps what’s most impressive about Burns is the amount of offense he’s generating from the point, leading the league with 194 shots and sitting 4th overall in the NHL in points. The way Burns has been playing he’s well on his way to his first career 30-goal/80-point season, and I truly believe he stays in the running for the Hart Trophy for the rest of the season. If you haven’t watched much of #88 this season, I highly recommend it.
Honourable Mentions: Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Devan Dubnyk (MIN), Patrick Kane (CHI)
1) Devan Dubnyk (MIN) – 38 GP: 27-8-3, .936 Save Percentge, 1.88 Goals Against Average, 5 Shutouts
It’s almost baffling to me to think the Wild traded just a 3rd round pick for Devan Dubnyk 2 years ago. After all, he’s been the most consistent goaltender in the NHL since joining the Wild in 2015, winning 60% (86 of 144) of his starts. Flash-forward to this season, with the Wild playing fantastic hockey under new Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, Dubnyk has looked calm, cool and collected in net. He is at/near the top of every goalie category this season: 2nd in wins (27), 1st in save percentage (.936%), 1st in goals against (1.88), and 2nd in shutouts (5). Dubnyk has only 1 trophy in his career, the 2014/15 Bill Masterton Trophy, but if he continues to play this way he will without a doubt win the Vezina Trophy this summer
2) Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) – 39 GP: 28-9-2, .929 Save Percentage, 2.10 Goals Against Average, 3 Shutouts
For as good as Dubnyk has been this year, equally impressive has been the play of Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus. After winning the Vezina Trophy in 2013/14, Bob has had an up-and-down few years, with injuries limiting him to just 37 games last year. The Blue Jackets were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season, and seemed to be in a rut under new Head Coach John Tortorella. Things quickly changed as this season started, the Blue Jackets exploded out of the gate and currently sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference at 30-12-4. This is in big part due to the play of the Russian goaltender, Bobrovsky is near the top of all goalie categories as well: 1st in wins (28), 4th in save percentage (.929%), and 5th in goals against average (2.10). Look for Bob to be in the running for his 2nd Vezina Trophy at seasons end.
3) Braden Holtby (WSH) – 38 GP: 24-8-4, .930 Save Percentage, 1.96 Goals Against Average, 6 Shutouts
With the strong play of Dubnyk/Bobrovsky and the return of Carey Price from injury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby hasn’t been given nearly as much attention as he should be. His Capitals sit 1st in the NHL at 33-10-6, and he’s a big part of the team’s quest for the 2nd straight President’s Trohpy. Much like the two guys mentioned above, he’s near the top of every goalie category: 5th in wins (24), 3rd in save percentage (.930%), 2nd in goals against average (1.96), and 1st in shutouts (6). The reason I have Holtby behind the two guys mentioned above is his team is a powerhouse, whereas the Wild/Blue Jackets are two emerging young teams. Don’t be surprised if Holtby is nominated for a 2nd year in a row.
Honourable Mentions: Carey Price (MTL), Tuukka Rask (BOS), Martin Jones (SJS)
1) Brent Burns (SJS) – 50 GP: 21 Goals, 30 Assists, 51 Points, +14, 14 PP Points, 194 Shots
This one is a no brainer for me, barring a major injury Brent Burns will win the Norris Trophy this season. He was one of the best defenseman in the NHL last season (as mentioned above), but he’s a step above everyone else this year. Burns impressive year has him leading defenseman in goals (21), points (51), shots (194), while playing 24:55 icetime a night (11th in the NHL). He’s pacing the Sharks to 1st in the Pacific Division at 31-17-2 and sits 4th in the NHL with 51 points, while also leading the entire league with 194 shots. The best beard in the NHL will be adding some hardware to his trophy case this summer.
2) Erik Karlsson (OTT) – 47 GP: 7 Goals, 32 Assists, 39 Points, Even, 15 PP Points
Karlsson is at the point where he’s so good you expect him to be in conversation for the Norris Trophy every season. Many people argue that the 2-time Norris Trophy winner should have won over Drew Doughty last year, as he lead all defenseman with 82 points in 82 games. Flash-forward to this season, under new Head Coach Guy Boucher Karlsson has really started to make strides on the defensive side evident by his 126 blocked shots (2nd in the NHL). His offense has taken a slight hit from his point-per-game pace from last year, but he still is near the top of all defense categories: 2nd in points (39), 1st in assists (32), and 2nd in blocks (126). It’s going to be interesting to watch the Sens Captain in the 2nd half of the season, but expect him to be in the running all year.
