Conversations about this season’s year-end award candidates have been ongoing since the first puck dropped, but now with the campaign at just about the halfway mark, there are enough significant statistics, plays and content to narrow down categorical frontrunners.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for a number of teams. The Columbus Blue Jackets sit atop the NHL after an incredible 16-game win streak; the Detroit Red Wings’ 25-year playoff streak is in serious jeopardy; and Sidney Crosby leads the league with 26 goals, which he has done in just 32 games—that’s impressive, even for him.
There are more than 20 awards handed out annually at the end of each season, but a handful are statistics-based and earned by leading a given category. Below are our picks for midseason award-winners of the eight biggest independent awards.
Winner: Devan Dubnyk
Considerations: Sergei Bobrovsky, Carey Price
Background: Awarded to the league’s best goaltender.
There’s not much to debate in Dubnyk deserving the Vezina Trophy this season—he leads the league with a .939 SV%, 1.83 GAA and five shutouts. The Minnesota net-minder is also second in wins behind only Bobrovsky.
Dubnyk has been so lights-out that he could even be considered a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. If Dubnyk can build off of his first half, he’s all but set to claim this season’s Vezina Trophy. Bobrovsky and Price will have a long way to go to close the gap for statistical leads.
Jack Adams Award
Winner: John Tortorella
Considerations: Guy Boucher, Bruce Boudreau
Background: Awarded to the coach most attributed to his team’s success.
Almost as one-sided as the Vezina Trophy race, contenders for this award are led by Tortorella, whose accomplishments with the Blue Jackets has put him on pace for his second Jack Adams Award.
After taking over for Todd Richards last season, Tortorella has really made Columbus his own despite the seemingly endless critics and analysts who chalked up Torts as the first coach to be fired this season before it even began.
Boucher’s Senators and Boudreau’s Wild have impressed similarly, but not as much as the league-leading Jackets.
James Norris Trophy
Winner: Brent Burns
Considerations: Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson
Background: Awarded to the defenseman with the best all-around ability at the position.
Burns’ game is growing as fast as his beard. After a career-high 27 goals and 75 points last season, he has taken his game a step further. With 15 goals, 37 points and a plus-12 rating through 39 games, Burns is the absolute frontrunner for his first Norris Trophy.
Hedman, 26, is on pace to set a new career high in all offensive categories, but he and two-time Norris winner Karlsson are merely runners-up this season. Burns and the new eight-year, $64 million contract extension he signed with the Sharks last November are proving it was worth it for San Jose.
Bill Masterton Trophy
Winner: Eric Staal
Considerations: Sam Gagner, Devin Setoguchi
Background: Awarded to the most persistent and dedicated player to hockey.
Staal, 32, has rejuvenated his career and is on pace to have his best offensive season since 2011-12. Through 37 games this year in his first season away from Carolina, Staal has already tied his goal mark from last season (13) and is just six assists shy of tying his 39-point output from 2015-16, as well.
Staal’s rejuvenation set him apart from Gagner’s pace for his best offensive season of his nine-year career and 30-year-old Setoguchi, who has publicly battled alcohol addiction and missed the last two seasons.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Winner: Johnny Gaudreau
Considerations: Matt Duchene, John Carlson
Background: Awarded to the player most sportsmanlike and gentlemanly player.
Johnny Hockey is as gentlemanly as they come. With zero penalty minutes through 30 games, the Calgary center has been a pivot for the Flames the past two years and is primed to be a Lady Byng candidate for years to come.
Duchene has just one penalty on the season, easily the lowest pace of his eight-year career. The physical, shot-blocking Carlson averages more than 23 minutes a night and not having taken a penalty in 38 games puts him in contention, too.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Winner: Ryan Kesler
Considerations: Mark Stone, Brad Marchand
Background: Awarded to the forward who displays the best defensive game.
The Selke Trophy has been the same race for multiple years with Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar always in contention. This year, Kesler is the favorite. Kesler leads the league in faceoff percentage, plays over 21 minutes a game, forces turnovers and boasts a plus-11 with 15 goals and 34 points through 40 games.
Stone has been efficient enough to lead the league in takeaways the past few seasons and always produces solid totals in goals and points but isn’t quite the two-way force Kesler has been in his career. The same can be said for Marchand, who has been a consistent two-way threat in his career, but isn’t quite at Kesler’s level this season.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Winner: Patrik Laine
Considerations: Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski
Background: Awarded to the league’s best rookie player.
As a rookie defenseman, Werenski’s 25 points is impressive enough to see him come in third place for the Calder Trophy. The truth is the Calder is a two-horse race between Laine and Matthews and it’s really up in the air.
Laine takes my vote for a few reasons. While the margins are slim, Laine holds the lead in goals, points and plus/minus. He has also been entrusted with more ice time (which can be argued the opposite way) and starts a significantly less amount if his shifts in the offensive zone. He also plays on a statistically weaker team.
Matthews’ Corsi-for is stronger, but not by a wide enough gap to give him the title. While Laine is a winger, Matthews’ faceoff percentage isn’t high enough to earn him extra points in the rookie race.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Winner: Connor McDavid
Considerations: Vladimir Tarasenko, Sidney Crosby
Background: Awarded to the league’s most valuable player.
After his rookie season was cut short due to a shoulder injury, McDavid has cemented himself as one of the best in the game. While he currently leads the league with 45 points, Tarasenko, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been sitting among the top of the league with him for most of the season.
The Hart is often reserved for more than just the league leader in points. It is often treated as the player who is most valuable to his team. Because of this, Crosby’s consideration is partially weighed down by Malkin and even Phil Kessel at this point.
On the opposite side, this is what helps Tarasenko’s case. The St. Louis Blues currently sit third in the Central Division, which is mostly due to the Russian sitting third in league scoring, just three points out of the lead. Without Tarasenko, the Blues would arguably be worse off than the Oilers without McDavid or the Penguins without Crosby.