Earlier this week, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association released their mid-season awards, which gives us a pretty good idea of how these things are going to shake out at the end of the season. Last year, the mid-season choices for the Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy, Lady Bing Trophy, and Jack Adams Award all accurately predicted who took home the hardware in June.
For this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SATURDAY EDITION question, we’ll take a look at the PHWA’s mid-season winners and make our own lists for who we think will win the award at the end of the season. Here’s what the PHWA has for us this year and, in bold, I’ll give my thoughts underneath. Give me all of your choices in the comments section.
Hart Trophy – to the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
3. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
This is an easy one for me. It’s Connor McDavid. He’s reached a new gear this season and he’s likely going to shatter his career-high in points. The only thing stopping him from winning in the past has been the Oilers missing the playoffs. That likely won’t be an issue this year.
Honourable mentions to Nathan McKinnon, John Carlson, and Connor Hellebuyck.
Norris Trophy – to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position.
1. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
2. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
3. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
I think the PWHA has this one right, too. John Carlson is currently on pace to hit 100 points, which is something we haven’t seen a defenceman do since the early 90s. Carlson would join Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin, Al MacInnis, and Brian Leetch as defencemen to hit the 100-point plateau. That’s a legendary group.
Dougie Hamilton would be the other defenceman I would consider over Carlson as he’s been incredible both offensively and defensively for the Hurricanes. That said, an injury to Hamilton that could result in him missing major time would derail that possibility.
Selke Trophy – to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
1. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
After Patrice Bergeron dominated the Selke discussion for most of the decade, we’ve finally seen some new winners over the past few years in Anze Kopitar and Ryan O’Reilly. Sean Couturier has been an underrated, elite defensive centre for years and it would be nice to see him finally win the award.
Calder Trophy – to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.
1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
2. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
3. Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres
This really is a two-horse race at this stage between two rookie defencemen. Makar has 37 points in 41 games and is the better offensive player while Hughes has 34 points in 48 games and likely plays the stronger defensive game. I might go with Hughes becaue he’s jumped into a questionable Canucks blueline and is already their best defenceman, logging over 21 minutes per night. But this is a coin flip.
Lady Byng Trophy – to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
I get why Matthews is here, given the fact he only has six penalty minutes thus far, but this is a bad look. Matthews found himself in legal trouble prior to the season and giving him love for an award based around gentlemanly conduct feels wrong. I mean, Johnny Gaudreau won it in the same season he got fined for diving, so, expectations shouldn’t be too high. I think MacKinnon will take this one, but young defencemen Miro Heiskanen or Cale Makar who only have six penalty minutes would be good choices too.
Vezina Trophy – to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.
1. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
2. Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars
3. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
What Connor Hellebuyck has done this year has been nothing short of amazing. the Jets lost Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, and Jacob Trouba this off-season and he’s kept one of the worst defensive teams in hockey afloat. Both Darcy Kuemper and Ben Bishop have been better statistically, but play on much stronger teams. If Hellebuyck can drag the Jets into the playoffs, he’s a shoe-in for the Vezina Trophy and should get some love for the Hart, too.
A couple of other names worth mentioning… Rookie glatender Elvis Merlinkis in Columbus has a .926 save percentage in 21 games. A hot stretch the rest of the way should garner him some consideration here. Also, Tristan Jarry has taken over the net in Pittsburgh and owns a .929 save percentage in 25 games.
Jack Adams Award – to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.
1. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues
It would be nice to see Dave Tippett get some love here but it’s hard to argue with any of the PWHA’s three choices here. Mike Sullivan has incredibly navigated a wealth of injuries to the Penguins’ roster, John Tortorella has kept his team in the playoff mix despite losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency, and Craig Berube has the Blues battling for the Presidents’ Trophy and looking for a Stanley Cup repeat. I think Sullivan takes the award home, but Tippett certainly deserves to be in the conversation, though.
Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award – to the General Manager adjusted to have contributed most to his team’s success.
1. Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
2. John Chayka, Arizona Coyotes
3. Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues
It’s hard to argue against Joe Sakic as he’s built a Stanley Cup contender in Colorado. Over the off-season, he added Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Valeri Nichushkin, turning the Avs from a top-heavy team that relied on one line to one of the deepest teams in the Western Conference. I think Ken Holland should get votes for managing to get rid of Milan Lucic’s contract, but this looks like Sakic’s award to lose.
Rod Langway Award – to the defenseman who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game.
1. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
This is really cool that they’re including this and it’s an award I think should garner more attention. An issue with the Norris Trophy right now, as we’ll see with Carlson, is that it often values offence over defence. There are plenty of amazing defensive defencemen who never get any love when it comes to the Norris Trophy. If there’s a trophy for best defensive forward, there should be for defencemen, too.
The choice of Slavin is a strong one, but other names like Seth Jones, Miro Heiskanen, Zdeno Chara, and Alex Pietrangelo should be in the mix too.
Comeback Player of the Year Award – to the player who returned to a previous high level of performance that was interrupted by subpar play, long-term injury or major illness.
1. William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
3. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights
This is a really bad one. Nylander is having himself a strong season, there’s no doubt about that. But what’s he coming back from? A contract holdout? McDavid should absolutely win this award given his insane comeback from the injury he suffered at the end of the 2018-19 season. Duclair deserves love here given the fact he went from being nearly out of the league to breaking out as an All-Star in Ottawa this year, but nobody’s comeback is more impressive than McDavid’s.
What say you, Nation? Who do you think will win each of these awards?