After waiting for over four months, the 2017-18 season is finally here! Ottawa doesn’t play until tomorrow, but there are actual NHL games on today! Because of that, I thought I should give my award predictions just in time.
If these come even remotely close remains to be seen, but I always love guessing things like this before we start. Here they are:
Art Ross: Connor McDavid
McDavid won the Art Ross last season with 100 points, and it’s hard to pick anyone but him for the upcoming season. Sidney Crosby is definitely still incredible, but McDavid is just a tick above him, plus who’s to say that McDavid can’t get even better? He’s only 20 years old, after all.
It’s his to lose, that’s for sure.
Hart: Connor McDavid
See previous award.
Rocket Richard: Nikita Kucherov
Kucherov is one of the best players in the game, yet he isn’t really a household name. He’s just as good as other wingers like Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Alex Ovechkin, yet he isn’t talked about that much in the mainstream media.
Last year he finished second in goals with 40 (in only 74 games), which was a career high. He did have a high SH% of 16.4%, but his career average is 14.4%, so it’s not as if he’s due for a massive drop-off. Plus, Tampa Bay was missing Steven Stamkos for the majority of last season, so with an improved Lightning team I don’t see why Kucherov can’t put up another 40+ goal season.
Selke: Patrice Bergeron
A lot of the time it’s easy for voters to pick forwards who are known for good two-way play, but really the numbers don’t back it up. Bergeron is not one of those players. He’s deservedly won four Selke’s in the past six seasons, and he was runner-up in those other two years.
I’ll keep picking Bergeron until there’s a forward good enough to firmly supplant him.
Vezina: Andrei Vasilevskiy
This is an off the board pick, but I really love Vasilevskiy. In fact, along with Kucherov, there are quite a few Lightning players that I am enamoured with. Vasilevskiy has a career .915 SV% in 90 games in the NHL, which is slightly above average, but I think he’s capable of being much better.
Everywhere he’s been, he has dominated. In the MHL (the league below the KHL) as an 18-year old, he had a .931 SV%, and followed that up with a .930% season. He also played in 36 games in the KHL with a .924% in the first season, and a .923% in the second. Lastly, his two seasons in the AHL had marks of .917% and .935%. Simply put, he’s good wherever he goes.
That’s why I think he’s due for a breakout, especially now that he’s “The Man” in Tampa Bay.
Norris: Erik Karlsson
Even people who had disrespected Karlsson for years can agree that he was incredible in the 2017 playoffs. Despite playing on one leg, he took the Senators as far as he could. Although he won’t be healthy to begin the season, I don’t think he will be out that long.
And after he does come back, I think he can make an immediate impact. He may not be at 100%, but even Karlsson at 90% is one of the best defensemen in the league. Drew Doughty and Brent Burns have gotten their Norris trophies now, so I think people will realize that it should come back to Karlsson.
That is unless the Victor Hedman or Shea Weber for Norris talk heats up out of nowhere...
Calder: Alex DeBrincat
It’s incredibly frustrating that the Chicago Blackhawks can just continuously churn out cheap talent every time they run into cap trouble. Getting Alex DeBrincat at 39th overall in 2016 was a steal the day it happened, and it looks even better now. He scored an astonishing 127 points in 63 games for Erie in the OHL last season, and he had 101, and 104 points in the seasons prior to that, respectively.
I would expect him to get lots of playing time with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, as he should be one of the Blackhawk’s better offensive threats. I’m expecting big things from the small forward.
GM of the Year: Brad Treliving
There are a lot of ways this award can go. It’s about as hard to predict as the Lady Byng (which I’m not even going to bother with), but I like the Calgary Flames roster and they could take a real step forward. If they can receive decent enough goaltending from Mike Smith, they could be one of the best teams in the West. If that’s the case, then Treliving has a real case for this award.
He’s put together one of the best top-four defense corps in the league, and their forwards have become quite formidable as well, especially with the addition of Jaromir Jagr. I like the Flames chances this season.
Jack Adams: Mike Babcock
It’s surprising that Babcock has never won a Jack Adams, as he’s typically regarded as one of the best coaches in the game. I think (and fear) that Toronto will have another good season, and Babcock will be credited with their success in moving up in the division.
Even if the Leafs improve just slightly, I don’t think it would be bad to pick Babcock for the Jack Adams, simply because he’s always been a good coach. So I guess you could say he’s...due.
How do you think these awards will shake out?