Early Candidates for 2017-18 NHL Awards
A quarter of the way through this season’s schedule, here’s a look at those I consider the early favorites to win the notable NHL individual awards.
Hart Memorial Trophy: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. Injuries sidelined or hampered Stamkos in recent years. Entering this season, it seemed the Lightning captain’s best years were behind him. Since early October, however, he’s been perched atop the scoring leader board. Usually a sniper, he’s become more of a playmaker this season, leading the league with 26 assists. Stamkos and linemate Nikita Kucherov are a devastating one-two offensive punch for the Lightning and a big reason behind their early-season dominance.
Vezina Trophy: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets. After winning the second Vezina of his career last season, Bobrovsky is making an early case for a third in 2017-18. “Bob” leads the league in goals-against average (1.91) and save percentage (.936), is tied for the lead in shutouts (3) and sits second in wins with 14. Thanks to his stellar goaltending, the Jackets are once again jostling for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues. For most of his career, Pietrangelo’s been overshadowed by Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, Chicago’s Duncan Keith and San Jose’s Brent Burns. Through the early weeks of this season, however, he’s been the league’s best blueliner. Pietrangelo’s stepped up his offensive game without sacrificing his defensive skills. He’s tied for second in points among NHL blueliners (20). He’s also the Blues leader in ice time (25:51) and among the team leaders in blocked shots (40) and takeaways (22).
Calder Memorial Trophy: Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes. For most of the early going this season, Keller was the league’s top rookie. He’s been among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable start for the Coyotes. He’s their leader in goals (11) and points (20) and until recently was leading all rookies in those categories. Of late, Keller’s been overtaken by New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal andVancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser in the rookie scoring race, but I still give him the early edge.
Jack Adams Award: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights. Let’s be honest, folks, no one gave the expansion Golden Knights any chance at playoff contention in their inaugural campaign. But as of Nov. 25, they sat atop the Pacific Division. They did it without a superstar and with injury-depleted goaltending. A lot of credit belongs to Gallant. He’s got the players buying into his system and he’s quickly brought them together as a team. If Vegas defies the odds and clinches a postseason berth at season’s end, Gallant should be the runaway favorite for coach of the year.
Player stats as of Nov. 25, 2017.