A year ago, Alexander Ovechkin was the big winner at the annual NHL Awards. He was named NHL MVP, took home the award as the league's top goal scorer and was blessed with not one but two berths on the NHL All-Star team (thanks to some sketchy voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association).
Who will take home the spoils this year? As the NHL enters the Olympic break, we offer predictions for the major awards, projecting both the winner and the finalists for each trophy. Please note: These are predictions of what the voting masses will do, not necessarily how the writer of this piece would vote.
Read on to see who will likely be named the NHL's most valuable player and the winners of other major awards this season.
Predicted winner: Sidney Crosby. Crosby has a 13-point lead on John Tavares in the NHL's scoring race; no other healthy player in the NHL comes close offensively. Beyond that, Crosby has captained a Pittsburgh Penguins team beset by injuries to a great record.
Runner-up: Ryan Getzlaf. Anaheim's captain has been superb this season and currently leads the Western Conference in scoring; he's one point back of John Tavares for second in the league but has also played three fewer games. Given Anaheim's success, he'll get votes.
Finalist: Alexander Ovechkin. The defending Hart winner will be plagued by his plus/minus and low assist totals, but with a 10-goal lead on Phil Kessel for the NHL goal-scoring crown, he'll be tough to ignore altogether.
Honourable mention: Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay has had a breakout season, and while there are numerous factors involved, the dramatic turnaround in the crease is a huge one. That this trophy typically goes to a forward will work against Bishop.
Predicted winner: Duncan Keith. It's a shame to reduce this to statistics, but history shows that the NHL's best defenceman needs a) a pile of points and b) a great plus/minus to appeal to voters. Keith qualifies on both counts. More than that, he's an exceptional rearguard for a top team and is always a deserving candidate; this just happens to be a year where his point totals make him viable for voters.
Runner-up: Alex Pietrangelo. Arguably the most important player in St. Louis, Pietrangelo has had a breakthrough campaign, playing more than 25 minutes per game. With 18 points in his last 20 contests, he's also now solidly near the top of the NHL's scoring leaderboard for defencemen (yes, point totals play too much of a part in who wins the Norris, but that's just the way it is).
Finalist: Erik Karlsson. The NHL's scoring leader among defencemen is having a solid campaign despite his plus/minus. He will garner votes.
Honourable mention: Ryan Suter. Suter (deservingly) always has some backers, and he's playing nearly 30 minutes per game in Minnesota.
Predicted winner: Ben Bishop. As things stand currently, Bishop leads all starters in save percentage (.933) and is the primary reason the Tampa Bay Lightning are a contender to come out of the East.
Runner-up: Tuukka Rask. Rask has had an exceptional campaign for the Bruins and may well overtake Bishop in a number of statistical categories. Ordinarily, that would be enough, but Boston's defence has a much higher reputation than Tampa Bay's, and that will impact voters.
Finalist: Jonathan Bernier. On many nights, Bernier has been the only thing keeping the Leafs in games. Toronto allows shot after shot after shot, but Bernier has been solid all season. Beating out a solid challenge from James Reimer doesn't hurt his chances, either.
Honourable mention: Josh Harding. Harding's health is his main problem, because it means he's played fewer games then almost everyone else. There's a surprisingly deep field in this category, with players like Carey Price, Semyon Varlamov, Ryan Miller and even Marc-Andre Fleury deserving some consideration.
Predicted winner: Jonathan Toews. Toews has a superb reputation, and he's playing more than 20 minutes per game for a powerhouse Chicago team, time that includes regular work on the penalty kill. He won last season and leads the NHL in quality of competition this year.
Runner-up: Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron is always in the mix; he won two years ago and was the runner-up to Toews last season. He might be more deserving of the win than Toews, despite worse scoring totals; he starts a heavy percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone and spends more time on the penalty kill.
Finalist: Anze Kopitar. Kopitar is one of the game's elite two-way pivots and is firmly in the conversation with both Toews and Bergeron. He has a 54.1 percent win rate in the faceoff circle, regularly kills penalties and leads the Kings in both points (47) and plus/minus (plus-22), all of which will garner him votes.
Honourable mention: Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec has one of the toughest even-strength zone starts in the NHL, starting nearly two-thirds of his non-neutral zone shifts at the defensive end of the rink. He's also playing nearly 3:00 per game on the penalty kill. Despite this, he has 33 points and a plus-eight rating for a mediocre Montreal team.
Predicted winner: Martin St. Louis. St. Louis has won this award three of the last four seasons and has had an exceptional 2013-14 season thus far, carrying the load in Tampa Bay offensively with superstar linemate Steven Stamkos on the shelf.
Runner-up: Phil Kessel. If not for that fighting major against Alex Burrows, he might very well have won this. The Lady Byng often seems to be used to recognize a top offensive threat who's been shut out of the other awards, and Kessel's outstanding season in Toronto qualifies him.
Finalist: Tyler Seguin. The rationale for the award often seems to be "lots of points, very few penalty minutes." Seguin has 56 points and four penalty minutes, so expect him to be in the thick of this.
Honourable mention: Patrick Kane. Kane is in a position similar to that of Kessel; he's having a great year but isn't likely to be picked for other awards. However, his 18 penalty minutes will scare some voters off.
Predicted winner: Jon Cooper. Given Tampa Bay's history, injuries and present success in the East, Cooper's a very strong candidate as coach of the year. His successful integration of a bunch of players he oversaw in the AHL last year doesn't hurt, either.
Runner-up: Patrick Roy. The first-year coach in Colorado has overseen a dramatic revival in the fortunes of a club that has faltered over the past few seasons. He's either 1A or 1B on this list, depending on the voter, and could plausibly overtake Cooper.
Finalist: Bruce Boudreau. A lot of times, the Jack Adams goes to a coach of a surprise team rather than the coach of a top team. Anaheim has been exceptional this year; it's doubtful anybody really expected them to be sitting first in the NHL at the Olympic break.
Honourable mention: Dan Bylsma. Bylsma always seems to be a candidate, and with the Penguins beset by injuries, their continued presence in the Presidents' Trophy race means Bylsma has to be part of the conversation again.
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