The Hart, Norris, and Vezina Trophy winners will truly earn their recognition with a full NHL season ready to begin. Some of the individuals chosen for awards after last year’s shortened season were not done so without debate. Alexander Ovechkin was a questionable Hart Trophy winner after getting hot for one month out of the season. None of the three Norris Trophy candidates stood out from the other. At the very least, players will have the opportunity to plead their case for each award under the lights of a full season.
Hart Memorial Trophy – Sidney Crosby
Crosby was snubbed from his second Hart Trophy after he missed 10 games due to injury. He was a handful of points ahead of everyone else before he took a puck to the face. Crosby only participated in 36 of the 48 games and was still the third highest point-scorer in the league. After putting in hours and hours of tireless work to improve the small details of his craft, Crosby is now respected in every facet of the game. He’s one of the premiere face-off men in the league, and his defense has improved dramatically. As long as he is healthy, Crosby will lead the league in scoring. Chalk Crosby up for the Hart Trophy after pulling the short straw a year ago.
Vezina Trophy – Tuukka Rask
Will someone give this man some recognition? He quietly shined in Tim Thomas’s shadow while Thomas was the best net-minder in the league. Thomas took a sabbatical and Rask hasn’t caused the Boston Bruins to take a step back in any way. There aren’t many teams who can lose a Vezina and Conne Smythe Trophy winner and not skip a beat when the next goalie fills in. That’s exactly what Rask has done. Rask will play in more games this season due to Anton Khudobin departing for the Carolina Hurricanes. Rask is the epitome of consistent but inexplicably gets overshadowed by goalies like Henrik Lundqvist. He’ll have another sensational year and finally get recognized for it.
James Norris Memorial Trophy – Kris Letang
Letang was neck and neck with PK Subban in last year’s Norris Trophy race. Letang missed some contests due to injury and Subban took home the hardware. For some reason, the Norris Trophy seems to go to an offensive defenseman every year now. There’s no reason to think this season will be different. That’s why Letang will win. He averaged better than a point per game last year. The knock on his game has always been his defensive play. The acquisition of Rob Scuderi will inadvertently make his defending look improved. Letang’s defense should be better than a year ago. If it does, Letang’s an automatic lock for the Norris. He’s in a small class of elite blue-liners with Erik Karlsson, Subban, and Suter. Letang will have his day in the sun once this season comes to a halt.
Calder Memorial Trophy – Jonathan Drouin
Drouin is dynamic. He’s never failed to impress. If he finds his way on a line or power play with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, the sky is the limit. Drouin is a player who doesn’t come along very often. He has the skill set to score or be a play-maker. Playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the highest scoring teams in the league, will help Drouin plead his Calder case. Drouin is quick and has shown in the preseason that he can handle the pressure that comes with being drafted 3rd overall. Stamkos made a very minor impact in his rookie year. He has the knowledge to help Drouin from making the same rookie mistakes. Stamkos will mentor Drouin to a Calder Trophy.
Art Ross Trophy – Sidney Crosby
Crosby has played with the same line-mates for a handful of seasons. The chemistry is there and keeps growing. Having made it through last season without sustaining a concussion, Crosby will be more comfortable in all areas of the ice. There will be no hesitation in Crosby to hang out in front of an opponent’s goal crease where he registers the most of his goals. When he’s not lighting lamps, Crosby is an assist machine. All of the aforementioned factors, and that he plays on the most talented power play in the world, Crosby will take home a scoring title.
Maurice Richard Trophy – Steven Stamkos
Stamkos has taken over Ovechkin as the most dynamic sniper in hockey. While Ovechkin took this trophy home a year ago, if an entire year played out, Stamkos would have hoisted the award. Ovechkin isn’t the same guy who put up 65 goals. On the other hand, Stamkos is only 23 years old. He may not have hit his prime yet, and is only getting better. Stamkos has the best one-timer in the league and will play on a line with the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, and assist leader (St. Louis) from a year ago. Stamkos has averaged 52 goals a season over the past four years and this is including last year’s 48 game season where he had 28. Stamkos will score 55 goals and take home the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Frank J. Selke Trophy – Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron is the best two-way player in the league. The man can do it all. He is one of the top face-off men in the league. This attribute gives Bergeron an advantage in his own zone when his team possesses the puck off of a draw. No task is too tough for Bergeron when matching up against another teams’ best line. He proved this in his series against the Pittsburgh Penguins by shutting their tandem of stars down. The Bruins are collectively one of the best defensive squads every season and this will help cement Bergeron’s case for the Selke.
Lady Byng Trophy – Martin St. Louis
A season ago, St. Louis won the Art Ross Trophy and was a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy. This year he’ll take home the Lady Byng, but won’t be fortunate enough to win the scoring title. St. Louis plays hard and is one of the most respected players in the league for his small stature and work ethic. He has a great reputation and displays sportsmanship on a game-to-game basis. St. Louis hasn’t taken more than 16 penalty minutes in his last five seasons.
Jack Adams Award – Dallas Eakins
With a fresh new face and outlook, this is the year that the Oilers finally live up to the hype. They have all of the talent, but haven’t been able to produce results. The Oilers will find a way to make the playoffs for the first time since they were defeated by the Hurricanes in the 2005-06 Stanley Cup Finals. Dallas Eakins will bring a new mentality to a team that desperately needed a change. The time is now for the Oilers to shine, and Eakins will take home the Jack Adams Award.