NHL Award Winner Favourites and Underdogs at Halfway Mark
Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning
John Tavares, New York Islanders; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Often, the NHL’s most valuable player will be the leading scorer in the league, or the best player on the best team. Nikita Kucherov checks off both requirements, driving the Tampa Bay Lightning to the top of the standings while maintaining a healthy lead over Tavares, MacKinnon, Gaudreau and Giroux in the Art Ross race.
The top challengers for the Hart feature a pair of offensive superstars dragging their teams to unexpected respectability. John Tavares serves as a rock for the New York Islanders, leading their young, dynamic squad to the precipice of the playoffs.
Colorado wasn’t expected to improve much after a horrid 2016-17 regular season. Nathan MacKinnon decided to fulfill his immense promise this season, and the Avalanche find themselves competing for a wild card spot in the best division in the NHL.
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
P.K. Subban – Nashville Predators; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
There’s no defenseman close to John Klingberg in the scoring race, who leads all rearguards with 37 assists and 43 points. Klingberg’s greatest skill has been meshing with the Stars abundance of scoring prowess. He also leads defenders in game winning points, scoring a pair of game winning goals and assisting on eight game winners.
P.K. Subban’s on his way to the best season of his career, leading the Nashville Predators blueline to a fantastic start to the regular season. He’s tied for fourth in defense scoring with Victor Headman and has a +7 rating. A strong finish could net P.K. his second Norris honor.
Doughty might not be considered the best defenseman in the NHL, but he might be the league’s most valuable defender to his own team. Drew plays an incredible 27:09 per game, leading the NHL in ice time. Despite being on ice for more than 45% of all Los Angeles Kings games, he boasts a +18 rating, locking down the opposition on most nights.
Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning
Mike Smith, Calgary Flames; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
There’s no doubt that the team which protects Vasilevskiy has been the best in the league, but Andrei’s done more than his fair share of heavy lifting. Vasilevskiy’s earned a 2.18 GAA average along with a .930 SV%, leading the NHL with 27 wins and six shutouts. Andrei might end up regressing in the second half, but should be considered the favourite nonetheless.
Calgary can’t afford to shut Mike Smith down this season because their backup situation remains bleak. No worries so far, as Mike’s tied for the lead with 38 starts this season. The Flames have been a different team with Smith guarding the goal, beginning 2018 with a seven-game win streak.
Quick has quietly put together a solid year, rebounding from injury to post a bounceback year. Jonathan’s earned a 2.33 GAA, .924 SV% and a trio of shutouts with the Kings this season.
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
Brock Boeser – Vancouver Canucks; Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning
Another great year of fantastic rookies grace the league this season, including a pair of dynamic scorers neck-and-neck for the Calder Trophy. A recent outburst from Mathew Barzal pushes the Islander rookie to the head of the pack, leading all freshman with 47 points on the resurgent Islanders. Incredibly, Mathew already has two five-point games under his belt.
Brock Boeser’s managed to maintain a sizzling goal-scoring pace without a lot of support in Vancouver, a team which has suffered numerous injury problems this season. Brock could break the 40-goal mark in his first campaign, currently sitting seventh in goal scoring with 22 in 42 games.
If there was a Norris for rookies, Mikhail Sergachev would be top choice for best first-year defenseman, tallying 26 points, five game winning goals and a +13 rating, earning a spot on Tampa’s deep roster by starting the season on fire.
Jack Adams Award
Gerrard Gallant – Vegas Golden Knights
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning; Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins
There’s no doubting the Jack Adams leader at the halfway point of the season. Gerrard Gallant somehow managed to organize and motivate a group of expansion draft picks into the best squad in the western conference. Most NHL observers needed a few months to adjust to the idea that Vegas will be a legitimate threat this year.
The best team in the league features the best roster in the NHL, along with one of the best bench bosses. Cooper convinced the Tampa Bay Lightning to play to their potential, which sparked production from previously unknown sources, including Vasilevskiy, Sergachev, Brayden Point and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Nobody refers to Bruce Cassidy as the interim coach of the Boston Bruins anymore. He’s helped the Bruins rise to second place in the Atlantic Division, including a stretch of 13 consecutive games with a point earned, including nine wins during this span.
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