3) Shea Weber (MTL) – 50 GP: 12 Goals, 19 Assists, 31 Points, +18, 18 PP Points
After the biggest trade in the NHL in the last decade happened last summer with PK Subban for Shea Weber, many wondered how things would play out for the two teams. The pressure was on Weber to perform in Montreal, and he has been nothing short of spectacular for the Habs since arriving. Much like Burns and Karlsson, Weber is near the top of every defensive category: 2nd in goals (12), 10th in points (31), 1st in PP points (18), 1st in PP goals (10), and 8th in blocked shots (106). Shea Weber has become a leader on the Habs in his few months of being with the team, and having a guy like him in front of Carey Price is huge for the Canadiens. Despite taking a ton of criticism this summer, Marc Bergevin deserves some credit at least for the time being.
Honourable Mentions: Victor Hedman (TBL), Dustin Byfuglien (WPG), Ryan Suter (MIN)
1) Auston Matthews (TOR) – 47 GP: 23 Goals, 16 Assists, 39 Points, +2, 11 PP Points, 5 GWGs
Calder Trophy is always the race that fascinates me the most, the level of talent breaking into the NHL every year is getting better and better as evident from last year’s McDavid/Panarin super rookie group. Flash-forward to this year, and #1 overall pick Auston Matthews is turning heads in Toronto and leading the way of another star-studded rookie group for the 2nd year in a row. The 19-year old has looked unfazed since making the jump to the NHL, including a ridiculous 4-goal game in his NHL debut. Matthews sits atop most of the rookie categories: 1st in goals (23), 2nd in points (39), 1st in shots (163), and 1st in GWGs (5). What’s more impressive is he currently is 5th in the NHL in goals, we knew Matthews was going to be good but not this lethal of a goal scorer. The Leafs are in great hands for the future with #34 at center, and he is the favourite of a very close Calder Trophy race.
2) Patrik Laine (WPG) – 44 GP: 22 Goals, 18 Assists, 40 Points, +7, 12 PP Points, 4 GWGs
As good as Matthews has been in Toronto, 2nd overall pick Patrik Laine has been equally as impressive in Winnipeg sitting 1 goal back of Matthews with 22. Laine has looked unstoppable on a line with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers, the highest scoring line in the NHL (132 points combined). Much like Matthews, he also sits near the top of all rookie categories: 2nd in goals (22), 1st in points (40), 1st in PP goals (8), 2nd in GWGs (4). Laine missed 8 games with a concussion due to a devastating with from Jake McCabe, but he still leads all rookies with 40 points. He was my pre-season choice for the Calder Trophy, going to be an interesting race through the end of the season.
3) Mitch Marner (TOR) – 47 GP: 11 Goals, 28 Assists, 39 Points, -5, 13 PP Points, 4 GWGs
There isn’t just one rookie turning heads in Toronto, as good as Matthews has been even more surprising has been how dominant fellow rookie Mitch Marner has been. Many people questioned if Marner’s skill would translate to the NHL game (not this guy, for one), said he was “too small” to play with the big boys. He’s come in and shown that speed/skill > size, and he’s really clicking on a line with Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. Marner is near the top of all rookie categories: 2nd in points (39), 1st in assists (28), 3rd in goals (11), 3rd in PP points (13) and 2nd in GWGs (4). The last pair of rookie teammates to be nominated for the Calder Trophy were Tyler Johnson/Ondrej Palat in 2013/14, Marner and Matthews could very likely be joining them.
