The NHL season is now halfway done, and we can look back on a large enough sample size to evaluate the players league-wide and see who’s the most deserving of each award at this point in the season. It’s time to look at the mid-season NHL awards.
Mid-Season NHL Awards
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. The Hart has been subject to a lot of debate over the past year or so about deciding what the criteria should be for a player to win the Hart. One side is that the player’s team must make the NHL post-season. This instantly eliminates 15 out of the 31 teams in the league. The other side is that elite teams (such as the Tampa Bay Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs) have a lot of elite players and the fact of this, it makes one certain player less valuable because the team could get along just fine if they didn’t have them. This tends to eliminate another 8 or so teams. So neither of these sides will be considered and every player (no matter the team) will be weighed based on their individual season.
1. John Gibson
John Gibson has been playing incredibly well this season. He has been carrying the Anaheim Ducks within striking distance of a playoff spot (currently tied for the second wild-card spot in the West, despite losing the last 11 games in a row). Without him, it’s not unreasonable to claim the Ducks would be at the bottom of the standings fighting for the first overall pick. The Ducks are fourth last in the NHL in CF% with 47.17%. However, Gibson leads the NHL in Goals Saved Above Average with a whopping 24.4 (second is 11.43). The Ducks are likely one of the worst teams in the NHL, but Gibson is dragging this team kicking and screaming to the playoffs the best he can.
Kucherov is a beast. He has 75 points through 47 games and was the fastest player to reach 70 points since 1993. Kucherov leads the NHL in 5v5 P/60 making him the most dangerous offensive player in the league at even strength. He makes his team better every time he steps on the ice.
What would a Hart finalist list be without Connor McDavid? McDavid IS the Edmonton Oilers. There’s no other way to look at it. McDavid is the forward that every team wants on their roster, and currently has 69 points in 45 games and currently sits at second in the NHL in points and has won many NHL awards in the past. He’s just one of those special players, and will likely be on every Hart list for years to come.
1. John Gibson
Having Gibson winning the Hart, it would make sense that he would win the Vezina as well. As previously stated, Gibson is having a career year and carrying the Ducks on his back.
Freddy has been great since the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired him during the summer of 2016, but this season he’s really stepped it up to another level. He is third in the NHL in 5v5 GSAA. He has posted a record of 20-10-1 so far this season, with a 0.922 save percentage. He’s been a large reason why the Leafs have been so good this year, keeping the team in it and just dominating the crease. It’s safe to say that he his having the best season of his career, and it shows.
Vasilevsky has been playing well enough for the Lightning while he’s healthy, however with only 26 games played, he’s played the fewest of the goaltenders on this list. He is able to turn it up to another notch when his team isn’t playing well in front of him (which isn’t very often) and make consistent stops and completely shut down his opponent. He is boasting a 0.925 save percentage but only has 5.46 GSAA in all situations, good enough for 13th in the NHL. Vasilevskiy is benefitting from having a great team in front of him, but as he’s shown, he can turn it up and hold his own when he needs to.
It should be no shock to see that one of the best defensemen ever is topping this Norris list yet again. Karlsson leads not only all defensemen, but also all players with at least 200 minutes played in Corsi at even strength. He boasts 60.33% and proves yet again why he’s the best in the world. Not only this, but he also put up 25 points in 14 consecutive appearances for the San Jose Sharks, and has 42 points in 46 games played. Karlsson is world class in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. He has the highest expected goal differential in the league at even strength, and it’s not even close.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he is this good offensively and this good at driving play, as he’s done so for years. Having Erik Karlsson on a roster is like having a cheat code for your hockey team.
Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? Because that’s kind of what Mark Giordano has been doing. Giordano has always been a good defenseman throughout his career, yet this season he’s stepped it up to a new level at the age of 35. He has 9 goals and 47 points so far this season, with his career high being 56 points. At this pace, he’s going to shatter that personal best. Also posting a 56.47 CF%, he is a big reason why the Calgary Flames are second in the NHL right now.
Rielly is another defenseman who is on pace to break his career best in points. Ranking second amongst all defensemen in points, and first among all defensemen in goals, he has been producing over a point per game the entire season. While Rielly hasn’t been the best at even strength, his power play time has been other-worldly. Rielly is a player that’s been on the cusp of an offensive explosion for years, and it has finally come.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Elias Pettersson has been incredible for the Vancouver Canucks this season. Looking at Corsica’s WAR model, Elias Pettersson leads all NHLers at 4.06. He is leading the team in goals and points and tied for the team lead in assists with Bo Horvat. The Canucks will still probably be on the outside looking in this year at the playoffs, but if they’re anywhere near one you can attribute it all to the superstar rookie they have.
Kotkaniemi has been great for the Montreal Canadiens this season. He may look young, but he is very skilled. He leads rookies in even strength CF% with 57.32 and is third in rookie point totals, just behind Rasmus Dahlin, with 23 points. Kotkaniemi is also second among rookies in p/60, averaging 2.02 points every hour of play. He has been a real bright spot for the Habs this season and is making a lot of Canadiens fans happy after they passed on Filip Zadina, who has yet to make the NHL.
