For the second year, the Professional Hockey Writers Association voted on its mid-season awards Tuesday ahead of the all-star break. The winners were announced Thursday morning.
It should be noted that the Hockey Writers do not receive an end-of-season vote on the actual Vezina, Jack Adams, or GM of the Year trophies, but we do here for fun and to infuriate fans of teams that got snubbed.
Also of note: The Rod Langway Award (best defensive defenceman) and Comeback Player of the Year acknowledgements are purely creations of the association.
Here, in full, is my ballot and some brief reasoning for why I voted the way I did.
Hate me in the comments!
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
2. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Oilers would be a lottery lock without McDavid, Johnny Hockey is having an otherworldly campaign, and Kucherov is running away with the scoring race — and still I was tempted to replace his name with Brayden Point’s. This debate is far from settled. I could see Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, Mark Scheifele or Jack Eichel surging onto my ballot by year’s end.
1. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
2. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
3. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are the victims of each other’s awesomeness, and leaving Morgan Rielly off my ballot was a tough decision, but workhorses Carlson and Letang are getting taken for granted. As for Gio? He’s topping all D-men with 1.08 points per game, leads the world in plus/minus (+29), plays in all situations, and is the best explanation for the Flames rising to the top of their division without a clear No. 1 goalie.
1. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
2. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
3. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres
Petterson’s points per game (1.13) crushes all comers (Ottawa’s Colin White ranks second at 0.59). Heiskanen and Dahlin are already top-four defenders and power-play contributors on teams in the wild-card mix — a ridiculous accomplishment for a couple of teenagers.
Lady Byng Trophy
1. Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
3. Alexsander Barkov, Florida Panthers
In which I (sort of) make it up to the uber-humble Rielly, whose shoulda-been-an-all-star season is all the more remarkable when you consider he’s taken two measly minor penalties despite shutting down the opposition’s best forward line most nights (he’s plus-23 with 48 points).
Frank J. Selke Trophy
1. Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
2. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
I gave serious consideration to Sidney Crosby, Mark Scheifele, Patrice Bergeron (the injury hurts) and Ryan O’Reilly here, but Stone — a takeaway monster — plays in all situations and finding a way to be a plus-15 player on a minus-31 train wreck is some kind of special. A rare Selke vote for a winger!
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
Using 25 appearances as my minimum, the potentially overworked Fleury leads the ballot with his league-best 27 wins, and Flower’s six shutouts doubles that of anyone else. Sustainability is a question here. Vasilevskiy’s save percentage (.925) is tops among undisputed No. 1s, and Andersen is the most important Maple Leaf. The Islanders’ Robin Lehner (15-7, .930 save percentage) has popped on the radar of late, but he needs more starts.
Jack Adams Award
1. Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
2. Claude Julien, Montreal Canadiens
3. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
What Trotz is doing in the wake of John Tavares’ departure — guiding the red-hot Islanders to the Metropolitan penthouse — is remarkable. Julien has made the most out of the least; Cooper has made the most out of the most. But it takes a good coach to motivate a proven team that could afford to coast but instead has a shot at the best regular season in the salary cap era.
I gave serious consideration to Bill Peters for his role in the Flames’ resurgence as well as Travis Green, but his Canucks have lost more games than they’ve won. John Tortorella gets an honourable mention for his work through the dramatics in Columbus.
GM of the Year
1. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames
2. Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks
3. Jason Botterill, Buffalo Sabres
Highlighted by the Jeff Skinner heist, Boterill’s moves have jolted the Sabres into relevance. Wilson found a way to acquire the purest blueline talent of our time. And Treliving’s bold off-season has paid off in spades, overhauling his bench and making critical tweaks to his top-six and his top-four.
Rod Langway Award
1. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
2. Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators
3. Brian Doumolin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Giordano is a force all over the ice, so I opted not to punish him for his offence. Ekholm and Doumolin don’t get enough credit for how solid they are at their jobs, and they’ll never win the D-men scoring race.
Comeback Player of the Year Award
1. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres
2. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
I was very tempted to give this award to Laurent Broissoit, who went from 3-7-1 in Edmonton to 10-1-1 in Winnipeg and raised his save percentage by 60 (!) points year over year, but his 12 appearances felt too tiny.
Skinner and Pavelski — both in platform years — are scoring in bunches. Skinner has flipped from a minus-27 to a plus-13 and already has six more goals (30) than he did in 82 games last season with Carolina. Atkinson is humming above a point-per-game and a top-line threat; he had hit a three-year low in his injury-plagued 2017-18. With 27 goals already, he should set new career bests at age 29.