2018 NHL Awards Predictions: Training Camp Edition

It’s late September, so naturally it’s time to start making end of year award predictions for the NHL.

(Also, if the beginning of that introductory sentence made you think of Rod Stewart, I have a fist bump for you).

Anything, and I mean pretty much ANYTHING can happen between now and the end of the NHL’s 82-game season. But if you like lists, educated guesses, shamed hockey writers and excuses to get angry and hurl insults on Twitter, boy, is this article for you.

The awards will be listed in the same order in which they were presented at the awards show last season, with the Art Ross and Maurice Richard Trophies (statistically based) slotted in wherever I damn well feel like putting them…

Awards given for charitable contributions, leadership and perseverance will not be listed below, though you can bet that the Bill Masterton Trophy will be going to Brian Boyle, as he gets set to battle opponents and leukemia simultaneously. Best wishes to an all-around excellent human being. Get well soon, “Boyler.”

Without further ado:

Ted Lindsay Award — Most Outstanding Player


Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Winner: Sidney Crosby

This is essentially the NHL’s “Street Cred” Award, with voting being done by the players themselves. When asking around the league, one would be hard pressed to find a more consistent answer regarding the identity of the game’s best player, yet he hasn’t captured the Lindsay since the 2013-14 season. That just seems like too long a span to not change this season.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
Sidney Crosby (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Connor McDavid, the reigning winner, has entered the conversation as the Lemieux to Crosby’s Gretzky. Like Lemieux before him, McDavid will certainly pilfer one or two more away from the longer tenured and still-prime superstar. But with Sid still being at the height of his powers and his team pacing the league two years running it’s once again Sid’s award to lose.

Should he garner the votes, the win (his fourth) would put him in the most elite company. Since the award’s inception in 1971, only two players have been honored four times. The players? Lemieux and Gretzky.

Selke Trophy — Best Defensive Forward


Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blaclhawks

The Winner: Patrice Bergeron

The least inventive and most predictable award of the list goes to…..

With all due respect to Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron is the league’s best defensive forward. He’s possibly the best of all-time. If a mad scientist created a hockey-playing cyborg Bergeron would be the end result. Be it on the face-off dot, on the penalty kill or just shadowing the other team’s best players at five-on-five he excels as a matchup nightmare.

Patrice Bergeron, NHL, Boston Bruins, Fantasy Hockey, Fantasy
Patrice Bergeron (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Not only is he the reigning winner, the man has won four of the last six Selke Trophies. In the two years he didn’t capture the award he finished second in voting. Furthermore, one of those second-place finishes saw him just 10 votes (1,260-1,250) behind Jonathan Toews.

Bob Gainey is the only other player in league history to have won the award four times. With Kesler sidelined for months to begin the season, Bergeron’s thin competition is even more slim.

Gun to my head, this is the prediction of which I’m most certain.

Norris Trophy — Best Defenseman


Roman Josi, Nashville Predators

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Winner: Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlson, for all intents and purposes, is the best defenseman in the league. The show he put on during last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals likely forced some voters to reconsider the ballot they’d cast for Brent Burns, the reigning winner.

Previously, Karlsson had been perceived as somewhat of a one-trick pony; an elite puck mover and offensive talent who was merely adequate in his own end. Those perceptions were obliterated last season, as the then-26-year-old finished second league-wide in blocked shots while neutralizing the game’s best forwards nightly.

Norris Finalists, Ottawa Senators, Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I could have rounded-out the finalists with the usual suspects (Burns, Doughty, Keith, Subban), but where’s the fun in that?

It’s officially Josi’s time to shine in Nashville, with the captain’s “C” and last year’s run to the Finals finally removing the “Underrated” tag from his name. A healthy Kris Letang on this Penguins team seems destined to finish higher than fourth in voting for the first time in his career.

Regardless, the award is seemingly Karlsson’s to lose. He’s a virtual-lock for 65-70 points and his progressive, exponential improvement defensively have removed the sole caveat to his name.

Calder Trophy — Rookie of the Year


Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils

Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

The Winner: Charlie McAvoy

As I’ve previously mentioned here and here, I (and many like me) expect big things this season from Charlie McAvoy. Being highly-touted and excelling against competition your own age is one thing. Exuding poise, ability and the illusion of experience as you receive your baptism by fire in the NHL Playoffs is another entirely.

McAvoy announced to the league that he had arrived during Boston’s first-round loss to the Ottawa Senators, playing top pair minutes in all situations for a team decimated by injury. His 26-plus minutes of ice time per game were second-most on the team, while his three points through six contests were just one point off the team lead.

Charlie McAvoy(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

And he has yet to play a regular season game in the NHL.

Nico Hischier and Clayton Keller both figure to play prominent roles with their respective clubs. Furthermore, voters are typically swayed with gaudy offensive totals when casting ballots for the award; something which bodes well for their chances.

