Maple Leafs Panel is a weekly feature that is published every Monday throughout the season here at The Hockey Writers. It’s a feature where THW editor Lukas Hardonk as well as THW Toronto Maple Leafs correspondents Mark Ascione and Stephen Stoneman answer three questions that concern the Maple Leafs each week. To catch up on previous editions, click here.
This week’s edition of Maple Leafs Panel is a special one as we hand out mid-season awards to Leafs players.
Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player)
Lukas Hardonk – Nazem Kadri – No one expected this type of performance from Kadri heading into training camp. Not only did he erase doubts of his ability to become a full-time NHLer but he has done so while leading the Maple Leafs in assists, points and power play goals, not to mention his plus-11 rating.
Mark Ascione – Nazem Kadri – Kadri’s shown scoring flash, offensive vision, a reasonable commitment to defensive responsibilities and accepted the role coach Randy Carlyle has given him with maturity. He leads the team in scoring, providing goals and some very creative assists from what is the Leafs’ third line and has been able to do it with a variety of linemates from Matt Frattin to Colton Orr.
Stephen Stoneman – Phil Kessel – This was a difficult choice. Although I am a huge fan of the way Kadri plays the game, I believe that Kessel is this team’s MVP right now. He creates so much space out there for the other players on his line and Bozak and van Riemsdyk have benefited greatly. He also attacks the other club’s best defence, making it easier for the other three lines to score.
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender)
Lukas Hardonk – Ben Scrivens – Scrivens has been lucky enough to take advantage of playing time that he wouldn’t have received if James Reimer didn’t go down to injury. Now has he not only become the Leafs’ starting goalie in Reimer’s absence, he has also surpassed Reimer in goals against average and save percentage while keeping the Leafs in games they otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance in.
Mark Ascione – James Reimer – Both of Toronto’s goalies have played better than expected but I give the nod to Reimer for Vezina. That’s based on a better won-lost record and that he showed more stability to start the season before going down to injury. Ben Scrivens has played well in Reimer’s absence but overall I think Reimer has just been consistently better.
Stephen Stoneman – James Reimer – Ben Scrivens has played well but James Reimer is the goalie that will take this club to the next level this year. Is he the goalie of the future? I believe that’s up to him, but with a 7-3 record and a calming demeanor, he gets the nod in net from me.
Calder Memorial Trophy (most outstanding rookie)
Lukas Hardonk – Leo Komarov – Between Komarov and Korbinian Holzer, this one has to go to Komarov. He is a ball of energy every time he steps on the ice and isn’t afraid to hit whoever he feels like, whether it is in open ice or against the boards. He has proven to be a strong fore-checker and is reliable enough defensively to play him whenever needed.
Mark Ascione – Leo Komarov – Komarov has added a gritty spark to the Leafs’ bottom-six forward group. I’d like to see a little more offense from him but he’s been an energy player and relatively responsible defensively. With a thin rookie class in Toronto, he’s been the best of them so far.
Stephen Stoneman – Korbinian Holzer – Holzer started the season with the Marlies after having signed a two-way contract in the off-season. He has played in all situations as a defender but as the teammate to Dion Phaneuf, he has had to be a stay-at-home, tough presence on the blue line and he has been equal to the task.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (top defenceman)
Lukas Hardonk – Cody Franson – The Maple Leafs have been able to rely on Franson more than they ever have. He is no longer a liability on the ice and has proven to be a relatively strong defender, even when placed up against some of the league’s best. As well, his plus-11 rating is tied for second on the team and beats Dion Phaneuf’s minus-7 rating by an astonishing 18 points.
Mark Ascione – Dion Phaneuf – I give Phaneuf a slight edge over Cody Franson for best defenseman. Admittedly, Franson has a gaudy plus-11 rating over Phaneuf’s minus-7 but I feel Phaneuf’s 10 minutes more per game and that he plays more difficult minutes than others, warrant this selection. Phaneuf is not an elite NHL defender but he is the best of the Leafs’ blueliners and I think he’s played that way.
Stephen Stoneman – Dion Phaneuf – At the beginning of the year, I would have thought that Jake Gardiner and Jon-Michael Liles would have been his biggest competitors. He is ranked 25th in the league among defencemen in points with 10 and his shot is starting to hit the net. What gives it away for me is that the coach has him on the ice for 26-plus minutes per game which is fifth in the league. I came close to giving Phaneuf the Hart Trophy as well.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
Lukas Hardonk – Jay McClement – It has been a while since the Maple Leafs have had a bottom-six forward than can fore-check and hold down the fort defensively. McClement leads the Leafs in shorthanded ice time by more than ten minutes, takes the odd faceoff and provides balance on a line that sometimes consists of Mike Brown, Frazer McLaren or Colton Orr.
Mark Ascione – Jay McClement – Another tough decision but I give newcomer McClement the edge. He’s won the fourth line center spot over David Steckel, he’s played quite well on the penalty kill and he’s been a factor in helping Orr, Mike Brown and Frazer McLaren to play minutes for the team that do not hurt the team. He’s been a definite upgrade for the Leafs over previous bottom-six forwards.
Stephen Stoneman – Jay McClement – McClement will give 29 general managers fits for not signing him this off season. At $1.5 million per season, McClement is a steal. He is now an alternate captain for the Maple Leafs, who have enjoyed great success in their penalty killing and overall defensive style of play this year and he is leading the way. While Carlyle also deserves credit, McClement is the number one reason.
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Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.