Welcome to the ninth annual installment of our Year-End Awards here at The Hockey Writers.
At the conclusion of every National Hockey League regular season, we ask all active writers to submit their picks for the following categories. Voting was conducted by e-mail through April, while voters were instructed to provide up to three choices (a first, second and third-place vote) for each category. All active THW contributors were eligible to vote, regardless of their experience level.
Related: The 2018-19 THW Year-End Awards
While the NHL season isn’t officially over, it’s looking more and more like that is the reality. With the majority of the season in the books, we at THW believe that we have enough of a sample size to fairly vote on these awards.
First-place votes were worth five points, second-place votes were worth three points and third-place votes worth one point apiece. Ties were broken by way of first-place votes. Overall, 24 ballots were cast for these awards.
The Wayne Gretzky Award (Most Outstanding Player)
Modelled after the NHL’s Hart Trophy, this award seeks to acknowledge the player who had the best year and whose contributions most helped his team succeed.
WINNER: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers), and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
PAST WINNERS: Nikita Kucherov (2019), Taylor Hall (2018), Connor McDavid (2017), Patrick Kane (2016), Carey Price (2015), Sidney Crosby (2014, 2013), Evgeni Malkin (2012)
DETAILS: Draisaitl ran away with this one, earning 13 first-place ballots. Scoring 43 goals, 67 assists, and 110 points, the German forward entered the COVID-19 pause leading the league in assists and points. There were 11 players who received votes, with the top-five all receiving first-place votes along with Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck.
The Teemu Selanne Award (Most Outstanding Rookie)
Modelled after the NHL’s Calder Trophy, this award showcases the first-year NHL player who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Dominik Kubalik (Chicago Blackhawks), Elvis Merzlikins (Columbus Blue Jackets), and a tie for fifth between Adam Fox (New York Rangers) and Victor Olofsson (Buffalo Sabres)
PAST WINNERS: Elias Pettersson (2019), Mathew Barzal (2018), Auston Matthews (2017), Artemi Panarin (2016), Aaron Ekblad (2015), Nathan MacKinnon (2014), Jonathan Huberdeau (2013), Gabriel Landeskog (2012)
DETAILS: This was one of the tightest votes throughout this process, with Makar and Hughes going back and forth with first-place votes. Ultimately, Makar finished with two more top-seed votes, after his stellar season of 12 goals, 38 assists, and 50 points. There were 10 players who received votes.
The Martin Brodeur Award (Most Outstanding Goaltender)
Modelled after the NHL’s Vezina Trophy, this category celebrates the goaltender who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning), and a tie for fourth between Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver Canucks) and Anton Khudobin (Dallas Stars)
PAST WINNERS: Ben Bishop (2019), Pekka Rinne (2018), Sergei Bobrovsky (2017, 2013), Braden Holtby (2016), Carey Price (2015), Semyon Varlamov (2014), Jonathan Quick (2012)
DETAILS: Only two goaltenders received first-place votes: Rask and Hellebuyck. Rask led the league with a 2.12 goals-against average and finished second with a .929 save percentage and five shutouts. There were 14 goalies that received votes, including emergency goalie sensation David Ayres (one third-place vote).
The Bobby Orr Award (Most Outstanding Defenseman)
Our version of the Norris Trophy, this award is given to the defenseman who had the most outstanding season, focusing on all aspects of the position.
WINNER: John Carlson (Washington Capitals)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Roman Josi (Nashville Predators), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues), and Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)
PAST WINNERS: Mark Giordano (2019), Victor Hedman (2018), Erik Karlsson (2017, 2016, 2015, 2012), Duncan Keith (2014), P.K. Subban (2013)
DETAILS: This was one of the most agreed-upon categories, with only eight defenders receiving votes. While Carlson was the clear winner with 15 first-place votes, Josi and Hedman had a large lead over the remaining players. Carlson led all defenders this season with 75 points (15 goals, 60 assists).
The Eddie Shore Award (Most Outstanding Defensive Defenseman)
This category celebrates the shutdown defender, awarding this to the defenseman who had the most outstanding season, focusing primarily on the defensive aspects of the position.
WINNER: Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Roman Josi (Nashville Predators), Ryan Graves (Colorado Avalanche), and Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues)
PAST WINNERS: Mark Giordano (2019), Drew Doughty (2018, 2016, 2015), Ryan Suter (2017), Marc-Eduoard Vlasic (2014), Zdeno Chara (2013, 2012)
DETAILS: The opposite of the last category, this award saw an astounding 27 players receive votes, and nine different players with first-place ballots. Slavin and Hedman were big leaders though, with seven and six first-place votes. Slavin takes the win after putting up a 55.6 Corsi for percentage and 5.7 defensive point shares, playing an average of 23:24 this season.
The Doug Jarvis Award (Most Outstanding Defensive Forward)
Our version of the Selke Trophy, this honours the forward who had the most outstanding season, focusing primarily on the defensive aspects of the position.
WINNER: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers), Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis Blues), and Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)
PAST WINNERS: Patrick Bergeron (2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012), Jonathan Toews (2015)
DETAILS: Bergeron has won this award eight of the nine times it’s been awarded, so it won’t be long before it’s named after him. Although 19 players received votes and eight players received first-place votes, Bergeron had a 10-point lead over Couturier, followed by a 19-point lead over Stone. Bergeron won 57.8 percent of his faceoffs, adding 46 blocks and 44 takeaways.
