Current NHL Youngsters Most Likely to Win Each Major Trophy in Next 5 Years
NHL teams seem to be looking to get younger almost every season. More teams are looking for that next young, bright franchise cornerstone to build around.
While it is difficult to predict NHL success for young players so early in their careers, existing circumstances make it a little bit easier as far as predictions go.
With that said, here are the players with no more than one year of NHL experience that are most likely to win each major trophy in the next five years.
Hart Trophy: Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
The NHL awards the Hart Trophy to the player in the league who is "judged to be the most valuable to his team."
As rookies may not necessarily provide any "MVP" status in their first couple years in the league, it would be a stretch to see them winning the trophy. If this did happen, however, it would duplicate what Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby did in 2008 and 2007, respectively.
Fans may dispute the choice of Jonathan Huberdeau as a future Hart Trophy winner (given how bad the Florida Panthers are now). But the fact remains that previous Hart Trophy winners like Sidney Crosby saved the Penguins from perennial last-place finishes.
As Huberdeau's Panthers will continue to get better (as there is no way to go other than up from their last overall finish), he will eventually end up leading the team back into the playoffs.
His 31 points in 48 games truly seem to be just a fraction of what he can do for the Panthers. While it may take a while for the Panthers to regain relevance, the five-year window imposed by this article allows Huberdeau to wait a little bit longer until his team can regain some dignity.
Players like John Tavares were in the Hart discussion this past season, and he is only 22 years old. Expect great things from Huberdeau.
Vezina Trophy: Andrey Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
As far as hockey teams are concerned, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a lot of work to do to get better. Sure the Lightning have Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and the recently drafted Jonathan Drouin, but after that, the cupboard is rather bare.
Except at the goaltending position.
The Lightning now have two career backup goaltenders in Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback fighting over a starting goaltending job going into 2013-14. But these goaltenders have just 108 NHL games played between the two of them. If neither goaltender succeeds in the short term (quite realistic, seeing as how Tampa Bay has nearly nothing on the blue line to help out the goalies), then Andrey Vasilevskiy will get a chance in a few seasons.
Vasilevskiy is a 19-year-old Russian netminder who has impressed Lightning head scout Al Murray. Murray was quoted by Damian Crisodero, Tampa Bay Times as saying that Murray:
[hasn't] seen a goalie in [his] time scouting in 20 years as developed at this stage of his development as this guy is....that doesn't mean he's going to eclipse Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur...but at this stage...[hasn't] seen a goalie as good as this guy.
Obviously it would take a lot for Vasilevskiy to win a Vezina Trophy, let alone a starting goaltending position with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But if Murray is right and Vasilevskiy is truly a generational talent, it wouldn't be a stretch to put him in the same category as an early career Marc-Andre Fleury.
Art Ross Trophy: Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
How does one predict who has a good chance of winning the Art Ross Trophy for most points in a season when a prospect hasn't played an NHL game yet?
Well, for Jonathan Drouin, it is circumstances. The low team talent level on the Tampa Bay Lightning other than Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis makes it likely that Drouin could open up the season on a line with Stamkos and St. Louis, per Brian Compton of NHL.com.
While St. Louis is in the twilight of his career, he still led the NHL in points last season. Stamkos was second in goals last season with 29 in 48 games.
Combine St. Louis and Stamkos' offensive talents together, and the immediate future looks very bright for Jonathan Drouin.
Although extremely unlikely, a handful of players over the past three decades have won the Art Ross Trophy before their fifth season in the NHL. Drouin would join elite company if he could accomplish this feat.
Norris Trophy: Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
According to NHL.com, the winner of the Norris Trophy shall be "the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."
Justin Schultz only has a shortened NHL season for the Edmonton Oilers under his belt so far.
Even so, Schultz has shown the ability to play at an elite level in the NHL, putting up offensive numbers to prove it this past season. In 48 games, Schultz had 27 points, including 15 points on the power play.
The former rookie defenseman needs to shore up his defensive game to stake a credible claim to the Norris Trophy. But if he can get better defensively, he will be a critical part of the Edmonton Oilers' attempt to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.
Honorable Mention: Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins.
Hamilton also had a decent rookie regular season, but seems to be less involved offensively than Schultz. While the Norris Trophy emphasizes "all-round ability," Hamilton will effectively be overshadowed by Zdeno Chara until Chara hangs up his skates in five years or so.
Selke Trophy: Riley Nash, Carolina Hurricanes
Riley Nash led the league in takeaways by rookie forwards last season with 31. What's remarkable, however, is that Nash played in just 32 games last year with the Carolina Hurricanes.
His 31 takeaways to only three giveaways make Nash a real defensive-minded forward. He picked up 36 hits and 10 blocked shots as well last season.
As Nash has played just 37 NHL games, he will only get better and more determined come this season.
Nash still has two years left on his entry-level contract, per CapGeek.com, and isn't yet assured a full-time spot on the Hurricanes roster. But if Nash works hard defensively like he did last season in his 32 contests, he will be a future third- or fourth-line center.
Once he earns a permanent spot on an NHL roster, the Selke Trophy will be within his grasp if he keeps up his work ethic.
All statistics via NHL.com unless otherwise noted.