The 2015 NHL Awards take place in Las Vegas on Wednesday night and while the winners of some of the major awards have already been determined based on statistical prerequisites, there are a number of close races that could leave players and fans alike in awe.
The Art Ross and Maurice Richard Trophies are two of the major awards that are presented on Awards night but have already been determined with this year's recipients going to Jamie Benn and Alexander Ovechkin, respectively, as Benn of the Dallas Stars finished the season with 87 points to lead the league while Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals took home another Richard Trophy for leading the NHL in goals scored with 53. The King Clancy Memorial Trophy was awarded to Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference who was recognized for his leadership qualities on and off the ice as well as for his humanitarian efforts. The final pre-determined award was given to Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks who backstopped their team to a league low in goals conceded.
Now, to preview the rest of the rest of the awards and a prediction on each winner:
General Manager of the Year:
Nominees: Andy Murray (Anaheim Ducks); Glen Sather (New York Rangers); Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay Lightning)
This category is one that is the most debated across hockey circles as all three gentlemen are deserving of this recognition and each stands out for different reasons. Murray's Ducks finished with the game's best record and traded for Ryan Kesler; Sather made some key moves to lead the Rangers back to the Eastern Conference Final; and Yzerman took his team to the Stanley Cup Final with a number of pieces with Yzerman's fingerprints on it made significant contributions. While these awards are supposed to focus solely on the regular season I do think this one accounts for some playoff success and while some think he may not be ready to receive the accolade here I think the effort put forth from the young Lightning players that were cast aside by many others solidify this win for Yzerman.
Prediction: Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Mark Messier Leadership Award:
Nominees: Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks); Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks); Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg Jets)
The Messier Leadership Award goes to an individual who best exemplifies leadership qualities both on and off the ice during the NHL regular season. Jonathan Toews to me is the front runner for this award as he continues to prove he is one of the best players and best captains in the NHL but he isn't a shoe in. Ryan Getzlaf should be getting some love here as he and running mate Corey Perry took a Ducks team with some gaping holes and led them to the league's best record and Jets captain Andrew Ladd was a catalyst in Winnipeg's resurgence and led them back to the playoffs. Toews continues to draw comparisons to Messier so many believe that he will get the call here especially considering the Hawks just won their third Cup in six seasons but there is a possibility that more emphasis will be placed on regular season success and for that I lean towards Getzlaf.
Prediction: Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
Ted Lindsay Award:
Nominees: Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens); Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals); Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
The Ted Lindsay Award is presented to the league's Most Outstanding Player as voted on by the players and while not always the case is usually a precursor to who will win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. This grouping is interesting as you have the Art Ross winner in Benn whose Stars didn't make the playoffs, the Richard winner in Ovechkin who led Washington to the second round in the Eastern Conference, and Price who joins rare company as one of few goaltenders who get recognized in a category outside of the Vezina. All three are deserving for their outstanding seasons and while it is rare to see a goalie in the mix it is clear to see why. Price was head and shoulders the best goalie in the league this season and while Ovi and Benn were great I don't think they separated themselves from the pack nearly as much as Price did and even in this grouping you can't snub Price on what should be a very busy night for the Canadiens net minder.
Prediction: Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:
Nominees: Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild); Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins); Andrew Hammond (Ottawa Senators)
The Masterton Trophy goes to a player who demonstrates perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey and these three finalists are all spectacular stories. Letang is nominated once again this season after he fought back after having a stroke and this season he continued his road to recovery and was once again a force on the Penguins blue line. Andrew Hammond stole the headlines and the starting goalie gig in Ottawa after a spectacular run late in the season that triggered an improbable run to the playoffs for the Senators. Devan Dubnyk joined his third NHL team in less than a year when he was picked up by the Minnesota Wild and he went from a backup in Arizona to starting in Minnesota and catapulted the Wild into the second round of the playoffs were they were ultimately ousted by the Cup champs. This award could be shared by all three players but in the end I think you have to reward perseverance here and to go from a backup to a Vezina nominee and sport some of the league's best numbers I think you have to look at Dubnyk here.
Prediction: Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild)
Jack Adams Award:
Nominees: Alain Vigneault (New York Rangers); Peter Laviolette (Nashville Predators); Bob Hartley (Calgary Flames)
The Jack Adams Trophy is presented to the NHL's Coach of the Year and this year's finalists all bring something different to the table. Vigneault took an already great team and made them better as they eclipsed their franchise mark in wins and points this season and made a return to the Eastern Conference final where they bowed out to the Lightning. Laviolette took the gig in Nashville and turned the Preds into a Western power and back to the playoffs after a two year absence while Hartley took a Flames team destined for the league basement and turned them into a Cinderella story that ended in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Vigneault will likely get overlooked here thanks to the talent on his roster while many will attirbute Nashville's success to a rebound season from Pekka Rinne, the addition of James Neal, and another year of progression from Seth Jones, and while it may be a ruling situation, personally I think the award should go to Hartley anyways. The Flames bench boss took a rag tag, young group that was expected to be in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes at the beginning of the season and turned them into a playoff contender and I think he is a shoe in to take down the hardware on Wednesday.
