We're about a quarter of the way through the 2021-22 NHL season, which means it's the perfect time for our first look at the NHL awards race.
Here, we're looking at five major awards -- the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Calder, and Jack Adams -- to see which NHLers are currently leading the way early in the season and how they're stacking up to their peers.
A lot can change between now and the end of the season, but here's where things stand now.
Quarter-season winner: Leon Draisaitl, Oilers
There are, of course, two right answers to the MVP question right now -- whether you're leaning more towards Draisaitl or Oilers teammate Connor McDavid (or, perhaps a hybrid: Leonner McDraisaitl !?) you're not wrong. McDavid's 12 goals and 32 points through 18 games is remarkable, and surpassed only by Draisaitl, whose 18 goals, 36 points, and five game-winning markers lead the league in all three categories. He gets the edge based on points (he's scoring at a pace of two points per game!) as well as for his jack-of-all-trades skillset that has him firing on all cylinders in all strengths and situations, including defensively on Edmonton's elite penalty kill. Should Draisaitl, who was named MVP in 2019-20, or his captain (and 2020-21 MVP) land another Hart this season, it would mark the third straight year the trophy stays in Edmonton.
MVP-worthy players in the hunt:
• Connor McDavid, Oilers: He's a real-life cheat code and a scorer of mind-blowing goals who went 17 games before anyone could hold him off the score sheet. His 20 assists on the season is a league-high.
• Alex Ovechkin, Capitals: At 36, he's got 15 goals in 19 games (ranked second in the NHL) and is on pace for his highest total since 2007-08. He's totally catching Gretzky, right?
• Kyle Connor, Jets: Honestly, you could easily plug in several players to add to the quarter-season MVP conversation -- Troy Terry's on a tear, Andrew Mangiapane and Johnny Gaudreau have the Flames on fire, and Jack Campbell has saved several games in Toronto -- but we're giving the nod to Connor, whose 12 goals and 22 points leads Winnipeg by a wide margin and whose 84 shots so far are a league high. His 11 even-strength goals matches Ovechkin's league-high mark.
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Quarter-season winner: Adam Fox, Rangers
Last year's Norris winner is on pace to do it again. The Rangers' top defenceman is logging a team-high 24:46 per game, is plus-five on the season, and sits just one point behind Artemi Panarin's tally (19 points). Of all NHL rearguards to play double-digit games this season, Fox is one of just three to score at a point-per-game pace. That the 23-year-old already has one Norris Trophy in his cabinet and is still playing on his entry-level deal makes his feat all the more impressive.
More Norris-worthy defenders:
• Victor Hedman, Lightning: There's a reason he's always in the Norris conversation, and this year is no exception.
• Roman Josi, Predators: 2019-20's top rearguard is once again piling up the points and his efforts have Nashville in the early-season playoff contention conversation.
• Cale Makar, Avalanche: He's already missed two games due to injury, but Makar is more than making up for lost time with his league-best scoring pace among defencemen (1.15 points per game through 13 appearances) and his ability to drive play from the blue line.
Quarter-season winner: Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs
Based on early results, this one's shaping up to be a tough race with razor-thin margins. Campbell gets the edge here over his old teammate Frederik Andersen considering the Maple Leafs starter has not only been among the best goalies this season but one of the busiest. Campbell's 16 game appearances is the most in the league, while his 904:14 total time on ice ranks him third. During that time, he's faced a total 444 shots (seventh most) and is posting otherworldly numbers including a .944 save percentage and 1.66 goals against average -- both NHL-best marks among goalies with more than five starts. Put simply, Campbell has been excellent -- even during the times his team hasn't been.
More goalies to watch:
• Frederik Andersen, Hurricanes: Carolina's new No. 1 could easily be the quarter-season Vezina winner, thanks to his league-best 11 wins and a GAA (1.89) and SV% (.937) that have him in the top 10.
• Jacob Markstrom, Flames: Calgary is the first team in nearly a century to record seven shutouts within the first 20 games of a season. Markstrom is responsible for five of those (in 14 starts), with backup Dan Vladar tallying two.
• Igor Shesterkin, Rangers: His nine wins, .931 SV%, 2.33 GAA and one shutout through 13 starts has him ranked as third best in the league right now. And he's making it all look so easy.
Quarter-season winner: Lucas Raymond, F, Red Wings
In 34 Swedish Hockey League games last year after being drafted fourth overall by Detroit in 2020, Raymond registered six goals and 18 points. Now 20 games into his NHL career, the 19-year-old Swede already has seven goals and a team-leading 19 points and is playing like a veteran on the Red Wings' top line. He sits atop the rookie stat sheet across all categories, and is on pace for greatness.
More rookies making their mark:
• Moritz Seider, D, Red Wings: The surprise sixth-overall selection of the 2019 draft is making plenty of plays from Detroit's blue line... and this time, no one's surprised.
• Dawson Mercer, F, Devils: Six goals and 12 points through 16 games so far has the rookie forward leading his team on the stat sheet.
• Trevor Zegras, F, Ducks: With the Ducks' youth movement well underway, there's a lot to be excited about in Anaheim (see: Terry, Troy). We saw flashes of brilliance during Zegras' 24-game stint last season and this year it's clear he's here to stay.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
Quarter-season winner: Darryl Sutter, Flames
This one's always tough. Do you give it to the (relatively) new guy? The winningest coach? The one overseeing an overhaul in playing style? In the case of Sutter in Calgary, he represents all three. You can clearly see the veteran bench boss's impact on this club, which lacked a real identity in recent seasons but now plays with a very Sutter-like style (i.e. tough to score on, poised, unafraid to grind you down) and it's yielding excellent results in the standings -- the surprising Flames are currently the best team in the West. Impressive.
Coaches in control:
• Rod Brind'Amour, Hurricanes: Only one coach in the history of the award has ever claimed coach-of-the-year honours two seasons in a row (Detroit's Jacques Demers in 1987 and '88), but the way Brind'Amour has his team rolling, we could soon see that change.
• Dallas Eakins, Ducks: Did anyone anticipate Anaheim sitting in playoff position at the U.S. Thanksgiving mark? Eakins's experience working with young players shows -- five rookies have appeared in the lineup this season, while more young stars are finding their footing. There's a lot to be excited about here.
• Dean Evason, Wild: Sitting atop the tough Central Division, Minnesota's no longer looking like a surprise contender but rather a bonafide playoff club capable of playing a complete, well-balanced game under Evason's guidance.