NHL Awards Predictions as Regular Season Concludes

With many of the NHL playoff spots now locked up, it is a good time to reflect on the NHL regular season. Here, I’ve listed off many of the major NHL awards, or at least the ones I think are important and people should care about (seriously, what is the King Clancy Award?), and have given my predictions for who will be lifting each trophy in Nashville when the playoffs conclude.

For those who may not know what each award is or their associated criteria, the official NHL definition is listed below each prediction. Without further ado, let’s get into this year’s predictions!

Hart: Connor McDavid, Center, Edmonton Oilers

“The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.”

What a historic season this has been for McDavid. Was there really any doubt that this award would be his? 148 points with three games left in the regular season puts him at 1.87 points per game, numbers we haven’t seen in decades. This year, McDavid has put it all together by scoring more goals than ever before and by a wide margin. Before this season, McDavid had never broken the 50-goal plateau; however, this year he sits at 62 and counting. Clearly, studying Auston Matthews has paid off. 

Art Ross: Connor McDavid, Center, Edmonton Oilers

The Art Ross Trophy is an annual award given to the player who leads the National Hockey League in scoring points at the end of the regular season.”

This one is easy as well. Considering this is a purely statistical award, it shouldn’t be surprising that McDavid will win this one. I can basically copy and paste my reasoning for the last entry into this spot and it should suffice. 148 points in 79 games; just give him the trophy already.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Defense, San Jose Sharks

“An annual award given to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”

Finally, our first non-McDavid answer. This is one of the first years in recent history where a dominant favorite has yet to emerge for the Norris Trophy. At the beginning of the season, Josh Morrissey was having a career year and caused many to think he could take home this award for the first time. However, as the Jets started slipping in the standings, so did his candidacy. Instead, it has been Erik Karlsson, who has quietly had a career resurging year. 

Although the Sharks haven’t been good, Karlsson has been the team’s lone bright spot. Karlsson became the first d-man since Brian Leetch in 1991 and the sixth ever to notch 100 points. This is something that Roman Josi came close to doing last year but ultimately missed out on. While there were rumors that he may be moved at the deadline, the Sharks failed to secure a deal. It would have been interesting to see Karlsson play for a competitive team looking to win his first Lord Stanley, but I guess this year he’ll just have to settle for the Norris trophy. Not too shabby.

Vezina: Linus Ullmark, Goalie, Boston Bruins

“The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper judged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.”

I would love to pick Connor Hellebuyck, who practically carried the Jets all year, or Ilya Sorokin, who elevated a mediocre Islanders team into the wild card, but Linus Ullmark is this year’s clear winner. With a sparkling save percentage of .937 and 38 wins to his name, Ullmark has been the gold standard for goalies this year. It obviously doesn’t hurt that he is playing behind the best defensive team in the league, with players such as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy, and Hampus Lindholm probably inflating his save percentage a little, but it’s hard to argue with numbers like this. Much credit has been given to the Bruins’ goalie coach Bob Essensa, who encouraged Ullmark to never stop moving and utilize something called “backflow,” which allows him to quickly get to his spots without putting strain on his body. Ullmark turned in an all-time performance this year. This selection was another easy choice.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron

“The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”

Surprise surprise: the five-time Selke winner gets his sixth. At 37 years old, you wonder how much longer Bergeron will be playing in the league, but the one thing that has come to define his career is his defensive superiority. Leading the troops for the best team in the league and playing a consistent, hard-working, responsibility-oriented role should be more than enough for him to win this award again.

The Selke is one of those trophies that divides opinions due to its criteria. By definition, the trophy should be given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game; however, historically, it has been given to superstars who also excel offensively. It is considered somewhat of a “two-way player award” and is typically awarded to centers. However, I think there should be less emphasis on positional play. Players such as Mark Stone, Mitch Marner, and Bergeron’s teammate Brad Marchand are all worthy candidates who do not get nearly enough recognition for their defensive prowess, just because they play in a supposedly less challenging position. It would be a major injustice if Mark Stone retires without at least one Selke title to his name.

Calder: Matty Beniers

“An annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL, selected in a PWHA poll.”

Since the beginning of the season, this has been Beniers’ title to lose. In his first year out of college, all Beniers’ plays first-line center for a second-year expansion franchise and led them to their first playoff berth in their history. Not many rookies can be relied upon to lead the franchise to the playoffs. It has been his play that has elevated the Kraken to this new level of competitive hockey. While it’s not all about points with Beniers (he is a tremendous two-way player), he has had 56 of them so far in 76 games played – a full 10 points more than the next closest rookie.