Prediction: Bob Hartley (Calgary Flames)
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Nominees: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins); Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings); Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
The Selke Trophy is awarded to a forward who best represents defensive aspects of the game, or simply, the best defensive forward. The nominees this season shouldn't come as a surprise as all three were finalists for the award last season with Bergeron taking the honours. This award is a tough one to call as it is unclear which aspects different writers look at when casting their vote but the two that play the carry the most significant weight in my opinion is plus/minus and face off percentage. In that case, Toews and Bergeron should battle it out once again and while Toews was fifth in the league in plus/minus you can't argue the significance Bergeron plays in the defensive zone with his almost automatic face off percentage. If it was the best two way player I would pick Toews but as the best defensive forward I am giving it to Bergeron once again.
Prediction: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
Lady Byng Trophy
Nominees: Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings); Jiri Hudler (Calgary Flames); Pavel Dastyuk (Detroit Red Wings)
The Lady Byng Trophy goes to the league's most sportsmanlike or gentlemanly player who also exhibits top end skill and these nominations are excellent. Kopitar once again led the LA Kings in scoring and continues to prove he is one of the league's best and unique players and this season accumulated only five penalty minutes all season. Hudler is new to the mix but had an extraordinary season in Calgary setting a career high in points and had the fewest penalty minutes (14) among the league's top 20 point producers. Datsyuk meanwhile is a mainstay with this award and while it has been some time since he won it he has more than a handful to his name. This one is tough to gauge as I think the Lady Byng usually carries a larger sample size than just the season at hand and while I think Hudler is deserving of the recognition thanks to the season he had I am leaning towards Kopitar here as he continues his dominance on the ice without costing his team with trips to the penalty box.
Prediction: Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)
Nominees: Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames); Mark Stone (Ottawa Senators); Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers)
The Calder Trophy is presented to the league's Rookie of the Year and to me is the toughest of all the major awards to pick a winner. Gaudreau and Stone tied atop the league scoring for first year players and both had distinctive contributions to their teams push to the playoffs and will be centre pieces for their respective franchises for years. Ekblad meanwhile was perhaps the most polished rookie this season and for an 18 year old he was absolutely spectacular on the Florida blue line and well worthy of the top overall selection in last year's draft. However, Ekblad I think will fall victim to the defenseman curse in major awards outside the Norris and while he is worthy of consideration I don't think he gets it. That leaves us with the two young forwards and while Stone led the league in takeaways and was instrumental in Ottawa's push to the playoffs I think Johnny Hockey gets the call here as I think the Writer's will see him as being more valuable to his team than Stone was to the Sens.
Prediction: Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames)
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Nominees: PK Subban (Montreal Canadiens); Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings); Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators)
The Norris Trophy is awarded to the league's top defenseman and this year's crop are on the rise as some of the game's best and brightest. Subban is nominated once again after winning in 2013 and for a career year in points and a huge part of the team's league low in goals allowed he is a clear cut nominee this season. Karlsson led all defensemen in points, was second in goals, played in all 82 games and was an absolute force at both ends of the ice for a Senators team who surprised many this season. Doughty meanwhile is becoming a mainstay in the Norris voting and was second in the league in average ice time which is saying a lot considering his age and the amount of workhorses in the league. While any could conceivably win the award this season I think it is Karlsson's to lose as he separated himself from the rest of the pack and with his numbers offensively and his play defensively you can't argue it shouldn't go to the Swedish national.
Prediction: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators)
Nominees: Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild); Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens); Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)
The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the league's top goaltender and each of these nominees had special seasons between the pipes. However, this is the point in the evening where things become a formality as Carey Price had a historic season in the Montreal crease and if you're nominated as one of the Hart Trophy candidates you'd better win the award designated to your position. Dubnyk had a great rise to relevance in the Minnesota net and he should be rewarded with the Masterton Trophy and while his numbers across the board were solid his sample size was not nearly big enough to take down Goliath this season but it shouldn't come as a surprise based on where he plays and how he plays to see him back in this conversation next season. Rinne meanwhile was a staple in the Nashville system once again and while his numbers were brilliant he was injured for a decent portion of the season and still he didn't do enough to knock off Price. The Montreal goaltender to me takes down the easiest pick of the night here in what could be grouped in with the Art Ross and Richard as a major award that is already pre-determined.
Prediction: Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
Hart Memorial Trophy
Nominees: Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens); John Tavares (New York Islanders); Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
The biggest of all the NHL Awards is the Hart Trophy which goes to the league's Most Valuable Player as voted on by the Hockey Writer's association and not the players. Two of the three names are carry overs from the Ted Lindsay selections with John Tavares replacing Jamie Benn in the nominations alongside Price and Ovechkin. Tavares to me is the biggest longshot here as this is his only nomination of the night and very rarely would be see the Writer's Association give out the award to a player who wasn't in the top three as voted on by his peers. Ovechkin meanwhile poses the biggest threat to Carey Price as the league MVP as Ovi was once again lights out in the offensive zone and adjusted swimmingly to a new system implemented by Barry Trotz but I think this year the Hart Trophy award will be something special. Carey Price to me is hands down this season's league MVP as he captured the goaltending triple crown leading the NHL in wins, save percentage, and goals against average – the first to do so since Ed Belfour in 1990-91. Ovechkin is a victim of his own skill set this season as the writer's will look for an excuse not to give it to him and while this serves as a perfect opportunity to award someone else it is completely justified and frankly I think Price is a stone cold lock.
Prediction: Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
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