NHL Award Winners at the Quarter Mark of the 2013 Season
Now that we are a quarter of the way through the 2013 NHL season, it's time to take an updated look at the leaders for all the major end-of-the-year awards.
With quite a few superstar players struggling this season, many of these award races are wide open, which will create some exciting debates over the next few months.
Let's look at who would win all the major NHL awards if the season ended today.
Hart Trophy: Most Valuable Player
Without Thomas Vanek playing at an elite level in the early part of the season, the Buffalo Sabres would be alone at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with no chance of making the playoffs.
The star winger leads the NHL in points with 23, and he has also improved defensively, evidenced by the fact that Vanek also leads the league in takeaways with 18. He has also played well against quality opponents with 13 points against teams currently in a playoff spot in the East.
Vanek's scoring and assists have made up for 60.5 percent of Buffalo's entire offensive production this season, and since the team's second, third and fourth lines have under performed thus far, the 29-year-old's impressive play has been crucial to the Sabres' success.
The problem for Vanek is that he might not get enough votes for the Hart Trophy if the Sabres don't make the playoffs. Voters usually reward finalists who lead their teams to the postseason.
2nd Place: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
3rd Place: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Note: Vanek is also my pick for the Ted Lindsay Award (Most Outstanding Player)
Art Ross Trophy: Top Scorer
Current Leader: Thomas Vanek (BUF), 23 points
Expected Winner: Steven Stamkos (TBL)
Steven Stamkos ranks fifth in scoring with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists), but there are a few reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning center will likely end the season as the NHL's top scorer.
- Stamkos has points in 10 of 13 games, and goals in six games
- The Lightning rank first in goals scored and have the fifth-best power play
- Stamkos plays alongside star winger Martin St. Louis, who ranks fourth in the league in points (19) and leads the NHL in assists (15)
- None of Tampa Bay's Southeast Division opponents rank in the top 20 in goals against (Carolina 21st, Winnipeg 25th, Washington 28th, Florida 30th)
Stamkos hasn't scored a goal in his last five games, but he's still only five points behind Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who leads all players with 23 points. As the league's premier goal scorer playing in one of the best offenses, Stamkos will take over the scoring lead during the next two weeks.
Maurice Richard: Most Goals Scored
Current Leader: Thomas Vanek (BUF), 11
Expected Winner: James Neal (PIT)
James Neal ranks second in goals scored with 10, and because he plays alongside the league's best playmaker in Evgeni Malkin, expect the Pittsburgh Penguins winger to lead the league in goals at the end of the season.
The 25-year-old forward has scored in eight of his team's 14 games, and he plays in the league's sixth-highest scoring offense.
He also plays a major role in the NHL's fifth-best powerplay with the two best players in the world (Malkin and Sidney Crosby) alongside him.
Neal and Malkin have developed some amazing chemistry, and there's no question that these stars will be two of the most productive and consistent players this season.
Peter Bondra won the Maurice Richard Trophy during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season with 34 goals, and there's a great chance that Neal will surpass that mark in 2013.
Vezina Trophy: Most Outstanding Goaltender
Despite all of their injuries to key offensive players, the Ottawa Senators are still in the top eight of the Eastern Conference standings because of the fantastic performances from starting goaltender Craig Anderson.
If the Senators make the playoffs with their two best players (Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson) missing the majority of the season with injuries, Anderson will be the favorite to win the award.
Here are his impressive stats and where he ranks among the league's best goaltenders.
2nd Place: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
3rd Place: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Norris Trophy: Best All-Around Defenseman
With superstar defensemen Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty having subpar seasons, and last year's winner Erik Karlsson recently suffering a season-ending injury, the Norris Trophy race is wide open with no clear favorite.
My early-season pick is St. Louis Blues star Alex Pietrangelo, who finished fourth in last year's voting and has continued to develop into an elite player in 2013.
Pietrangelo ranks second in scoring among defensemen with 12 points (three goals, nine assists). His defensive performance has also been impressive with seven takeaways and 25 blocked shots.
The 23-year-old is averaging 25:42 of ice team each game and his 32.2 shifts per game are the fourth-most among all defensemen.
Pietrangelo's impressive play this season is a major reason why the Blues have the fourth-highest scoring offense and the best power-play percentage.
2nd Place: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
3rd Place: Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Best Defensive Forward
The Chicago Blackhawks have the best goal differential in the NHL (plus-16), and the fantastic defensive performance of No. 1 center Jonathan Toews is a major part of that success.
Toews ranks fourth in the league in takeaways (15), fourth in plus/minus (10) and also has seven hits.
His 60.8 faceoff percentage ranks fourth in the league among players who have taken 100 or more faceoffs with at least seven games played. The Blackhawks captain also has the second-best road plus/minus rating (9).
The Blackhawks had one of the worst penalty killing units and ranked among the bottom third in goals against last season, and with Toews healthy and in the lineup consistently (he played in just 55 games last year due to injury), Chicago now ranks second and fourth in those categories, respectively.
Toews was a Selke finalist during the 2010-11 season, but Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler finished first in the voting. Expect the Blackhawks star to be a finalist this year and win the award.
2nd Place: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
3rd Place: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Calder Trophy: Best Rookie
This year's Calder race will be close, but the most outstanding rookie through the first quarter of 2013 is St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
The 21-year-old forward ranks second among rookies in points (11), first in goals (six), third in power-play goals (two) and second in shots (32). The Russian star is tied for the team lead in goals and is second among Blues forwards in points.
The Blues finished 21st in goals scored and 19th in power-play percentage last season, and they currently rank fourth and first in those categories, respectively, with Tarasenko being the only major addition to the team's group of forwards.
Tarasenko has just two points in his last six games, but to be fair, the whole team has struggled over the last two weeks. Tarasenko is the early favorite for the Calder Trophy, an award that hasn't been won by a Russian player since Evgeni Malkin in the 2006-07 season.
2nd Place: Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
3rd Place: Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lady Byng: Sportsmanship and High Level of Performance
The Lady Byng Trophy is awarded to the player who combines a high level of performance with sportsmanship and gentlemanly behavior.
There are a few players who should be considered for this award, but the most deserving guy is New York Islanders winger Matt Moulson.
Moulson plays the game with respect, he doesn't play dirty and he has only taken two minor penalties this season. He also has six goals and seven assists in 13 games, and he was a finalist for the award last season.
Expect Moulson to finally take home the Lady Byng in 2013.
2nd Place: Martin St. Louis
3rd Place: Jordan Eberle
Jack Adams Award: Coach of the Year
The Nashville Predators lost star defenseman Ryan Suter and top-six forward Andrei Kostitsyn in the offseason, but that hasn't stopped them from being a playoff contender in the Western Conference in 2013.
Barry Trotz has done an amazing job with the Predators in his 13 seasons with the team, but this might be his most impressive performance as an NHL head coach.
His club is currently in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 7-3-4 record, and it ranks first in goals against and seventh in penalty killing.
Despite his best player and captain Shea Weber having a terrible season with two points in 14 games, and having to mix up his lines after losing top-six winger Patric Hornqvist to injury, Trotz has his Predators team playing solid fundamental hockey.
No coach has had more of an impact on his team's success this season than Trotz.
2nd Place: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks
3rd Place: Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
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