Connor McDavid is likely to win his first Hart Trophy as NHL MVP later week, but will anyone notice?
Expansion draft selections will be revealed during the NHL awards meaning the spotlight will likely drift from McDavid, Auston Matthews and other award winners.
But not here! Our picks on who should — and will — collect this year’s key awards:
GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Who should win: Steve Yzerman
Who will win: David Poile
Poile is likely to win for the first time with his fourth nomination, and the P.K. Subban trade will be a primary reason why. But Yzerman, who wasn’t nominated, deserves the award for his shrewd handling of the Lightning during a turbulent season. Tampa had injuries to almost every key player, traded away primary pieces like Ben Bishop for future benefit and still almost made the playoffs.
CALDER — TOP ROOKIE
Who should win: Auston Matthews
Who will win: Matthews
Matthews joined Eric Lindros as only the second teenage rookie in the last 30 years to pot 40 goals. The 19-year-old Leafs centre scored 32 of them at even-strength to lead the entire league. Matthews not only topped Patrik Laine and all other rookies in goals and points but set new first-year records in both categories for the 100-year-old Toronto franchise. Only five other teenage rookies in league history have scored at least 40 goals and 69 points and four of them — Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Mario Lemieux and Lindros — are in the Hall of Fame.
LADY BYNG — SPORTSMANSHIP WITH HIGH STANDARD OF PLAY
Who should win: Erik Karlsson
Who will win: Vladimir Tarasenko
Karlsson may have had eight more minor penalties than Tarasenko, but he also played almost 600 more minutes. Unlike the high-scoring Russian, the Senators captain was defending top lines and killing penalties all while remaining among the very best at his position offensively.
SELKE — TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD
Who should win: Jordan Staal
Who will win: Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron will likely join Bob Gainey as the second four-time Selke winner and he’ll be a deserving choice. But Staal, who wasn’t nominated, is equally worthy. The Thunder Bay, Ont., product starts more shifts in the defensive and neutral zone than Bergeron and still rates strongly in puck possession and shot suppression. He was maybe the best penalty killing forward in hockey and performed slightly better than Bergeron on shorthanded and defensive zone draws. Staal also had 36 even-strength points to 33 for Bergeron.
JACK ADAMS — TOP COACH
Who should win: Mike Sullivan
Who will win: Mike Babcock
Sullivan wasn’t even nominated so he won’t be adding the Jack Adams to his two Stanley Cups, but he’s deserving for keeping the Penguins on top during a trying regular season muddied with injuries. Just about every key Penguin missed time this year, including Sidney Crosby, Matt Murray, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Despite that, Pittsburgh finished with 111 points, the most in the Crosby/Malkin era and only seven points behind Washington for tops in the league. Babcock will be a deserving first-time winner should he beat out John Tortorella and Todd McLellan. His Leafs dressed at least seven rookies most nights and not only made the playoffs, but boasted top-10 special teams and puck possession.
NORRIS — TOP DEFENCEMAN
Who should win: Karlsson
Who will win: Brent Burns
Burns became only the second defenceman in 24 years to score 29 goals, but Karlsson was just a touch more consistent and nearly as potent with more challenging responsibilities for the Senators. Karlsson not only kept up his usual offence with 71 points, but became the second-best shot blocker in hockey and an effective penalty killer. The 27-year-old was second only to Burns among defenders with 17 goals and 0.92 points per-game while starting more shifts in the defensive zone — often against better players and under the intensely defensive lean of first-year coach Guy Boucher.
VEZINA — TOP GOALIE
Who should win: Sergei Bobrovsky
Who will win: Bobrovsky
As the primary reason for the Blue Jackets 32-point jump in the standings, Bobrovsky should become a two-time Vezina winner. The 28-year-old finished with the NHL’s best save percentage (.931) and second-best mark at even-strength (.938) — just outclassing 2016 winner Braden Holtby. Bobrovsky was consistently excellent for the Jackets, yielding two goals or less in 42 of his 63 starts — even with Holtby and Cam Talbot for most in the league.
HART TROPHY — MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Who should win: Connor McDavid
Who will win: McDavid
The only players in the last 20 years to register 30 goals and 70 assists in the same season: Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, Evgeni Malkin and McDavid, who turned 20 in January. The Oilers captain was the only player in hockey to hit 100 points and third youngest scoring champ in history, behind only Crosby and Wayne Gretzky. McDavid led the league in even-strength points (71), assists, primary assists and multi-point games and had a hand in 41 per cent of the Oilers’ goals — compared to 32 per cent for Crosby, the likely runner-up. He was the central figure (sorry Cam Talbot) in Edmonton’s first post-season in a decade.