With the beginning of the NHL season just about a month away, and the opening of training camps about 10 days away, it's time for me to predict who will be taking home hardware by the end of the season.
I find these predictions always to be harder than they seem. Almost every year only a couple of the actual trophy winners are the ones I predicted (the real obvious ones that everyone guesses), so this time around I'm going out on a limb with some of my predictions in hopes I can nail some of the not so obvious ones.
Keep in mind that I did not predict all the player awards. Only the more popular ones.
2009-2010 prediction: Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers)
Projected stats: 50 Goals, 45 Assists, 95 Points
Runners up: Sidney Crosby (PIT), Joe Thornton (SJ)
Dark Horse Candidate: Jonathan Toews (CHI)
Why Kovalchuk: I'll be in the minority here, but I predict Atlanta to have a pretty good season and make the playoffs, while most will have had them projected to be cellar dwellers before the season starts. The Thrashers surprise factor will play it's part in Kovalchuk winning MVP if he does actually win it.
This is also Kovalchuk's contract year, so watch for him to potentially break the 100 point barrier for the first time in his career. Adding it all together I like his chances.
2009-2010 prediction: Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary Flames)
Projected stats: 44 wins, Sv% .914, GAA 2.45, SO 6
Runners up: Roberto Luongo (VAN), Tim Thomas (BOS)
Dark Horse Candidate: Ray Emery (PHI)
Why Kiprusoff: Calgary has arguably the best defense in the NHL (as long as it stays healthy), so Kipper will have lots of help in the stat padding department. Kipper is also a workhorse, and Calgary has no reliable backup goalie, so you know once again Kipper will play around 70 games, which will equal a lot of wins.
2009-2010 prediction: Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
Projected stats: Goals 17, Assists 38, Points 55, +/- +30
Runners up: Jay Bouwmeester (CGY), Dan Boyle (SJ)
Dark Horse Candidate: Duncan Keith (CHI)
Why Chara: Not much of a surprise here since he won last season, but we can almost all agree Chara is the best all around defenseman in the NHL. This makes him the top defenseman on which will most likely be the best offensive team in the NHL, so his point totals will be up there once again. He also plays in front of a great goalie, and Boston is one of the best five on five teams in the NHL, so that means his +/- will be great as well.
2009-2010 prediction: John Tavares (NY Islanders)
Projected stats: Goals 28, Assists 30, Points 58
Runners up: Simeon Varlamov (WSH), Nikita Filatov (CBJ)
Dark Horse Candidate: Colin Wilson (NSH)
Why Tavares: He is the most NHL ready, skilled rookie forward with the most potential. He will be playing on a top line logging a lot of minutes for the Islanders in all situations. The production will be there, so John should be the favorite.
2009-2010 prediction: Mike Richards (Philadelphia Flyers)
Runners up: Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Jarome Iginla (CGY)
Dark Horse Candidate: T.J. Oshie (STL)
Why Richards: Besides the fact he is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL yet to reach his prime? Well, I think the NHL is getting sick of giving it to Pavel Datsyuk who won it the last two times. It's time for a new player on a new team to win this trophy, and Richards is my next best option.
2009-2010 prediction: Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks)
Runners up: John Stevens (PHI), Claude Julien (BOS)
Dark Horse Candidate: Marc Crawford (DAL)
Why Joel: I personally think Joel got robbed last year of this award, and I can't see it happening again, especially if the Hawks win the West. But winning the Central and dethroning the Red Wings should do the trick, which I predict them to do.
2009-2010 prediction: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Projected stats: Goals 41, Assists 72, Points 113
Runners up: Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Joe Thornton (tie)
Dark Horse Candidate: Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)
Why Crosby: He is too good and too determined to fall into a Stanley Cup hangover. As long as he stays healthy this season, I think he'll break the 40 goal barrier for the first time in his career which should give him an edge over his counterpart Evgeni Malkin who won this trophy last season.
2009-2010 prediction: Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
Projected stats: Goals 54, Assists 47, Points 101
Runners up: Ilya Kovalchuk (ATL), Rick Nash (CBJ)
Dark Horse Candidate: Johan Franzen (DET)
Why Ovechkin: He is by far the best pure goal scorer in the NHL. He won this trophy the last two years in a row, so don't expect things to change anytime soon because he is only getting better as he nears his peak. Even in a down year for Ovechkin, he'll still find a way to score over 50 goals and win this thing.
2009-2010 prediction: Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)
Projected stats: Wins 40, Sv% .921, GAA 2.39, SO 6
Runners up: Tim Thomas (BOS), Ray Emery (PHI)
Dark Horse Candidate: Chris Mason (STL)
Why Luongo: He is consistently one of the top goalies in the NHL over the past several years when letting in the least amount of pucks. The Canucks defense is now shaping up to be better than it ever was since signing Luongo, so he'll get a ton of help. It's not like he really needs a lot help, but it's a scary thought when he will have it.
2009-2010 prediction: Boston Bruins
Projected point total: 113 points
Dark Horse Candidate: Calgary Flames
Why the Bruins: In my opinion, the Bruins have the greatest amount of overall depth, as well as some of the best top end talent in the NHL. That is usually the recipe for gaining the most amount of points in an NHL season, along with staying healthy. Being runners up last season with virtually the same exact team they will be icing this season is also a good indication they'll be up there again.
2009-2010 Stanley Cup Champion: Boston Bruins
Conn Smythe Trophy winner: Marc Savard (BOS)
Dark Horse Candidates: Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo
Why the Bruins: Now that this Bruins team got a year of hockey together, especially in the playoffs, it was a much needed step in their pursuit in capturing Lord Stanley. I love their chances if this team stays together and everyone stays healthy come April, but it's all a big if right now.
Why Savard: He is a point producing machine, and the Bruins will need him to step up big time in the playoffs if they are to make a serious run at the Cup. He showed up last season, and he'll show up again. It's now just about their playoff longevity.