Normally we'd be making predictions about a brand new NHL season right about now.
But of course, there's nothing normal about 2020. And so, on the 20th day of September, we're instead predicting who will win the final five NHL awards that will be announced on Monday, and looking back on the 2019-20 season.
The league has already announced winners for a number of awards, but the Calder, Hart, Ted Lindsay, Norris and Vezina will be revealed Monday, on Sportsnet, in a half-hour show beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET/ 3:30 p.m. PT ahead of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The votes were cast months ago, before the return to play happened, so as usual, playoff performance is not a factor here. Strictly remembering what happened all those nights ago in the regular season, here is how we think the final awards will be decided...
Calder Memorial Trophy
Predicted winner: Cale Makar
Sorry, Canucks fans. This is a tight race and we'd expect the final vote tally to reflect that when it's revealed. It could go either way between the two defencemen -- and Kubalik is no slouch either!
We're giving the nod here to Makar, though, because he bettered Hughes in even-strength points (31 to 28) and goals in all situations (12 to 8) in 11 fewer games. On top of that, when Makar was on the ice at 5-on-5, Colorado scored 61.29 per cent of the goals, which was third among all rookies who played at least 50 games this season. High danger chances, overall shots for and expected goal differential -- Makar was above Hughes in all these metrics.
But this is no easy choice. Hughes has his own strong case. He played more minutes and stayed healthy for the duration of the season. Vancouver's power play improved from 22nd in the league last season to fourth in 2019-20 and which puck-mover led all Canucks defencemen in power-play ice-time and points? You guessed it: Hughes.
This is honestly a coin flip and Kubalik, who scored 30 times this season, is bound to take some votes as well. There's no easy choice, but this is a predictions piece, so we're going with Makar.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Predicted winner: Leon Draisaitl
Draisaitl won the scoring title by 13 points, over a player (and teammate) who's not even among the finalists. Draisaitl was the only 100-point player in this COVID-shortened regular season, getting to 110 in 71 games. Connor McDavid was next at 97 points, while Panarin and David Pastrnak tied at 95.
Generally, if you win a scoring title by that much, you're putting yourself in a good spot to win the Hart. The past six times that a player won the Art Ross by at least 10 points, he also won the Hart as MVP. It would be a shock if Draisaitl didn't continue that trend.
For Draisaitl to get the nod over McDavid, a couple things needed to happen. One, he had to lead his own line and show he could put up big numbers without riding shotgun with McDavid. Check that off. And second, it would be helpful if Draisaitl could not only show he could carry his own line, but also the Oilers without McDavid. That scenario presented itself for a brief stretch this season as well, when McDavid missed six games in February. In that time, Draisaitl scored 12 points and the Oilers went 3-2-1.
Panarin and MacKinnon are worthy candidates for their own reasons, but the history of voting from writers would suggest Draisaitl is this year's favourite. That doesn't necessarily mean the Ted Lindsay will end up with the same results...
[caption id="attachment_4942534" align="alignleft" width="2560"] In this Monday, March 2, 2020, file photo, Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29), of Germany, plays against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game. (Mark Humphrey, File, AP)[/caption]
Ted Lindsay Award
The finalists: Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin
Predicted winner: Nathan MacKinnon
Going out on a bit of a limb here that the players will view this year's "most outstanding player" a little bit differently. To take nothing away from Draisaitl, MacKinnon carried a really banged up team for most of the season and the players will surely notice that. Besides, in this year's NHLPA player poll, MacKinnon ranked third for the question, "Who is the best forward?" behind only McDavid and Sidney Crosby.
MacKinnon had 93 points in 69 games, which was 43 points better than the next highest-scoring Av. MacKinnon missed one game all season, while Gabriel Landeskog missed 16, Mikko Rantanen 28, Nazem Kadri 19 and Andre Burakovsky 12. MacKinnon and the Avalanche kept on chugging regardless.
Over the past seven years the Hart and Ted Lindsay have gone to two different players only one time: in 2018, Hall won the Hart while McDavid won the Lindsay. It may continue to fall that way, but there's more of a chance the players will look past the scoring totals and give a nod to MacKinnon this time.
[caption id="attachment_4801301" align="alignleft" width="1280"] Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon rushes with the puck. (John Locher/AP)[/caption]
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Predicted winner: John Carlson
Another really tough one between Carlson and Josi.
Carlson will still have a lot of momentum from an incredible start to this season, when he had 37 points in his first 28 games through October and November. By the end of the season, he still held a 10-point advantage on Josi and Carlson's 60 assists ranked fourth across the whole league. He gets heavy usage on the power play, sure, but Carlson is played in all situations and regularly draws the opponents' best players.
Carlson was actually second among all NHL defencemen in power-play points and the clear leader in even-strength production. When a defenceman scores at better than a point-per-game pace, it's hard not to give them the nod for the Norris. It's Carlson's time.
[caption id="attachment_4778905" align="alignleft" width="1280"] Washington Capitals John Carlson (74) celebrates scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (Hans Deryk/CP)[/caption]
Predicted winner: Connor Hellebuyck
This is an easy one. After Winnipeg's blue line was hammered by losses in the off-season and not replenished, it became a serious weakness for the team. As a result, no other NHL goalie faced more high-danger shots at 5-on-5 than Hellebuyck and his .842 save percentage on those shots was near the top of the league.
Hellebuyck was leaned on with a heavy workload, playing in 58 of Winnipeg's games, tied with Carey Price for the most appearances, and six ahead of Frederik Andersen, who ranked third. Hellebuyck was second to Andrei Vasilevskiy in wins with 31, led the league with six shutouts, and had a .922 save percentage that was behind only Tuukka Rask among goalies who played at least 41 games.
If not for Hellebuyck's incredible season, the Jets probably would have missed the traditional playoff picture. He patched up a lot of their holes and while Rask and Vasilevskiy were great in their own right, their teams didn't rely on them as much. Hellebuyck rivalled or beat them in all the major stat categories anyway, making this a slam dunk pick.
[caption id="attachment_4795694" align="alignleft" width="1280"] Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Brandon Wade/AP)[/caption]