B/R Experts' Predictions for the 2016-17 NHL Awards
One out of six ain't bad.
That was the final batting average of the Bleacher Report panel of experts in predicting the major NHL awards for last season. We nailed it with our selection of Drew Doughty to win the Norris Trophy. Two of our other picks, Sidney Crosby for the Hart and Patrice Bergeron for the Selke, finished second.
And we feel confident it would have been two out of six had Montreal's Carey Price not gone down with a right knee injury Nov. 25, wiping out what was shaping up to be a second straight Vezina season. The injury also took Price out of the running for what could have been a second straight Hart Trophy too. Had Connor McDavid not missed half his season because of a broken clavicle, we likely would have gone three out of six.
With his knee repaired, Price is again featured prominently in our panel's picks for the 2016-17 season. Then again, so are Crosby and Doughty and Bergeron, and, well, let's just get to the picks.
The selections are the consensus of our panel, which consists of yours truly, Carol Schram, Jonathan Willis, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson and Steve Macfarlane. Each panelist submitted their top five choices for each award, with a first-place vote receiving five points, a second-place vote receiving four points, and so on.
Disagree with our picks? Let us know in the comments section.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
Pick: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
By an aggregate vote of 27-14, Crosby is our landslide pick to win his second Hart in four years, and why not? After a slow start to last season (for him) in which he failed to make the All-Star Game, everything went right for the 29-year-old from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
Crosby finished third in scoring (85 points) and led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup with a playoff performance good enough to win a Conn Smythe Trophy. Over the offseason, he picked up an MVP award at the World Cup of Hockey.
Crosby needs 62 points for 1,000 in his career. If he stays healthy, it should be a layup.
Second: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Price went 5-0 for Canada at the World Cup and looked good in the preseason for Montreal. But can he pick up where he left off before the injury last November? Our panel seems to think so.
The Habs goalie is 54-18-6 for Montreal in the last two regular seasons combined. He is a master of playing the angles and rarely beats himself with soft goals. There will always be some worry about a goalie coming off such a serious knee injury, but so far, so good.
Third: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
The Stars captain signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension over the summer after a career-high 89-point season (41 goals). He missed the World Cup to recover from surgery on a core muscle injury, but he appears healthy to start the season.
Benn still doesn't get a lot of publicity for some reason, but he's one of the most respected players in the game.
Fourth: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
He had always been a star, but Kane ascended to new heights last season. He was the only NHL scorer to reach 100 points (106), winning his first Art Ross Trophy and also his first Hart Trophy. He had three Stanley Cups before that, with a Conn Smythe Trophy and numerous clutch playoff goals, but last season was the first in which the Buffalo native put it all together in the regular season.
With his playing on a line again with Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, there's no reason to think Kane won't have another big scoring season.
Fifth: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin reached the 50-goal mark for the third straight season in 2015-16. He's scored 525 career goals and remains relatively young at 31. The Russian winger has had a fabulous career, save for that missing Stanley Cup, of course.
There's still time. The Caps should win a lot of games and make the playoffs, and Ovechkin will be a prime reason once again.
Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender)
Pick: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
By a narrow 28-24 margin, the vote went to Montreal's main man in net. He brings so much confidence to his teammates when he's in net, and he now has a horse in front of him, Shea Weber. The loss of P.K. Subban is significant, but Weber may be the better fit for the kind of game coach Michel Therrien wants to play.
That's the hope, anyway.
Second: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
He tied Martin Brodeur's all-time wins record for a season (48) last year and won his first Vezina. Holtby is big but has excellent agility. He served as Price's backup at the World Cup and looked good in the preseason for Washington.
It should be another fine year.
Third: Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
He's entering the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. In other words, Bishop has plenty of motivation heading into 2016-17. But will he be Tampa Bay's top goalie? After all, youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy looked good in the postseason in relief of the injured Bishop, and Tampa Bay can keep only one goalie for the expansion draft.
For however long he remains in Tampa, Bishop figures to be excellent in net for a good team.
Fourth: Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Crawford is finally getting his due as one of the NHL's best goalies. No longer is the goaltending position viewed as a potential weak spot for the Blackhawks. He's a proven winner, and after a longer rest this summer than he's used to, he should be fresh and eager to guide Chicago to another Stanley Cup.
Fifth: Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
The Devils have missed the playoffs for four straight seasons, but it hasn't been Schneider's fault. The Massachusetts native had another strong season, with a .924 save percentage. Schneider has never had a save percentage lower than .921 with the Devils, in fact.
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Pick: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Doughty led all NHL players in Corsi For last season (1,899). The puck always seems to be on his stick, and far more often than not, he does productive things with it.
He's coming off another championship performance for the Canadian national team, having won the title at the World Cup. The Kings wouldn't mind a bit more goal-scoring from Doughty, as he scored on just 7.1 percent of his shots last season (14 goals, 197 shots). Look for him to try to add more tangible offense to a Kings club that remains a bit thin up front.
Second: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Karlsson led all defensemen in scoring, with 82 points in 82 games. He is one of the NHL's most exciting players, but a lack of team success over the last few years has kept him from a bigger spotlight.
His defense seems to get better every year, though his offensive skill may always dwarf his ability in his own end.
Third: P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
It was the biggest trade of the summer: Subban to the Preds and Shea Weber to the Canadiens. Time will tell who won the trade, but Subban figures to be motivated to prove the Habs erred by letting him go.
He should have more freedom to skate with the puck under new coach Peter Laviolette than under Michel Therrien. Anything less than 50 points will be a disappointment. He's put up at least that many in each of the past three seasons.
