The National Hockey League hands out a number of awards every year to players for various achievements. Whether it’s their scoring prowess, leadership, or ability to keep the puck out of the net, winning an NHL award is an incredible honour and a highlight of a players career.
Unfortunately, most players will never win one. There are only 14 major awards given out to players every year and over 800 players who suit up for at least one game. Plus, players like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Connor McDavid keep winning them year after year, making it even harder. Great players can go their entire career without winning one.
Today, we’re going to give the Winnipeg Jets a chance to win some of these awards. Connor Hellebuyck has already been named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, given to the league’s best goaltender. It’s fair to say he would be the Jets winner as well.
We are going to look at five other awards, which Jets players would be finalists, and which player would win.
Calder Memorial Trophy
- Tucker Poolman
- Jack Roslovic
- Kyle Connor
Winner: Kyle Connor
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 4, 2018
The Jets only played five rookies during the season. Only one played more than half the games, which was Connor. So for the Jets, he is the obvious choice.
For the league, he’s also a great choice. Connor has made a good push for rookie of the year, and although he isn’t likely to win, he has to feel great about his freshman season.
Connor led all rookies in goals with 31 and fit perfectly on a high skill line of Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. His speed and creativity fit the Jets offensive plan, and his steadily improving back-checking fit Paul Maurice’s defensive plan. Even with all the superstars on the team, Connor has pushed his way into the top of the pack with his rookie year.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
- Josh Morrissey
- Jacob Trouba
- Dustin Byfuglien
Winner: Josh Morrissey
Could it really be anyone else? Morrissey has been the definition of consistency during a year where the Jets back end was decimated by injuries. He played 81 games, getting held out of a late-season game for rest only.
He held a 52.17% Corsi mark in close games, the best on the Jets for players who were in 60 games or more. He quietly put up 26 points and formed one of the leagues best defensive pairings along with Jacob Trouba. Morrissey plays arguably the hardest minutes of any Jets defender and rarely makes a mistake. The Hockey News named him the Jets unsung hero.
With all the talk that surrounds Trouba and Byfuglien, the Jets have an absolute rock in the back with Morrissey, who just turned 23 last month.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
- Bryan Little
- Adam Lowry
- Joel Armia
Winner: Bryan Little
The Selke Trophy is meant to be given to the best defensive forward. What this typically means is a player who is great on both ends of the ice. And that’s why the Jets would give this trophy to Little.
Little fell to third-line centre by the end of the season, even though he could be a second-line player on most NHL teams. The Jets depth allowed Little to focus on other things, and he thrived. He played all 82 games for the first time since 2013-14, totalling a respectable 43 points. He posted a positive plus/minus stat line for the first time in three years and won an absurd 56.05 percent of his faceoffs.
They say the best defence is a good offence. Little’s ability to win faceoffs and hold onto the puck when the Jets possess it has made life difficult for opposing teams. It’s not rare to find Little cycling the puck in the offensive end.
Most players would be disheartened losing the top centre spot, but Little has taken his new role and thrived.
Ted Lindsay Award
- Mark Scheifele
- Patrik Laine
- Blake Wheeler
Winner: Patrik Laine
Slightly different than the Hart Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award is given to the player voted most outstanding, not most valuable.
For that, it has to be Laine. 44 goals in a season is an incredible feat. 44 goals as a 19-year-old? That enters superstar territory.
Laine finished his teenaged years with 80 goals, third only to original Winnipeg Jets Dale Hawerchuk and Jimmy Carson. He’s 11th in points as a teenager, with Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos the only players from after 2005 on that list.
And he does this…
How? Just how?
Hart Memorial Trophy
- Patrik Laine
- Blake Wheeler
- Connor Hellebuyck
Winner: Connor Hellebuyck
Ovechkin has won a number of Hart Trophy’s based on his goal-scoring ability for his team. Laine has done that for his team as well. His creatively and goal-scoring is vital to the team’s success. But there are two players on the team who have absolutely led the Jets to a franchise-best season and a 4-1 series win over the Minnesota Wild.
Wheeler took the captain role at the beginning of last season and has led the young team through the highs and lows, culminating with a 91 point season for Wheeler and a franchise-record number of wins. He has been the Jets defacto leader and a league-wide front-runner for the Hart for a good portion of the year.
“Looking at Wheels going 100% every shift makes us do it as well,” Nikolaj Ehlers said when Wheeler was made captain in 2016. When Scheifele went down with an injury earlier in the year, Wheeler moved to centre, a position he had never played in the NHL. The Jets didn’t miss a beat, continuing to win without their number one centre, something that would destroy many NHL teams.
But as valuable as Wheeler has been, the biggest difference between last years Jets and this year’s Jets is their goaltending, and it starts and ends with Hellebuyck.
Here’s the short list of areas that Hellebuyck improved from the 2016-17 season:
- Games played: 67 (last year: 56)
- Wins: 44 (last year: 26)
- Save percentage: .924 (last year: .907)
- Goals against average: 2.36 (last year: 2.89)
Solid goaltending has pushed the Jets from a bubble team to a Stanley Cup contender. And as icing on the cake, Hellebuyck has the most wins in a single season of all American goaltenders. The Jets are a really good team. But Hellebuyck has made them elite.
Judson Rempel was born and raised in the Great White North, skating on ponds and watching hockey every Saturday night in small town Manitoba. When he’s not watching hockey, he’s playing hockey with his son and daughter, and trying to convince his wife to let him watch more hockey.