With the 2014-15 NHL season nearing a thrilling and suspenseful close, there is no better time than the present to contemplate who the top contenders are for the league’s major awards!
It has been yet another tremendous season of hockey in the NHL. Goal scoring has dipped slightly, due in part to a significant decrease in power play opportunities, while goaltenders have stolen the show on countless occasions, so often in fact that multiple goaltenders are in consideration for the Hart Trophy.
Not only has it been the year of the goaltender, but it has also been the year of the rookie. Players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad, Filip Forsberg and many more have exploded onto the NHL scene, making the race for the Calder tighter than possibly ever before.
With that being said, the nominees for the annual NHL awards will be undoubtedly be highly debated this season. Despite the incredible likelihood that these predictions will come under scrutiny, here are my predictions for the winners of the major individual NHL awards for the 2014-15 season.
Frank J. Selke
Awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game
Winner: Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty has not only had a tremendous season offensively, but he has been equally impressive on the other side of the puck. His sound game in his own end has resulted in a plus 40 rating, by far the best in the league.
Runner Up: Tyler Johnson
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Awarded to player judged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability
Winner: Pavel Datsyuk
A four time recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy, Pavel Datsyuk exemplifies the meaning of this award, having recorded a mere eight minutes in penalties while having scored 24 goals and 60 points in only 59 games.
Runner Up: Jason Pominville
General Manager of the Year
Awarded to recognize the work of the league’s general managers
Winner: Kevin Cheveldayoff (Winnipeg Jets)
Cheveldayoff is well deserving of this award, considering he has turned the Winnipeg Jets into a serious post season contender this season. His most notable trade, in which he acquired Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford, has provided the Jets with an incredibly strong foundation as they push towards the post season not only this year, but in the future as well.
Runner Up: Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota Wild)
Jack Adams Award
Awarded to the NHL coach judged to have contributed most to his team’s success
Winner: Mike Yeo
Yeo, who was almost fired at multiple points earlier this season, gets the nod for his amazing performance in not only reversing Minnesota’s poor play, but also making them one of the most dangerous teams to play in the playoffs. In a season which one looked lost, Yeo, with a great deal of help from Devan Dubnyk, has managed to make the Wild a heavy favourite for a deep playoff run this post season.
Runner Up: Jack Capuano
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
Awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey
Winner: Pekka Rinne
After spending the majority of the 2013-14 NHL season recovering from various injuries, including a major hip surgery, Pekka Rinne has returned to form in 2014-15. With injuries in the rearview mirror, Rinne has enjoyed arguably his best season in the NHL and has even been in discussion for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Not only is his current GAA the lowest of his career, but Rinne is also poised to break his previous career high in wins, a mark set at 43 in 2011-12; not bad for a goalie roughly a year removed from major surgery.
Runner Up: Kris Russell
Calder Memorial Trophy
Awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL
Winner: Johnny Gaudreau
In his first season in the NHL, Gaudreau has emphatically answered the vast criticism directed at him because of his size with his amazing play on the ice. Currently in a battle with Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg for the lead in rookie scoring, Gaudreau has been essential to the success of the Calary Flames this season and their resulting playoff drive. Without Gaudraeau in their lineup, it is safe to say the Flames would not be in the midst of the playoff race.
Runner Up: Filip Forsberg
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Awarded to the defenseman who best demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position
Winner: Erik Karlsson
The 2012 James Norris recipient, Erik Karlsson has had yet another tremendous NHL season. He leads all defensemen in scoring while he recently netted his 20th goal, giving him consecutive 20 goal seasons. Defensively, Karlsson has been sound. He holds a plus seven rating and averages more than 27 minutes of ice time per game, the third highest work total for a defenseman in the league.
Runner Up: Roman Josi
Awarded to the goalkeeper judged to be the best at his position
Winner: Carey Price
Could it be anyone else? Price has been simply sensational this season and is the main reason why the Montreal Canadiens have been so successful this year. Not only has Price set a new career high in wins this season, but he also has the opportunity to break the longstanding Montreal Canadiens’ goalie wins record. His sub 2.00 GAA and above .930 save percentage have led the way for the Canadiens this season, not to mention his nine shutouts. In fact, Price has been so good that he is heavily considered a favourite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy.
Runner Up: Pekka Rinne
Ted Lindsay Award
Presented annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by the NHLPA
Winner: Sidney Crosby
Considering this award is given to the most outstanding player in the entire league, Sidney Crosby will once again capture the award; his third in a row. Poised to once again lead the league in scoring, Crosby is one of only a handful of players averaging greater than a point per game this season, and is likely the only player who will score more than 82 points this season.
Runner Up: Carey Price
Hart Memorial Trophy
Awarded annually to the player judged to be most valuable to his team
Winner: Carey Price
It is hard to see this award going to anyone other than Carey Price. If not for Price, where would the Canadiens be in the standings? Price has not only been the top goaltender in the league this season, but one of, if not the best player. His calm and poised demeanour and ridiculously consistent play has resulted in not only one of the best seasons by a goaltender in Canadiens history, but in the NHL as well. Simply put, Carey Price has been sensational this season and is the key to the Canadiens’ success. There is no player more valuable to his team than Carey.
Runner Up: John Tavares
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.