Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
The National Hockey League has passed the first quarter of their season, and a lot of players have already started campaigning for the NHL Awards Show in June. Obviously, nobody has publicly stated anything; their on-ice play has done the talking for them.
Usually, there are predictions made early in the season about who is going to win what award before teams have even played ten games. An example of this was Tim Thomas' early season dominance in net. He has since slowed down, and no longer has numbers that would set numerous records. The sample size is just too small. After the quarter mark passes, fans have a better gauge on who has a legitimate shot to win the NHL awards at the end of the season.
The most important awards are the Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy and Calder Trophy. Those are the awards I will be taking a look at.
1. RW Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes 7G, 12A, -4 in 22 GP
2. G Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia Flyers 12-3-2, .926 SV%, 2.13 GAA in 17 GP
3. D John Carlson, Washington Capitals 3G, 8A, +8, 55 BKS in 24 GP
Jeff Skinner has absolutely been the strongest rookie this season. He leads all rookies with 19 points in 22 games, and is second on the Hurricanes in points, only trailing perennial all-star Eric Staal. Skinner has established himself as one of the best rookies in the NHL, and he's actually the youngest player in the league.
Skinner has shown a lot of maturity as an 18-year-old, and the Hurricanes are going to count on him a lot if they want to make the playoffs.
Sergei Bobrovsky has also been a standout. He has emerged as the Flyers' top goaltender, just a year after they went through a couple of them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bob is looking like the real thing, and has a very respectable 2.19 GAA in eighteen games. All he does is win, and he is helping make the Flyers look very good.
John Carlson has helped to stabilize a weak Caps blueline, and is looking like a keeper. He has shown that he can play well in all three zones, and that he is a complete player. With 11 points, he may not be opening a lot of eyes, but he is a promising player to build around on the back end for the Caps.
Despite sluggish starts, the top two picks of the 2010 entry draft, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin should end up being in this race by season's end. The Oilers and Bruins respectively have slowly been expanding their roles on the ice.
1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens 13-7-1, .933 SV%, 2.00 GAA, 4 SO in 21 GP
2. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins 11-2-1, .951 SV%, 1.56 GAA, 4 SO in 15 GP
3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings 11-3-0, .931 SV%, 1.90 GAA, 1 SO in 14 GP
Carey Price has been an absolute monster this year. It looks like the Montreal Canadiens made the right decision to hold onto the youngster, as he has been a top candidate for the Vezina Trophy.
Price has played in all of the Canadiens' games, and is among the NHL leaders in every major goalie-related statistic. Price is first in games played, first in wins, first in shutouts, fourth in save percentage, and fifth in goals against. He has to be the Vezina leader at this point, despite all of the other hot starts by his peers.
His ability to go out there every night and straight up dominate is what sets him apart. Thomas and Quick have both played about two thirds of their respective teams' games, and have certainly been great. However, Price is putting up numbers that are just as good, if not better over a longer period of time. He has also been getting better, while Thomas and Quick have had some shaky performances recently.
1. John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalanche 4G, 18A, +10, 45 BKS in 22 GP
2. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins 4G, 18A, +11, 23 BKS in 25 GP
3. Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta Thrashers 8G, 13A, +2, 17 BKS in 23 GP
It's time for hockey fans to wake up and show John-Michael Liles the appreciation he deserves. A lot of the media outlets have been giving Nicklas Lidstrom the well-deserved appraisal that he has earned over his Hall-of-Fame career. However, they have not given Liles enough credit, and a lot of that is because of Lidstrom's legacy as a six-time Norris Trophy winner.
Liles leads all NHL defensemen in points with 22, holds a plus-10 rating, and has carried the Avalanche blueline through a brigade of injuries
Kris Letang is tied with Liles for points, but he has done it in three more games, and benefits from having Sidney Crosby on the ice with him for the most part. However, Letang isn't too far behind, as he wields a plus-11 rating.
Don't count Byfuglien out either. Byfuglien returned to his natural position as a defenseman after being traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Atlanta Thrashers. He is among the leaders in points, and the Thrashers are on fire, despite being not-so talented. Byfuglien is a big reason why.
Lidstrom WILL find himself in the midst of this race by season's end though. You can count on that.
Hart Memorial Trophy
1. C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning 21G, 17A, +6 in 23 GP
2. C Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins 18G, 22A, +6 in 25 GP
3. LW Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals 17G, 12A, +8 in 24 GP
Steven Stamkos has captivated the imagination of hockey fans around the world. Memories of legendary goal scorers Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Rocket Richard and Brett Hull are conjured. Stamkos, currently leading the NHL with an astonishing 21 goals in 23 games, is on pace to become the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games since Brett Hull accomplished the feat in 1991-1992.
Not only that, he's doing it all with two of his best teammates sidelined—Vinny Lecavalier and Simon Gagne. Stamkos is the focus of every team's defensive game plan, and still finds a way to put the puck in the net. He has been the biggest reason the Tampa Bay Lightning are 13-8-2, and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Sidney Crosby is as close as anybody could be to Stamkos. He is leading the league in points with 40, and doing it all with minimal help. Outside of Evgeni Malkin, Crosby has a team that lacks depth up front, and on the blueline. Their top goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury has been pretty subpar all season. Crosby has carried that team.
Alex Semin is also a top contender. He trails just Crosby and Stamkos in the goals category, and has actually outperformed all-world teammate Alexander Ovechkin. Semin has already had three hat tricks this year, and doesn't appear to be slowing down. He's playing for a contract, and if the Caps are smart, he will get that contract soon.