Honourable Mentions: Matt Murray (PIT), Zach Werenski (CBJ), Ivan Provorov (PHI), Matthew Tkachuk (CGY)
Jack Adams Award
1) Bruce Boudreau (MIN) – 32-11-5, 69 points, 1st in Central Division, 1st in Western Conference
Despite leading the Ducks to 4 straight Pacific Division championships, 4 straight Game 7 losses on home ice cost Boudreau his job in Anaheim. Many argued the Ducks panicked and should have been patient with Boudreau, but that’s now how the NHL works and Boudreau become a very sought-after free agent coach last summer. The Wild pounced on Boudreau, signing him a mere 9 days after the Ducks fired him, and it’s starting to look like a brilliant move in Minnesota. They currently lead the Western Conference with 69 points, just 3 points shy of the Capitals for top spot in the NHL. What’s been really impressive about Boudreau is his influence on the young players in Minnesota, blueliners Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba have taken a significant step this year and it’s been the breakout of Mikael Granlund/Charlie Coyle/Nino Niederreiter on offense. Boudreau has also revamped the career of Eric Staal, a guy many people wrote off as being washed up (see below). Depending on where the Wild finish in the standings, Boudreau is my pick for the Jack Adams.
2) Mike Babcock (TOR) – 23-15-9, 55 points, 4th in Atlantic Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
Back when Babcock coached the Red Wings, it was almost assumed he would be in conversation for the Jack Adams every season. However, it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that he’s never won a Jack Adams Award before in his coaching career. Enter this season’s Toronto Maple Leafs, a group that finished 30th in the NHL last season in their 1st year under Babcock, currently sits 1 point out of a playoff spot at the All-star break. The Leafs had just 69 points last season in 82 games, but Babcock has them playing fantastic hockey this year evident in the fact that they already have 55 points in 47 games. Babcock has made the transition to the NHL easy for young rising stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, and the Leafs look in good position to return to the playoffs this year. People expected the young players to be good, but not this good and certainly not this quickly, so Babcock deserves full credit.
3) Joel Quenneville (CHI) – 30-16-5, 65 points, 2nd in Central Division, 2nd in Western Conference
Much like Mike Babcock in Toronto, Coach Q is good enough to be nominated every year as he keeps the Blackhawks in Stanley Cup contention year after year. He’s won the Jack Adams once before, 1999-2000 when he coached the St. Louis Blues, and it’s puzzling to me he’s never been recognized in Chicago. We all know the talent the Blackhawks have but Quenneville deserves credit for consistently moving parts around to work around his star players. Guys like Tanner Kero, Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz have been a pleasant surprise for the Blackhawks who are in search of their 4th Stanley Cup in 8 years. The Blackhawks are 2nd in the Central Division and Western Conference, just 4 points back of the Wild, so look for that race to heat up toward the end of the season. It’s time Coach Q get’s the recognition he deserves!
Honourable Mentions: John Tortorella (CBJ), Barry Trotz (WSH), Mike Sullivan (PIT)
1) Ryan Kesler (ANA) – 51 GP: 18 Goals, 21 Assists, 39 Points, +11, 17 PP Points
Kesler has always been known as one of the best defensive centers in the NHL, but his two-way play has been turning heads in Anaheim this year. He leads the team with 18 goals and 39 points, including 7 PP goals and 17 PP points. Kesler is one of the best at faceoffs in the NHL, winning 57.6% of his draws. The Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg line has been very steady for the Ducks, both offensively and defensively. He plays 21:49 icetime a night for the Ducks, 2nd among all forwards in the NHL to Patrick Kane. Kesler won the Selke in 2010/11, and I expect him to be a favourite for the award this summer as well.
2) Mikko Koivu (MIN) – 47 GP: 15 Goals, 20 Assists, 35 Points, +24, 10 PP Points
The Wild have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season, and they have been getting a huge contribution from longtime Captain Mikko Koivu. Known more as a defensive center, Koivu has 15 goals and 35 points in 47 games this season, which is impressive considering his career-high is just 22 goals. Like Kesler, Koivu is one of the best at faceoffs in the NHL, winning 54.7% of his draws. Koivu has never won or been nominated for a major award in his career, look for that to change this summer.
