The 2015 NHL Awards will be handed out on June 24 in Las Vegas. Here’s the list of nominees for the most notable awards, my picks for who should win each trophy and my prediction as to who will likely win.
Nominees: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens; John Tavares, New York Islanders.
My pick: Price. Without him, the Montreal Canadiens would’ve been at best a marginal playoff contender. Thanks to his stellar performance, the Canadiens finished atop the Atlantic Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference standings.
Likely winner: Price. The Professional Hockey Writers Association determines the winner of the Hart Trophy. Judging by nearly every comment I’ve read and heard from the pundits this season, the Canadiens netminder appears to be a lock for this one.
Nominees: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators; P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens.
My pick: Doughty. He’s the most complete defenseman of this group. While Karlsson and Subban have better offensive and plus/minus totals, Doughty led them in hits, blocked shots and ice time. He was among the few bright spots in a disappointing season for the Kings.
Likely winner: Karlsson. Not that he isn’t deserving, but it seems Doughty gets overlooked because of where he plays. Though Subban’s a previous winner of this award, there remains some lingering criticism of his defensive game.
Nominees: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks.
My pick: Bergeron. While all three are worthy of this honor, Bergeron’s defensive numbers are better than those of Kopitar and Toews. He has more blocked shots, takeaways and a higher faceoff percentage.
Likely winner: Bergeron, marking the third time in four years he will take home the award.
Nominees: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild; Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens; Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators.
My pick: Price. It’s no contest. He led all starting goaltenders in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933), while his nine shutouts tied him for second in that category. Without question, Price was this season’s dominant netminder.
Likely winner: Price. If he doesn’t win, it’ll be highway robbery.
Nominees: Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames; Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators; Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers.
My pick: Hartley. Not that Laviolette or Vigneault aren’t deserving nominees, but they had more experienced talent to work with than the Flames bench boss. Calgary began this season selected by many experts to miss the playoffs. Thanks to Hartley’s coaching, the Flames stunned the hockey world by qualifying for the postseason and upsetting the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round.
Likely winner: Hartley. Much of the buzz I’ve heard about this year’s Adams winner indicates he’s the favorite.
Nominees: Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers; Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames; Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators.
My pick: Ekblad. I like Gaudreau’s offensive style and Stone is a solid two-way player, but the now-19 year old Ekblad quickly became a top-pairing defenseman. He led all Panthers blueliners in scoring with 39 points, making him the club’s fourth-highest scorer. He also tied for the team lead in plus/minus (plus-12) and game-winning goals (4), was second in average ice time (21:48) and shots (170), fourth in blocked shots (80) and seventh in hits (109) and takeaways (26).
Likely winner: Gaudreau. Not that he won’t deserve it, but I think the voters will be more impressed by his offensive stats and flashy style than Ekblad’s strong overall performance.
Lady Byng Trophy.
Nominees: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings.
My pick: Kopitar. This award goes to the league’s most gentlemanly player. Kopitar and Datsyuk both play a similar style. What’s telling for me, however, is Kopitar had only 2 PIM more than Datsyuk, yet outhit the latter by a two-to-one margin (105 to 51). Though Datsyuk played fewer games, had he been healthy I still believe Kopitar would’ve led in that category. The Kings center proves you can be an effective physical player and still play a disciplined game.
Likely winner: Datsyuk, who’s won it four previous times in his career. Familiarity will likely win out with the voters.
Nominees: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild; Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators; Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins.
My pick: Dubnyk. A year ago, after bouncing from Edmonton to Nashville to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton, Dubnyk’s NHL career appeared on the verge of collapse. Signed as a backup by the Arizona Coyotes, he worked hard to improve his game. After joining the Wild in a midseason trade, he not only saved their season but was among the league’s top goalies in the second half.
Likely winner: Dubnyk. The Masterton Award is about perseverance. While Hammond and Letang certainly overcame their share of obstacles this season, I suspect the voters will reward Dubnyk for saving his NHL career.
Nominees: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens.
My Pick: Price. The Lindsay Award is essentially the most valuable player as voted on by the players. Given Price’s incredible performance this season, I expect the players will go with the Canadiens goaltender.
Likely winner: Price, and my thanks to “rattus rattus” for pointing out I’d missed this award in my original post.