The NHL Awards in Las Vegas are not taking place until June 22, but the playoffs are not a factor in the regular season awards (supposedly). With that in mind, here are my predictions for the four biggest awards.
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks is the obvious choice for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player considered most valuable to his team. Early season legal allegations could have taken Kane’s mind off of the game, but it did not even seem to faze the 27-year-old. Kane went about his business, setting career highs in goals (46) and assists (60). He also added a 26-game point streak from Oct. 17 to Dec. 13, a Blackhawks’ franchise record. He will officially receive the Art Ross Trophy for scoring the most points of any player in the NHL this season, the first American-born payer to receive the honor. Kane’s knack for clutch goals and consistent reliability over the years makes him the obvious choice for the Hart.
The Calder Memorial Trophy recipient is a very tough call. Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres finished second in points among rookies, Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes led rookies in assists with 34, Dylan Larkin led the Red Wings in points and Connor McDavid averaged over a point a game and was the favorite to win the Calder coming into the season if not for his injury. Despite all these fantastic candidates, Kane’s line mate Artemi Panarin deserves it most. Panarin’s body of work speaks for itself, aside from being on a line with the Art Ross winner this year. “The Bread Man” led rookies in goals with 30 and points with 77. Although Panarin spent a few years in the KHL and is older than the rest of his Calder competitors, that shouldn’t be a knock on him—he deserves the award.
As for the Norris, which is awarded to the defensive player who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability, I’ll give it to Ottawa Senators point man Erik Karlsson. Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings has been touted as a better selection than Karlsson, but in terms of all-around ability I think Karlsson edges Doughty out. Karlsson had 66 assists on the season and was the first defenseman to finish top five in league scoring since Paul Coffey did it for the Edmonton Oilers back in 1985-86. Karlsson averaged a point per game this season, good for sixth in the last 20 years among defenseman, and also had the most time on ice of any defenseman.
Last but not least, for the Vezina Award I think the clear choice is Braden Holtby. It was a great year for the Washington Capitals, and Holtby was a big reason for that. Holtby finished top ten in save percentage and goals against average on the President’s Trophy- winning Capitals, not to mention tying New Jersey Devils great Martin Brodeur for most wins in a season with 48. Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, Martin Jones and Corey Crawford all had good seasons, but none were as complete as Holtby’s.