Brady Tkachuk was a divisive prospect going into the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. A lot of people had him ranging anywhere from 3-9 in their draft rankings. With the Ottawa Senators taking him 4th overall, many saw it as a stretch with Filip Zadina still on the board. That didn’t stop the Senators from taking the player they wanted. Struggling with injuries this season, Tkachuk has been able to produce when he’s played, with the second highest points per game of all rookies. He has 10 goals and 21 points in 35 games. He also has an astonishing Rel CF% of 9.52 (although that’s most likely because the Sens have a shockingly low CF% of 44.01, which is worst in the league). The fact that he is able to put up some of these numbers on such a bad roster is impressive for a rookie who was just drafted.
1. Mark Stone
One of the only bright spots of the Senators season, Stone has been one of the best players in the league by providing both elite offense and impeccable defense. We looked at how Tkachuk had a great Rel CF%, however, Stone is still ahead of him, posting a 13.17 relative Corsi at 5v5. Stone has always been great in his own end, and he’s showing it off in spectacular fashion this season with the Senators worse than any other season Stone has played.
It seems like a given that Bergeron will always appear on this list. Bergeron is a staple of the NHL awards list always appearing on the Selke voting. Playing against some of the top competition in the NHL, he is consistently among the best, and it shows. He has an xGA of only 13.34 and an xGF% of 56.6%. He is always putting up great possession metrics with a 55.81 CF% at 5v5. It’s no shock that Bergeron is always on the list.
3. Jordan Staal
A super underrated player, mostly because of a sometimes fleeting offensive production, Staal is a great defensive player. He is consistently controlling the puck and getting it out of his own zone, and leading to a great shot attempt differential. Staal finds himself being one of the best possession players at 60.05 CF%.
1. Jon Cooper
The Tampa Bay Lightning are just on another level right now. Every aspect of their team is incredible, and that goes for coaching as well. Jon Cooper has put together a fantastic lineup that seems to bring out the best in everyone. He has done wonders with the team and has just passed John Tortorella as the franchises all-time winningest coach.
2. Bill Peters
Peters took over the Flames in an awkward spot. They were expected to make the playoffs last season but didn’t. There were a few roster moves between last season and this, but the biggest part was Peters bringing structure to the lineup. He turned a non-playoff team into a team that’s first in their conference with relatively the same roster.
3. Todd Reirden
Once former head coach Barry Trotz announced he wasn’t returning for the 2018-19 season, there was some concern for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Trotz had one of the best regular season records in his time with the Washington Capitals, and many thought they’d take a hit. Reirden has not missed a beat though, leading the Capitals to maintain first in the Metropolitan division shouldn’t be overlooked just because they just won the Stanley Cup.
Lady Byng Trophy
Barkov is a fantastic player, and what one of the best things about him is how few penalties he takes and how many he draws. Only taking one minor penalty so far this season, but drawing 28 sets him apart from the rest leading the NHL in penalty differential by a wide margin. Not getting into a single fight either puts him atop the list for the Lady Byng.
Ever since entering the league, Gaudreau has almost always been in the conversation for the Lady Byng, and this season is no exception. Having just 12 minutes in penalties and drawing 22 different penalties is nothing to scoff at. He always puts numbers similar to this and is one of the leaders in the NHL in penalty differential.
3. Matt Duchene
Only accumulating six penalty minutes this season, Duchene has been a disciplined player, taking three minor penalties. While playing nearly 20 minutes a night, it’s expected that a player would take more than six minutes in penalties, even just by accident.
GM of the Year Award
The GM of the year award is more like a lifetime achievement award. A GM’s success isn’t instant. It happens over time. Very rarely does one GM have a singular season to completely set themselves apart from the rest, however that seems to be the case this season.
1. Doug Wilson
Doug Wilson has had an incredible year so far, first by not only dumping the Mikkel Boedker contract on the Sens, but also acquiring forward Mike Hoffman in the same transaction, and proceeding to flip him to the Florida Panthers for more than he paid for him. This allowed Wilson to win a Hoffman trade twice in one day. He also extended pending free agent Evander Kane, who was acquired at the deadline in the previous season. Finally, the biggest move of the year was acquiring all-star defenseman, Erik Karlsson. Karlsson came at a steal of a price, with Wilson not having to give up any of his best young stars. Wilson has had an incredible year and has assembled one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
2. Kyle Dubas
Dubas has had a lot of instances to put himself in the running for GM of the year. The first would be a good draft by trading down and picking defenseman Rasmus Sandin, as well as Filip Kral, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, and Sean Durzi. The next, and probably biggest event of Dubas’ rookie year as a GM, he signed free agent John Tavares. This in itself is an incredible feat that could possibly change free agency for future superstars. This move alone sets Dubas apart from most of the GMs in the league. Finally, Dubas’ most recent major signing was locking up William Nylander long term. It seemed both sides were ready to have Nylander and camp just sit out the year. In the end, Dubas and Nylander were able to strike a deal at the last moment. All these large moves, as well as lots of bargain deals such as Calle Rosen and Trevor Moore extensions, has set Dubas apart in just a short amount of time.
3. David Poile
This is really just for previous work. The GM of the year competition is really a two horse race at this point in the season. However, that’s not to say Poile hasn’t done a fantastic job. Locking up Rinne for two more years and extending Ryan Ellis at below market value are both no easy feat. Juuse Saros is a great backup at a steal of a contract, and lots of other extensions are all really Poile has done this season, but every move he’s made this season has been good so far, no matter how small.
Honorable Mention: Steve Yzerman
Yzerman recently stepped down from his position as the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, however, his work lives on. He crafted the current first-place Lightning that is on pace for the best regular season in the salary-cap era. If he were still the Lightning GM, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he’d be eyeing up the #1 spot for this award.
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