Under-the-Radar Candidates for 2014-15 NHL Awards

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IFebruary 14, 2015

Under-the-Radar Candidates for 2014-15 NHL Awards

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    Each and every year the NHL hands out awards to the top players in the league, and usually there are no surprises. There is usually a good sense of who the favorites are, and they more often than not win.

    However, there are some players currently lurking in the shadows as outsiders, dark horses and underdogs to win an award. This slideshow will identify these sleeper agents for the major awards and why they could end up with hardware in Las Vegas at the end of the season.

    The players chosen are individuals who have the strongest candidacy but will likely finish outside the top three.

Calder Trophy: John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

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    Right now the Calder Trophy race hinges on a race between Filip Forsberg, Johnny Gaudreau and Aaron Ekblad, and each deserves to win based on points, the role they fill for their team and the fact that all were All-Stars.

    However, John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars is quietly having an amazing rookie season, and he could make his way into the race. The Swedish defender is sixth in points per game among defenders that have played in at least 40 games, and his overall points per game average of 0.73 blows Ekblad's 0.58 out of the water.

    If he finishes the season strong he could be a finalist, but he'd have to beat out Ekblad in total points to have a chance. That is a real possibility since Klingberg has two fewer points in 13 fewer games played, so we will have to watch and see what happens.

Selke Trophy: Rick Nash, New York Rangers

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    Rick Nash is known for his offense as the NHL's leading goal scorer, but he doesn't get enough credit for his defensive play.

    Among forwards, Nash is fourth in takeaways with 51, he has scored four short-handed goals, he's averaging 1:20 a game on the penalty kill, and he has a plus-minus of 24 which is the fourth-best in the league.

    It may seem like a meaningless stat, but not all top scorers are able to maintain this differential. Patrick Kane for example leads the league in scoring, but he has a plus-minus of only 10. 

    Nash scored an impressive goal recently against the Colorado Avalanche, and it was all made possible because he made a solid defensive play to negate an icing. He doesn't have a great chance of winning, but he deserves some recognition for his elite all-around play.

Jack Adams Trophy: Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets

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    The Winnipeg Jets have a good chance of making the playoffs for the first time since the team relocated from Atlanta (Thrashers), and Paul Maurice is a big reason why.

    He's found a way to motivate his team, pushing Winnipeg to be better than they should be, and the Jets sit in the first wild-card spot with 66 points after finishing 11th in the Western Conference last season.

    This season hasn't been the easiest to deal with because of injuries to key players such as Jacob Trouba and Toby Enstrom, and there was the whole Evander Kane saga, which became a distraction.

    Despite this the Jets haven't missed a beat, and they are going for it this season after adding Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers to the roster. Winnipeg is gearing up for a playoff run, and making the playoffs for the first time would really help Maurice's candidacy. 

Norris Trophy: John Carlson, Washington Capitals

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    John Carlson has had an amazing season for the Washington Capitals, and he has really benefitted from Barry Trotz stepping behind the bench.

    Last season Carlson tallied 37 points in 82 games, and he was playing 24:30 a game on a team that had a goal differential of minus five.

    This season Carlson is playing 23:17 a night on average, has 38 points and he has a plus-minus of 16 on a team with a positive goal differential of 23.  The turnaround has been tremendous, and he should meet the qualifications for the Norris Trophy. 

Vezina Trophy: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

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    Braden Holtby is 26-11-9 with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage, yet all you hear about when it comes to the Vezina Trophy race is Pekka Rinne, Carey Price and Frederik Andersen.

    While they are all amazing goaltenders, Holtby doesn't get the credit he deserves, and that was apparent when he was snubbed for the All-Star Game. Holtby has been lights-out for the Capitals on numerous occasions, and he's got six shutouts thus far in 2014-15.

    Goalie guru Mitch Korn has really done some amazing work with Holtby, and it is hard to believe that this is the same goaltender who finished last season with 23-15-4 with 2.85 goals-against average .915 save percentage.

Hart Trophy: Rick Nash, New York Rangers

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    Carey Price, Pekka Rinne and Patrick Kane are arguably the favorites for the Hart Trophy this year based on what they have accomplished statistically and what they have meant to their team.

    There are a number of other players who are in the middle of a great season, but the problem is that these players are one of a few players on their team who are playing extremely well.

    For example:

    • Dallas: Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn
    • Philadelphia: Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux
    • Tampa Bay: Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos
    • Washington: Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin

    After you disqualify some players because of the "help" they have received, Rick Nash comes into the picture when you look at all he has done this season.

    With Henrik Lundqvist out of the lineup for the Rangers, it has become more apparent how valuable Nash is to the Rangers.

    Statistically he leads the NHL in:

    • Total goals
    • Goals at even strength
    • Short-handed goals 
    • First goals

    When you take into consideration how he's been the spark plug for the Rangers' offense, his defensive abilities outlined in the Selke slide, he definitely has the qualifications for the Hart Trophy.

    Stats via NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.