By: Isaac Jahns
In my last column, I looked at which teams were impressing and which teams were not in the first twelve games of the NHL season. From that time to now, most teams have doubled their amount of games played and we have a clearer picture of which teams are contenders and pretenders. We also are beginning to figure out which players are in line for some personal hardware at the end of the year. These are my 2015-2016 NHL player award predictions:
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
It’s quite simple. Kane leads the NHL in points and just became the first American-born player to tally a point in 20 straight regular season games. He is one game away from tying the franchise record point streak. He leads the league in assists (23) and is second to Jamie Benn in goals scored (18 to 15). Simply put, Kane is on another level right now. He’s not going to win any awards for sportsmanship or exemplary conduct off the ice (and some will say he shouldn’t even be playing right now), but the Hart trophy only takes on-ice accomplishments into account, and Patrick Kane is outplaying everyone in the league right now. He is the reason the Blackhawks currently sit in a playoff spot in the hotly contested Central division.
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender): Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
With Carey Price out with an injury, this year’s Vezina race is wide open. Goalies like Cory Schneider, Pekka Rinne, and Braden Holtby were considered, but right now “King Hank” is ahead by a slight margin. His numbers are nothing to scoff at: a 13-5-0 record with a 2.10 GAA and .935 save percentage will always garner attention. He’s already made some saves that will be considered for save of the year come May, and if he can keep the Rangers atop the Metropolitan division he may be seeing some hardware come his way.
Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year): Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
At the beginning of this season, most experts would have handed the Calder to either Oilers forward Connor McDavid or Sabres forward Jack Eichel. They had the hype entering the year, and they were impressing people through the first ten games of the season. Since then, Eichel has fallen to earth and McDavid has been sidelined with a fractured collarbone. In McDavid’s absence and Eichel’s slump, Artemi Panarin has stepped forward as the rookie making the biggest impact for his team. He plays on the second line with Patrick Kane, and in the style of his linemate, leads all rookies in assists (16) and total points (23). It will be interesting to see what happens in this race when McDavid returns, but for right now, Panarin is a deserving winner.
Norris Memorial Trophy (best defenseman): P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
When looking at a defenseman’s stats, one of the most important is plus-minus. It shows how well a team plays when a certain player is on the ice. Subban combines a high plus-minus (+10, t-5th in the NHL among defensemen) with lots of playing time and the third-most points by a defenseman (21) to show that when he is on the ice, the Canadiens are controlling the game. It’s a close race, but Subban combines a high level of play on the offensive and defensive side of the puck to set himself apart from the other contenders.
Jack Adams Award (most valuable coach): Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
In his season and a quarter in the nation’s capital, Trotz has helped his team go from missing the playoffs to currently being the league’s most efficient team, accruing 35 points (4th best in the NHL) in a league-low 23 games played. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie on your roster, but Trotz’s impact is undeniable. The Capitals’ turnaround can be credited to many players, but it all starts with the head coach, and Trotz has proved to be the man for the job.