3) Patrice Bergeron (BOS) – 49 GP: 11 Goals, 13 Assists, 24 Points, +3, 8 PP Points
A 3-time winner of the Selke Trophy, Bergeron deserves to be up for this award every year. While his offensive numbers have taken a hit (24 points in 49 games), he still does a lot on the defensive side of the game for the Bruins playing 19:24 icetime a night. Much like the two guys mentioned above, Bergeron is one of the best in the NHL at faceoffs winning 59.1% of his draws. Look for him to rebound in the 2nd half of the season, which should bring his name up for the Selke Trophy at season’s end.
Honourable Mentions: Mikael Backlund (CGY), Anze Kopitar (LAK), Nazem Kadri (TOR)
GM of the Year
1) Jim Rutherford (PIT) – It’s hard not to put Jimmy at the top of this list, the reigning winner of this trophy has the Penguins in prime position to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. He has done so by keeping the roster almost entirely intact from last season, losing just defenseman Ben Lovejoy and 3rd goalie Jeff Zatkoff to free agency. In what seems like the biggest bargain of the summer, Rutherford re-signed Justin Schultz to a 1-year $1.4 million deal and he has responded with 35 points in 48 games (already a career-high). Much like the Blackhawks (see-below), Rutherford has to be pleased with the developement of young prospects such as Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson. There has never been a back-to-back winner since this award was introduced in 2009, but Rutherford has certainly made the case for it and is the leading candidate in my opinion.
2) Jeff Gorton (NYR) – The Rangers seemed to be in a transition period after an early playoff exit last season, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. With the departure of Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle retiring, the Rangers were in for some big changes and pressure was on Gorton to make some moves. He started off by luring college free agent Jimmy Vesey to New York, a player sought after by 10+ teams. However, his biggest move was the Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard trade, something that has paid immediate dividends and looks brilliant for future. Gorton also added Nick Holden who has been a pleasant surprise on defense, as well as the emergence of prospects Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich. After taking over for longtime GM Glen Sather, Gorton has stepped in and done a great job for the Rangers.
3) Stan Bowman (CHI) – Stan Bowman could be on this list every season, the guy who has defied odds in the salary cap era and kept the Hawks in contention year after year. The salary cap era is supposed to prevent teams from winning in bunches, but Bowman continues to move the pieces and make it work, building around the core that are committed to winning. This was evident in the signing of Artemi Panarin, a breakout rookie who is one of the best players in the NHL, to a 2-year $12 million deal. Panarin likely could have made more, but Bowman got him to take the discount to help the cap, something regularly happening in Chicago players making sacrifices for the better of the team. The Hawks really didn’t add anyone big besides steady veteran Brian Campbell, but it’s been the emergence of young prospects Tanner Kero, Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz that have been impressive. Keeping the core in tact and re-tooling the Hawks to stay competitive year after year is a remarkable thing and Bowman deserves the credit.
Comeback Player of the Year
1) Eric Staal (MIN) – 48 GP: 16 Goals, 25 Assists, 41 Points, +9, 11 PP Points
Staal had the worst year of his career last season for the Hurricanes/Rangers, with just 13 goals and 39 points in 83 games. Many people wrote him off as washed up and past his prime, which lead to the 32-year old gaining little interest in the free agent market. However, Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher took a gamble on Staal with a 3-year $10.5 million deal, a move that has paid off massively for the Wild so far this season. Staal leads the Wild with 16 goals and is 2nd in points with 41 in 48 games so far this season. Bruce Boudreau has Staal revitalized and playing great hockey yet again.
2) Alexander Radulov (MTL) – 48 GP: 12 Goals, 25 Assists, 37 Points, +4, 15 PP Points
The talented russian winger had 2 brief stints in the NHL with the Predators (2006-2008, 2012) previously, but Radulov never seemed to find his game in the NHL and has since spent most of his time in the KHL. However, with an uncertain future in Russia this past summer, Radulov made the return to North America and was looking to cash in big asking for $7.5 million a year. After teams initially being hesitant to sign Radulov, Marc Bergevin took a gamble and the Canadiens signed him to a 1-year $5.75 millon deal. Radulov has shown immediate chemistry with Habs Captain Max Pacioretty, and he’s 2nd on the team with 37 points in 48 games. Radulov should cash in big this summer after proving he can thrive in the NHL.
