Projecting Winners of the Major NHL Player Awards
Most NHL teams have now played a quarter of their abbreviated schedules, and as such, it's time to run the rule over what has transpired. Teams are starting to settle into a general playoff standing, while the top players are settling into grooves.
Of course, the fact that this season is shortened by the lockout won't prevent the league from distributing its usual awards celebrating the top players in the league. The only question becomes one of who will actually win these awards.
This article will attempt to answer that question, at least based on what we've seen thus far.
Hart Trophy (MVP): Patrick Kane
Yes, Patrick Kane. Sure, he doesn't lead the league in points or goals or other such statistical categories. But what counts is the Chicago Blackhawks' 10-0-2 start, for which Kane has been the major catalyst.
Kane has racked up nine goals and 10 assists in Chicago's 12 games, and clearly, his influence is reflected in his team's record. He isn't doing it all by himself, with goalie Corey Crawford playing extremely well in his own right.
But given that it is typically the offensive player that gets most of the credit in cases like these, the award is definitely Kane's right now.
Others considered: Craig Anderson, Henrik Zetterberg, David Clarkson
Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie): Craig Anderson
As I discussed a couple of weeks ago, Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson has undoubtedly been the best goalie in the NHL thus far. Nothing has changed since then; in fact, things have only swung more in Anderson's favor.
Checking the main stats page on NHL.com Tuesday evening, you'd notice something strange: the same picture leading all four goaltending categories—goals-against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts.
That picture belongs to Anderson. His 1.36 GAA and .956 save percentage are far and away tops in the league. His seven wins are tied for most in the league. And Ottawa is pretty well situated in the playoff hunt. With continued stellar play from Anderson, there's no telling how well they could end up.
Others considered: Corey Crawford, Viktor Fasth, Antti Niemi
Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman): Erik Karlsson
Yes, this is a bit of a boring pick. After all, Erik Karlsson did win the Norris Trophy last season. But he definitely deserved it then and has shown that he deserves it yet again in 2013.
The main man in front of Anderson at the back for Ottawa, Karlsson is a key part of the reason the Senators have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (just 23 in 13 games). Oh, and he's notched six goals already to show he can provide at the other end.
Last season saw him barely edge out Shea Weber in the voting. But so far, he's got a bit more of a comfortable margin between him and the rest of the field. He and Anderson ought to continue their run of fantastic play en route to some silverware.
Others considered: Kevin Shattenkirk, Tobias Enstrom, Alex Pietrangelo
Calder Trophy (Top First-Year Player): Viktor Fasth
When I discussed NHL rookies in the article I cited earlier, I mentioned how Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues was the front-runner for this award. However, a commenter mentioned Viktor Fasth, a fill-in goalie for the Anaheim Ducks, as a player to watch.
Lo and behold, Fasth has filled in for Jonas Hiller and gone 6-0-1 in his seven starts, allowing just 12 goals in that span with a .933 save percentage. It's no wonder Anaheim leads the Pacific Division over the San Jose Sharks.
Sure, the offensive production of Tarasenko and the play of the Tampa Bay Lightning's Cory Conacher has been superb. But goaltenders make or break teams, and with Anaheim surging near the top of the Western Conference, Fasth deserves a ton of credit.
Others considered: Cory Conacher, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nail Yakupov
Art Ross Trophy (Top Scorer): Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek has enjoyed a fantastic start to this NHL season. His 23 points are three better than Patrick Kane, and his 11 goals lead the formerly blistering hot Patrick Marleau by one. And his 12 assists include the one seen in the video.
He's the leader to this point, and given his role as the main source of danger in Buffalo, there is no reason why he should not be able to continue his high rate of production.
Granted, the team around him isn't that great, as Buffalo is mired in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. But as his team looks to turn things around, they'll turn to Vanek for the answer on offense. He's provided it pretty consistently so far.
Others considered: Patrick Kane, Henrik Zetterberg, Steven Stamkos
All stats via NHL.com