The Scotty Bowman Award (Most Outstanding Coach)
Our version of the Jack Adams Award, this goes to the coach who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: John Tortorella (Columbus Blue Jackets)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Alain Vigneault (Philadelphia Flyers), Jared Bednar (Colorado Avalanche), Mike Sullivan (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Bruce Cassidy (Boston Bruins)
PAST WINNERS: Barry Trotz (2019, 2016), Gerard Gallant (2018), Mike Babcock (2017), Bob Hartley (2015), Patrick Roy (2014), Paul MacLean (2013), Ken Hitchcock (2012)
DETAILS: After nearly all of the Blue Jackets top players left in 2019 free agency, the team didn’t give up and Tortorella led his team to an impressive 33-22-15 record despite the departure of talent and numerous injuries this season. The team’s success is largely due to his coaching and leadership behind the bench. This was actually the closest finish of any award, with Vigneault coming in one point behind Tortorella, despite four less first-place votes. There were 14 coaches that received votes.
The Sam Pollock Award (Most Outstanding General Manager)
Awarded to the general manager who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Joe Sakic (Colorado Avalanche)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: Jeff Gorton (New York Rangers), Ken Holland (Edmonton Oilers), Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Chuck Fletcher (Philadelphia Flyers)
PAST WINNERS: Doug Armstrong (2019), George McPhee (2018), Steve Yzerman (2017, 2015, 2014), Jarmo Kekalainen (2017), Jim Nill (2016), Ray Shero (2013), Dale Tallon (2012)
DETAILS: Nearly all of the top players went down with injury, yet the value players that were brought in by Sakic kept the team extremely competitive all season. Going 42-20-8, that record has Sakic’s hands all over it, on top of building one of the most impressive prospect pools in the league. There were 17 general mangers that received votes, and although 10 of them received first-place votes, Sakic ran away with this.
The Best Salary Cap Value Award
This award is given to the player voted to be the best bang for the salary cap buck.
WINNER: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers), Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), and Elias Pettersson (Vancouver Canucks)
PAST WINNERS: Nikita Kucherov (2019), William Karlsson (2018), Jonathan Marchessault (2017), Artemi Panarin (2016)
DETAILS: There were 23 players who received votes for this category, and it ended up being another close one. Both MacKinnon ($6.3 million) and Pastrnak ($6.8 million) had six top-finishes, with the Avalanche forward coming out on top based on other votes.
The Worst Salary Cap Value Award
This award is given to the player voted to be the worst bang for the salary cap buck.
WINNER: Jeff Skinner (Buffalo Sabres)
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE: P.K. Subban (New Jersey Devils), Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers), Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks), and Milan Lucic (Calgary Flames)
PAST WINNERS: Milan Lucic (2019), Loui Eriksson (2018, 2017), David Clarkson (2016)
DETAILS: This was tied as the tightest finish fo any category. After 24 players received votes, including 11 with first-place finishes, Skinner ($10 million) edged out Subban ($9 million) by one point, despite Skinner having double the number of first-place votes. Subban was on nearly every ballot though, here Skinner was not.
Biggest Surprise of the Season
Left deliberately open-ended, this award honours the biggest surprise of the regular season – the player or team that most wildly exceeded expectations.
WINNER: Columbus Blue Jackets
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE (TEAMS): Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, and the Edmonton Oilers
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE (PLAYERS): Elvis Merzlikins (Columbus Blue Jackets), Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers), Travis Konecny (Philadelphia Flyers), Ryan Graves (Colorado Avalanche), and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks)
PAST WINNERS: New York Islanders (2019), Vegas Golden Knights (2018), Toronto Maple Leafs (2017), Florida Panthers (2016), Calgary Flames (2015), Colorado Avalanche (2014), Columbus Blue Jackets (2013), Ottawa Senators (2012)
DETAILS: This was touched on in Tortorella’s award, so I won’t go too in-depth. But of the 29 teams and players (11 teams, 18 players), the Blue Jackets won by a landslide. The five teams listed as the top-five were actually the top-five overall after they all impressed this season when there were questions about how they’d perform.
Biggest Disappointment of the Season
The flip-side of the previous award, this award signifies the team or player who most wildly fell short of what collective wisdom said they should be.
WINNER: San Jose Sharks
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE (TEAMS): New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Nashville Predators, and Florida Panthers
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP-FIVE (PLAYERS): Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers), Alex Galchenyuk (Pittsburgh Penguins/Minnesota Wild), Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights), P.K. Subban (New Jersey Devils), Jeff Skinner (Buffalo Sabres)
PAST WINNERS: Edmonton Oilers (2019, 2018), Dallas Stars (2017), Montreal Canadiens (2016), Los Angeles Kings (2015), Vancouver Canucks (2014), Philadelphia Flyers (2013), Alex Ovechkin (2012)
DETAILS: Of the 23 teams and players (12 teams, 10 players, and one vote for “NHL Coaches”), the Sharks won by a large margin. Coming into the season looking like a potential contender, they flopped, finishing last in the Western Conference with a 29-35-5 record, a minus-44 goal differential, and looking like an aging team on the verge of a rebuild.
Again, while the NHL season isn’t officially over (yet), it looks more and more likely by the day. With teams having 68 to 71 games in the bank, there’s more than enough of a sample size to vote on the various award winners. What do you think of the awards? What winners would you change? Leave a comment below!
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.