3) Justin Schultz (PIT) – 48 GP: 8 Goals, 27 Assists, 35 Points, +27, 11 PP Points
Everyone thought it was a bargain when the Penguins traded a 3rd round pick for Schultz at the deadline last year, and he ended up being a good contributor to their Stanley Cup run. However, he found himself without a contract for most of the summer until Rutherford decided the Penguins could afford to bring him back, signing him to a 1-year $1.4 million deal. Schultz has responded with perhaps the best start of his career, 8 goals and 35 points in 35 games including an impressive +27. Schultz has already set a career-high in points and is 3 goals away from his career-best 11 goals, he’s really delivering for Mike Sullivan and the Penguins.
Honourable Mentions: Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ), Sam Gagner (CBJ), Nazem Kadri (TOR)
Breakout Player of the Year
1) Cam Atkinson (CBJ) – 48 GP: 24 Goals, 22 Assists, 46 Points, +5, 19 PP Points
A big part of the Blue Jackets surprising start has been the play of 27-year old Cam Atkinson, who leads the team with 24 goals and 46 points in 48 games. Atkinson is tied with Jeff Carter for 2nd in the NHL with 24 goals, just 4 goals back of Sidney Crosby. He had a career-high 27 goals and 53 points in 81 games last season, and he looks well on his way to setting new bests this year.
2) Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) – 52 GP: 17 Goals, 27 Assists, 44 Points, +5, 9 PP Points
Ehlers had an up-and-down rookie year for the Jets last season, with 15 goals and 38 points in 72 games. However, the young Danish forward has been a different player this season, a dominant force on a line with Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine. Ehlers is 3rd on the team with 17 goals and 2nd behind Mark Scheifele in points with 44. The Ehlers-Scheifele-Laine line is the highest scoring in the NHL, and Ehlers has definitely been the biggest surprise of the three.
3) Mikael Granlund (MIN) – 48 GP: 12 Goals, 30 Assists, 42 Points, +24, 12 PP Points
Granlund has always been a highly-skilled player, but until this season he never has developed into a dominant offensive player. Through 48 games this season he leads the Wild with 42 points, which is impressive considering he had a career-high 13 goals and 44 points in 82 games last season. Granlund seems to be thriving playing on a line with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker, a group that has 41 goals and 110 points combined this season.
Honourable Mentions: Alexander Wennberg (CBJ), Charlie Coyle (MIN), David Pastrnak (BOS)
Rocket Richard Trophy (current standings)
1) Sidney Crosby (PIT) – 28 goals
2) Cam Atkinson (CBJ) – 24 goals
3) Jeff Carter (LAK) – 24 goals
4) Alex Ovechkin (WSH) – 23 goals
5) Auston Matthews (TOR) – 23 goals
Art Ross Trophy (current standings)
1) Connor McDavid (EDM) – 59 points
2) Sidney Crosby (PIT) – 55 points
3) Evgeni Malkin (PIT) – 54 points
4) Brent Burns (SJS) – 51 points
5) Patrick Kane (CHI)/Brad Marchand (BOS) – 48 points
As a bonus, here’s some great shots from the All-Star/NHL Top 100 Weekend:
1) Chris Pronger man-handling Justin Bieber in the Celebrity All-Star Game. Absolutely Priceless
2) Three legends who know a little something about hockey…
3) Shanny, Lucky Luc and Hull reunite from their 02′ Stanley Cup days representing 1990’s wingers
4) The current players voted into the Top 100: Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Jaromir Jagr
5) Two of the best to ever strap on the pads: St. Patrick and the Dominator
6) The face of the NHL the last 10 years, rivals normally but teammates this weekend.
7) Rookie phenom Auston Matthews put on a show going 4/5 in the accuracy, bested only by #87
8) The two guys involved in the biggest trade of the last decade put their teams differences aside
9) Rising superstars Patrik Laine and Connor McDavid sandwich a pair of Blackhawks superstars in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews
10) An impressive 9 players from the NHL’s Top 100 list were from the legendary 2002 Red Wings Stanley Cup team (Dominik Hasek, Pavel Datsyuk, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Chris Chelios and Luc Robitaille)