Justifying my NHL Awards ballot selections

HC at Noon breaks down the NHL Awards show, which was full of all-inspiring moments, like Humboldt Broncos tributes, mixed with some real humour and no cheesy moments.

Get ready for the big reveal after the reveal.

The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association is following baseball’s lead, meaning the ballot for each individual voter on the NHL Awards has now been published on the PHWA site. Bring on the full transparency and hate tweets.

I was one of the 81.3% of the PHWA membership who was in favour of making all of 170 or so ballots public within a couple days after the trophies are handed out in Las Vegas.

Here is the ballot I submitted to Ernst & Young upon conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and a few thoughts behind my reasoning — which is to be unquestioned. Unless, you know, Sportsnet decides to place a comments section at the bottom of this article.

HART TROPHY

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

The toughest Hart Trophy to vote on and predict in memory. Five spots didn’t feel like enough. It pained me to leave Blake Wheeler, Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov off my ballot. I certainly don’t fault anyone who picked Hall or Kopitar over MacKinnon. The Connor McDavid debate is a biggie, but I do subscribe to the belief that there is less value in being the best player on a non-playoff team. The Avs don’t go from the worst club in the league to a playoff team without MacKinnon, whose 1.31 points per game were second only to McDavid’s 1.32. MacKinnon was relied on 45 more seconds per night than Hall and plays a more critical position.

NORRIS TROPHY

Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Hedman, the Lightning’s top shutdown man, plays in every situation and logs a ridiculous 25:51 per night. Only Doughty and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter saw more ice this season, and Hedman had a better plus/minus (+32) and put up more points (63). The big Swede tied for the NHL lead in goals by a defenceman (17), which isn’t everything, but he represents the best blend of offence and defence at the position. Seth Jones had an incredible breakout year and should win this award at some point in his career.

CALDER TROPHY

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets

How awesome was this freshman class? So awesome that I had to leave 28-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat and top-pair defenceman Charlie McAvoy off my ballot and Connor’s 31 goals only got him up to third on my list. Barzal’s 85 points made him the first rookie to hit the 80-point mark since Malkin in 2006. An easy pick at No. 1. Gourde’s two-way game — the kid was a plus-34 — nudged him ahead of Connor, who was the beneficiary of two all-world linemates. Dubois’ numbers don’t leap off the page, but his ownership of the No. 1 centre job on a playoff team deserved acknowledgement.

LADY BYNG TROPHY

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

This was my one statement vote. I knew full well the Sedins would not be named finalists for the Lady Byng because the default is to use a formula that favours a high number of points produced and a low number of penalty minutes. Daniel and Henrik combined for 70 PIMs — way too much for the Lady. By definition, however, the Byng should go to the player who exhibits “the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” No player (human?) is more “gentlemanly” than the Sedins, who walked away effective. Daniel tied for the Canucks’ scoring lead (55 points), and Henrik was right behind him (50).

SELKE TROPHY

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

So incredible was Kopitar this season, he made my ballot for three different trophies and I wouldn’t have been mad if he won all three. No forward played more hockey than the Kings’ captain, who averaged 22:05 per night and never missed a game. After a disastrous 2016-17, Kopitar was astounding in bouncing back: 35 goals, 92 points, 54.1 per cent in the face-off circle. The guy kills penalties, shuts down the opposition’s best line, and still finds time to score game-winners (six). Everything you want in a centreman. Barkov is rapidly shaping into the Eastern Conference’s version of Kopitar and would get more buzz if he played in a major hockey market. That perennial favourite Bergeron missed 18 games meant he failed to make my top three.

NHL ALL-STAR TEAM

Centre
1. Connor McDavid (EDM), 2. Nathan MacKinnon (COL), 3. Evgeni Malkin (PIT)

Right Wing
1. Nikita Kucherov (TBL), 2. Blake Wheeler (WPG), 3. Jakub Voracek (PHI)

Left Wing
1. Claude Giroux (PHI), 2. Taylor Hall (NJD), 3. Alex Ovechkin (WSH)

Defence
1. Victor Hedman (TBL), 2. Drew Doughty (LAK), 3. Seth Jones (CBJ), 4. P.K. Subban (NSH), 5. John Carlson (WSH), 6. John Klingberg (DAL)

Goaltender
1. Pekka Rinne (NSH), 2. Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), 3. Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ)

Here is where McDavid gets his due. Tough omissions: Patrik Laine, William Karlsson, Brad Marchand, Brent Burns. Although writers don’t vote on the Vezina, the all-star goaltending category is where you can see who we would’ve voted for.

Embarrassment alert! Despite memos sent out by the PHWA, some voters cast ballots for Giroux and Hall at the centre position.

NHL ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Forward
1. Mathew Barzal (NYI), 2. Yanni Gourde (TBL), 3. Kyle Connor (WPG)

Defence
1. Charlie McAvoy (BOS), 2. Will Butcher (NJD)

Goaltender
Juuse Saros (NSH)

Mikhail Sergachev came close to sneaking in here, but Butcher played more minutes, produced more points, stayed out of the penalty box, and was less sheltered in the lineup.

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