Fourth: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Letang was tremendous in the playoffs. No way would Pittsburgh have won the Cup without him.
Expect another strong season from the veteran in 2016-17. He's a two-way player who can play major minutes and seemingly never gets tired. He overcame a stroke to build himself back into a top player. That shows his character.
Fifth: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Speaking of guys who seemingly never get tired...
Keith, one of the league's most durable players, is coming off a long summer's rest. He should be rejuvenated, which is bad news for opponents. Though he's getting up there in age (33), he seems to have plenty left in the tank.
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year)
Pick: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
It was a fairly close vote (27-20), but the kid from Scottsdale, Arizona, prevailed over Patrik Laine.
Matthews looked tremendous for Team North America in the World Cup, skating on a line with Connor McDavid. A year of pro experience in Switzerland should ease Matthews' transition to the NHL, though he figures to face heavy checking pressure from opponents, as the Leafs remain somewhat thin up front.
Still, it should be a fun year for Matthews and Leafs fans.
Second: Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
Laine didn't do a whole lot in the preseason, going pointless in his first three games. But the young Finnish forward has far too much talent not to succeed. He's just 18 but plays with veteran poise already. Jets head coach Paul Maurice told Ken Wiebe of the Vancouver Province that Laine is a "brilliant talent."
It won't shock anyone if Laine finishes first in the real Calder vote.
Third: Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins
Yes, Murray qualifies as a rookie. It may not seem like it after he started 21 playoff games for the Penguins en route to their Stanley Cup title, but because he only started 13 regular-season games last season, he's still classified as a rookie.
If he plays like he did in the playoffs, he could easily add a Calder to his expanding trophy shelf.
Fourth: Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers
After Vesey essentially spurned two teams that held his rights (Nashville and Buffalo) to instead become a free agent this summer, the pressure is on the Harvard kid to prove he was worth it.
He has been a star at every previous stop of his hockey career, capping off his time at Harvard with a Hobey Baker Award. He should be a welcome addition to a Rangers team that needed some offense.
Fifth: Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes
It's not clear whether Strome will start the season on the Coyotes roster, but he has so far survived all of the early cuts.
He may be a little too raw to make the jump to the Coyotes right away, but he should become a regular contributor before long. He's fast and has excellent hands.
Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
Pick: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
The Bruins stalwart center narrowly lost out on a fourth Selke to Anze Kopitar last year, but our panel believes he will return the favor this season. By a 28-26 vote, Bergeron is the choice over Kopitar.
Bergeron plays all 200 feet of the ice flawlessly, almost always remaining fundamentally sound. His hockey IQ is off the charts, as evidenced by how he seemingly always knows where the puck will be a second or two later.
Second: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
It's hard to believe this will be Kopitar's 11th season, all with Los Angeles. He was named captain of the team in June, taking over for Dustin Brown, and the title fits him. He plays hard at both ends every night and isn't afraid of sacrificing some offense if it means a win for his team.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner, Kopitar already might be the best player in Kings history.
Third: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Like other Chicago veterans who are used to winning, Toews seems like he's bursting at the seams to get the Blackhawks back to the top. He looked strong at the World Cup, helping Canada to another title.
He backchecks as hard as anyone, and his strong faceoff skills allow the Blackhawks to have the puck more often than not when he's on the ice.
Fourth: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby didn't appear on many Selke lists earlier in his career. But a bigger focus on defense is something he bought into late in the season and into the playoffs. That the Penguins won a Stanley Cup as a result should guarantee Crosby doesn't drift away from buying into defense moving forward.
Fifth: Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Anybody who has watched Thornton on a nightly basis over the last few years has seen the 37-year-old's bigger commitment to defense. It has played a big part in San Jose's recent success too.
Thornton used to coast a bit without the puck, but no more. He inspires with his work ethic, and that won't change now.
Jack Adams (Coach of the Year)
Pick: Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild
The Jack Adams generated many diverse first-place votes, but in the end, Boudreau narrowly came out on top.
If Boudreau has proved one thing, it's that he's a regular-season winner. His record with Washington and Anaheim was 409-192-80. The playoffs? Well, let's not go there.
Boudreau inherits a Wild team that has had to work too hard just to make the playoffs the last few years, so it hopes his regular-season magic comes with him to St. Paul. Don't bet against it.
Second: Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
Most everyone expects a big rebound season for the Blackhawks, and Quenneville's lust for victory remains as strong as ever.
He still has a heck of a roster, and he's a proven winner. His 801 victories lead all active coaches, and he's won four Stanley Cups as an NHL coach (three with Chicago and one with Colorado as an assistant).
Third: Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators
The addition of P.K. Subban to an already stacked defense has everyone in Nashville excited. Laviolette is a smart, tough coach who knows how to keep his teams on an even keel, and he's won a lot of games in Nashville since taking over for Barry Trotz.
He should win plenty this season too.
Fourth: Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers
Gallant's team suffered a tough blow with the recent Achilles injury to young forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who will miss three to four months, per George Richards of the Miami Herald. There is a lot of young talent still on hand, though, and Gallant is a smart coach who can adjust to his team's style.
The Panthers disappointed in the playoffs, losing in the first round to the Islanders, so Gallant's task is to help them win a playoff series for the first time since 1995-96.
Fifth: Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
What a job the Massachusetts native did after taking over for Mike Johnston last season. He got the Penguins to buy in completely to a more defensive system, and yet he did so without taking away any creative freedom from his many gifted offensive players.
It bears watching how he does in a full season. The honeymoon between a relatively new coach and a team can wear off quickly in the NHL. But that seems like a remote possibility at this point.