The Tampa Bay Lightning are at the halfway point in their season and have started to catch fire lately. They have won eight straight games and are back in the playoff picture. They have also had some of their star players pick up their play recently, helping get them back into playoff contention.
Every player on the Lightning has a role, and some of those players could have a chance to win something in June at the NHL Awards. While league-wide voting won’t start for a while, it’s a good time to see who would win each NHL award if voting happened just within the Lightning organization.
The Masterton Trophy is given to a player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication. While the Lightning don’t have anyone who went through what last year’s winner Robin Lehner experienced, they have one player who is having a big comeback year. After scoring just 28 points in 73 games with the New York Rangers last year, Kevin Shattenkirk already has 26 points in 42 games and has a plus-15 rating.
At one point in his career, Shattenkirk was a highly-respected and sought-after offensive defenseman. He was bought out by the Rangers last year and signed a one-year “prove it” contract with the Lightning and seems to have found his game once again. He was hurt a lot with the Rangers as well, and he has stayed healthy with the Lightning to be a regular night in and night out.
Instead of sulking and letting that affect his play, Shattenkirk pulled himself up by his skate laces and is now one of the most important players to the Lightning, and he deserves to be their Masterton Trophy recipient.
Lady Byng Trophy
Given to the player who best combines sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability, the Lightning could have a few winners for this. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are candidates, but the winner should be Brayden Point. In 39 games this season, Point has 39 points and only seven penalty minutes. He also averages just under 19 minutes of ice time per game and has 16 takeaways to 11 giveaways this season.
As I said before, a case could be made for Palat to win the award for the Lightning. He has 26 points in 42 games with just 16 penalty minutes, and Johnson has four penalty minutes and 20 points in 37 games. However, Point has been a key factor in the Lightning and their offensive abilities. While Palat and Johnson have as well, Point finished 49th and 41st in each of the last two seasons for the award. Palat has one top-40 finish and Johnson finished 12th for the trophy in 2015.
Related: Lightning Preseason Award Winners
When it comes to all of the qualities that exemplify a Lady Byng Trophy winner, Point is the Lightning’s best option.
The Selke Trophy goes to the NHL’s best defensive forward, and Patrice Bergeron has won the award four times and finished in the top five for the award 10 times. For the Lightning, the best player for the award is someone who has been compared to Bergeron already by teammates and opposing coaches: Anthony Cirelli.
In 41 games, Cirelli has 27 points and playing more than 18:30 per game. He is tied for third on the Lightning at plus-11, third among forwards in blocked shots with 27 and fourth among forwards in hits with 51. He also leads the team with 31 takeaways. His value is unprecedented while shorthanded as well, leading all forwards with nearly three minutes of shorthanded ice time per game.
Cirelli was a valuable player last year, but he has been even better this year and deserves the Lightning Selke Trophy, and it’s possible he could win the trophy for the rest of the league in June.
This one is tough because the Lightning don’t have a lot of rookies making immediate impacts. As of right now, the rookies in their lineup include Mitchell Stephens and Carter Verhaeghe, and between the two, Verhaeghe has to be the go-to selection.
After leading the American Hockey League (AHL) in goals and scoring last season, Verhaeghe has nine points in 29 games and is minus-two this season. Those aren’t bad for a rookie, especially considering he netted his first NHL hat trick Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Stephens has three points in 14 games and is minus-three, so Verhaeghe is the easy option.
As far as league-wide voting goes, the Lightning don’t have any players who will get many votes for the Calder Trophy.
Ted Lindsay Award
This award is given to the most outstanding player as voted by his peers, and there are a few options for the Lightning. Of course, Nikita Kucherov, Point, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman are good choices, but one player thus far who would be a surprise option for the Lightning is Alex Killorn.
Killorn has 36 points in 40 games, a pace that would shatter his career-highs for goals, assists and points. He’s also plus-nine and plays huge minutes both on the power play and the penalty kill. When the big four aren’t rolling, Killorn is counted on to drive the busy and provide primary scoring.
If Lightning players didn’t pick Killorn, Hedman would be a great option. He’s third on the team in scoring with 40 points and plays top minutes for Tampa. Kucherov, Hedman, Stamkos and Point might get some votes for the award in June, but Killorn’s teammates would say he has been arguably their most important player this season.
Given we have already mentioned Hedman for the Lightning’s Ted Lindsay Award, he is the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy. He’s one of just a handful of defensemen who average a point per game, and he plays critical minutes on the power play. He has also been a Norris Trophy finalist for the past three seasons, winning the award in 2018.
Hedman has a legitimate chance to win his second Norris Trophy in June, but Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson is going to make it tough, as well as Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi. But, Hedman is the Lightning’s representative at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game — rightfully so — and has a chance to win his second Norris Trophy in three years.
One player who could get some votes from Lightning players is Shattenkirk, who — as I mentioned before — is enjoying a great bounce-back season. In terms of value and production, Hedman has been the Lightning’s best defenseman this season.
In general this season, goaltending has let the Lightning down, especially looking back on last season. Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy and Curtis McElhinney have not been quite as good as last season, but Vasilevskiy is starting to turn the corner and look like the Vasy of old — the one Lightning fans have missed for the first half of the season.
Vasilevskiy would be the Lightning’s Vezina Trophy winner so far this year, even if his .911 save percentage and 2.74 goals-against average are well below career averages. In his last five games, however, Vasilevskiy has helped the Lightning get all 10 points — eight of which from Atlantic Division rivals — and posted a .923 save percentage and only one game below .900.
Although he likely won’t be considered when the award voting comes around in June, Vasilevskiy is still one of the game’s elite goaltenders and would be the best choice to win the Lightning’s Vezina Trophy.
The Lightning have five players with 30 or more points this season, and Kucherov is leading the team with 47. Point leads the team with 18 goals while Stamkos and Killorn are right behind him with 17, and Kucherov leads the team in assists with 32. But, the Hart Trophy is given to the player who is most valuable to his team, and although the aforementioned players have great value, there has been no one more important this season than Hedman.
Hedman was named the NHL’s first star of the week with eight points in three games from Dec. 23-29. In the two games he missed this season due to injury, the Lightning salvaged a 7-6 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils and lost to the New York Islanders, 5-2. His presence — or lack thereof — in the lineup is felt on both sides of the puck, and when he’s playing, the Bolts are a much better team than without.
Of course, that’s not to discredit what Kucherov, Stamkos, Point or Killorn have done this season. They have been great and could be considered for the Lightning’s Hart Trophy, but Hedman has been too valuable both offensively and defensively not to be the frontrunner.
Depending on how the Lightning players finish out the season, they could be considered for these awards when the league-wide voting takes place in June. For now, they should still be focused on continuing to win hockey games.