However, the very real “East Coast Bias” will likely diminish Keller’s totals somewhat; just two of the last 13 Calder winners played west of the Mississippi. Additionally, the fact that neither of Hishier nor Keller’s clubs appear to be playoff-bound will further decrease their chances.

McAvoy figures to play top-four minutes on an Original Six franchise which, on paper, has the look of at least a bubble team. I expect him to ride big minutes and solid offensive numbers to the top, much like Aaron Ekblad in 2014.

General Manager of the Year


Ron Francis, Carolina Hurricanes

Jim Nill, Dallas Stars

Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames

The Winner: Jim Nill

“Which team’s offseason personnel moves will result in the biggest leap up the standings” is the main question I asked myself when considering the candidates for this award. Perhaps no organization in the league did more for themselves this offseason than Dallas, and therefore Jim Nill captures his first GM of the Year award.

Nill is a “Hockey Man,” plain and simple. The respect he has cultivated around the league first as scout with Ottawa and then an executive with Detroit (where he won four Cups) qualifies as “rarefied air.”

Louis DeLuca
Jim Nill (Louis DeLuca/Dallas News)

As GM for Dallas, he was nominated for the award in 2016, ultimately ceding to Jim Rutherford. The offseason additions of Ben Bishop, Alexander Radulov and Marc Methot will bolster a team that figured to be vastly improved even without their inclusion. A leap from last season’s 79 points into the playoffs will likely force Nill into the conversation.

Ron Francis has done an incredible job accruing young talent in Carolina. The ‘Canes are a popular dark horse to surprise in the East, though the vaunted Metropolitan Division will be a tough nut to crack. Similarly, Brad Treliving has fortified his back end with the addition of Travis Hamonic and the hopeful resurgence of Mike Smith. Should the Flames make waves I’d expect to see his name on the ballot as well.

Ultimately, the work Nill has done (along with his reputation around the league) nets him the award.

Jack Adams Award — Coach of the Year


Mike Babcock

Ken Hitchcock

Bill Peters

The Winner: Ken Hitchcock

Similarly to GM of the Year, the Jack Adams historically is awarded to the coach of a team who improved leaps and bounds over the course of one season. Additionally, success in Year One at a new stop catches the eye of voters. Of the four most recent winners, three (John Tortorella, Bob Hartley and Patrick Roy) took their team to the playoffs following at least a one-year hiatus. The fourth coach (Barry Trotz) won the Presidents’ Trophy in his first season with Washington.

Ken Hitchcock (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

Ken Hitchcock, back in Dallas for his second stint, likely checks off both boxes. In parts of seven seasons with Dallas during his first stint, he guided the Stars to the playoffs five times. He appeared in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals, winning it all in 1999.

Regular season success is Hitchcock’s M.O. Over 781 regular season games, “Hitch’s” teams have averaged 99 points per 82 games, and the “loser point” didn’t even exist during his first four season’s as a head coach. His teams seldom fare as well in the playoffs, but those contests won’t factor into the voting.

Bill Peters will preside over the expectedly-improved Carolina Hurricanes, though the aforementioned gauntlet that is “The Met” will present a steep climb.

The real wild card in all of this is Mike Babcock, who shockingly has yet to win the award. The man wins everywhere he goes, as I briefly touched on in my Atlantic Division Primer. He may not be a first-year coach, nor did his team miss the playoffs last season. Regardless, the “honorary” win feels like it’s coming for “Babs.”

Mike Babcock, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs
Mike Babcock(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, Hitchcock’s return to familiar settings with a vastly improved roster bodes well for his chances to win his second Jack Adams Award. He wins by the narrowest of margins, after his team is upset in the first round of the playoffs…

Lady Byng Trophy — Sportsmanship and Gentlemanly Conduct


Alexander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Ryan O’Reilly, Buffalo Sabres

The Winner: Ryan O’Reilly

The oft-forgotten caveat to this award is that a player must be significantly impactful to qualify; taking a friendly public skate through 82 games is not enough.

Ryan O’Reilly (the 2014 winner) is perennially one of the least penalized players in the league. Considering his role as a premier shut-down centerman that’s no small feat. Playing tough minutes nightly against the league’s best, O’Reilly has spent just 32 minutes in the sin bin over his last 305 regular season contests. His 234 points over that same span rocket him to the top of this list.

Ryan O’Reilly (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Anze Kopitar and Alexander Barkov have each been finalists for the award, with Kopitar capturing the Lady Byng in 2016. Though each figure to replicate their elite and gentlemanly play this season, what O’Reilly is able to do year-in and year-out will likely get him back to the top while playing for an improved Buffalo Sabres squad.

Maurice Richard Trophy — Most Goals

Finalists (Top Three):

Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

The Winner: Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos is once again healthy, and the NHL has been put on notice.

Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos (Photo By: Andy Martin Jr)

“Stammer” has won the award twice before, doing so in 2010 and 2012. His acumen combined with the emergence of another elite scorer in Nikita Kucherov figures to be nightmare-fuel for opponents. Stamkos himself is excited at the thought of getting the band back together:

I had a chance to play with [Kucherov] and [Namestnikov] at the beginning of last year and we had great chemistry. Things change from year to year, obviously. But we saw what Kucherov did last year and how great of a player he is. We had some great chemistry, so we’ll see what happens.

– Steven Stamkos (Corey Long, NHL.com) September 16, 2017

Having an ace like Victor Hedman quarterbacking your team’s outstanding power play doesn’t hurt either.

He figures to have some stiff competition, however. Vladimir Tarasenko has finished in the top five league-wide in goals in each of his last three seasons. He reached the 40-goal plateau in 2016 and finished just one shy of replicating the feat a season ago. Moreover, he’s still just 25 years old.

All Alex Ovechkin has done is win the Richard Trophy six times, including four-straight years until last season. When fans and prognosticators call for your head after a 33-goal season…you’re doing something right. With a “down year” behind him and even greater expectations following the departure of several key teammates, “Ovie” will blast back into the high-skying stratosphere this season.

Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and the reigning winner (Crosby) will certainly be in the mix. Regardless, I have a nagging hunch that Stamkos will top them all when all is said and done.

Vezina Trophy — Best Goaltender


Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

The Winner: Carey Price

All three of the aforementioned netminders regularly finish toward the top of the annual goals-against and save percentage rankings. Furthermore, Sergei Bobrovsky (the reigning and two-time winner) and Devan Dubnyk (a one-time finalist) play behind two of the league’s best defensive units. But for my money, Carey Price is the best in the world. Not even questionable depth on defense can or will slow him down this season.

Carey Price (Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)

Surprisingly, Price has only captured the award once and been nominated for it just twice. His lone Vezina was accompanied by the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award in 2015, becoming the first goaltender since Dominik Hasek in 1998 to win all three awards in one season.

As goes Price, so go the Canadiens. This was never more evident than during the 2015-16 season, when a Price-less Canadiens team failed to reach the postseason after making it to the Conference Finals and Second Round (respectively) in the two seasons prior.

Despite returning from a nagging, season-ending injury, he catapulted his team back to the top of the Atlantic Division a year ago. With a full season of health under his belt, look for Price to eclipse last season’s successes and capture his second Vezina.

Art Ross Trophy — Most Points


Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Winner: Connor McDavid

This was DIFFICULT. Not even so much identifying the winner, but rather predicting the top three in a league filled with superstars. Ultimately, I had to give the nod to McDavid.

Patrick Kane and Evgeni Malkin are point-per-game players, but each has missed ten games or more in multiple seasons over the last four years (with Malkin doing so every year). Kane is also sure to miss Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa.

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers, NHL
Connor McDavid (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl and Patrik Laine figure to build upon their already considerable early success. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin should put up bushels of points on an improved Dallas team. It stands to reason that the aforementioned Maurice Richard Finalists will be toward the top of the list as well.

Ultimately, it was the “Been there, done that” factor (as well as the obviousness) which led me to Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Kucherov registered 85 points last season despite playing 65 games without Steven Stamkos; his return could push those totals closer to 100.

McDavid (the reigning winner) seems the likeliest of the bunch, albeit by a narrow margin over Crosby. Edmonton will be scoring with the best of them this season, and “McJesus” is the engine. He has 148 points in just 127 career games and still can’t legally buy himself a beer on the road in the States. Not that machines drink beer…

The sky is the limit for McDavid. Put him down for his second-consecutive Art Ross Trophy.

Hart Trophy — Most Valuable Player


Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Winner: Sidney Crosby

Back where we started, with Crosby, Karlsson and McDavid vying for Player of the Year honors.

In the past decade, three skaters (Martin St. Louis, Corey Perry and Daniel Sedin) have won the Art Ross and lost the Hart to another skater. At the end of the 2017-18 season that list will grow by one, with Crosby narrowly besting the Art Ross-winning McDavid.

McDavid and Crosby
McDavid and Crosby (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

My reasoning?

For starters, the Hart hasn’t gone to the same player in consecutive seasons since Ovechkin’s wins in 2008 and 2009.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, Crosby hasn’t won the award in four years, and has won it just twice before. I have a hard time believing that Sidney Crosby will go five years (or longer) between being voted MVP, don’t you?

Finally, with Draisaitl now being McDavid’s version of Malkin, Sid’s importance to his club won’t be undermined (comparatively speaking) quite as significantly as in prior seasons. Neither Crosby nor McDavid will be looked at as having received more assistance than the other. Both teams are loaded, both players are incredible…it’s up to just the two of them to settle this one.

Connor McDavid likely has many, MANY more Hart Trophies coming his way. I expect him to miss out on one this season by an impossibly small margin.