With the 2019-20 NHL regular season over before it’s scheduled completion, it’s time for a very unique year to hand out awards. Here’s our picks for the ballot across the league:
“Given to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
Winner: Roman Josi (NSH)
Washington’s John Carlson put up an eye-popping 75 points in 69 games this season, but the award stipulates “all around” play. As Penguins fans might remember, defending was a problem for Carlson all season long, highlighted by this:
Evgeni Malkin absolutely undresses John Carlson on this little move— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) February 23, 2020
Josi put up 65 points and his possession metrics and defensive stats indicate much more well-rounded player, so he’s the pick. They really should split this into two awards- one for best offensive defenseman (which Carlson would win running away this season) and one for the real best-rounded defenseman in the league.
“Given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”
Winner: Sean Couturier (PHI)
Patrice Bergeron usually wins this and might again on reputation, but we’ll mix it up and go with Couturier. It feels bad to say nice thing about Flyers so we’ll just move on.
Winner: Connor Hellebuyck (WIN)
Hellebuyck was totally shelled — his 1.756 shots faced led the league and he almost single-handedly push Winnipeg into the playoff picture with a solid .922 save% and league-high six shutouts. Hellebuyck’s goals above saved average at 19.9 was also far and away tops in the league. This one is a no-brainer.
Given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL.
Winner: Quinn Hughes (VAN)
This came down to a two-horse race between rookie defensemen Colorado’s Cale Makar (50 points in 57 games) and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes (53 points in 68 games). Both played over 21 minutes per game. Makar was more productive at even strength (31 ESP to 28, despite 11 less games) but Hughes played more games. If the season ends, perhaps Makar could have closed the gap, but missing time cost him.
Hughes led Canucks’ defensemen with a 52.9 xGF%. He was the only Vancouver blueline to end up with a season average above 50%. He’s a great player on a so-so team. Makar, to his credit, also led the Avalanche defensemen in xGF% at 53.5%. But Makar’s most common forward linemates were Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen. Stronger team, stronger results. Hughes’ contributions were more for a lesser team.
Jack Adams Award
Given to the coach selected to have contributed the most to his team’s success.
Winner: Mike Sullivan (PIT)
This award usually goes to whichever team out-performs pre-season expectation, or gets incredible goaltending. Mike Sullivan did neither, so he perhaps will not win. But he sure deserves consideration. The Pens were run ragged with key injury after key injury, ranking tops in the league in important man games lossed. Yet Sullivan helped steer the team, plug holes where he could, and kept the Pens afloat.
That they only got league-average goaltending and still remained somewhat solidly in a playoff spot only speaks more to the job that Sullivan did, especially coming off a dreadful playoff performance last year. Sullivan found a way to get his message through, and that’s difficult to do.
Given to the player selected to be the most valuable to his team.
Winner: Nathan MacKinnon (COL)
MacKinnon only finished fifth in scoring, but his value was immense. I’m not one for over-thinking this award, just go with the best player. Leon Draisaitl and his 110 points deserves a lot of consideration, and I wouldn’t think that an incorrect vote.
MacKinnon recorded 52 5v5 points this season, only one teammate (Andre Burakovsky, 28) had even half as many. Colorado has been a first place team and there’s no doubt that MacKinnon has been the main driver of that — especially in a season where Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have both missed significant portions due to injury.
Beyond just the numbers, MacKinnon just has that “wow” factor. When he gets the puck, he’s tough to knock off it. He flies and creates a ton of chances. Along with Connor McDavid (whose own MVP campaign was derailed by missing time to injury), MacKinnon is just one of those players that’s worth the cost of admission. And always out to change the course of the game and lead his team to a win. For that, he’s the pick for the Hart this year.