Predictions for Major NHL Awards in the 2017-18 Season

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2017

Predictions for Major NHL Awards in the 2017-18 Season

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    Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid received the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 2016-17. The Oilers captain could again be in line to take home that award in 2017-18. 

    Several elite stars could join McDavid as potential nominees for this season's major NHL individual trophies. Some are previous award winners, such as Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. Others, such as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, could win their first singular NHL honor.

    Here are our predictions for the major NHL awards in 2017-18. Feel free to weigh in with your own predictions in the comments section below.

Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Winner: Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars

    Hitchcock has enjoyed a long and productive NHL career. Having returned to the city where he enjoyed his greatest success, he could become a serious contender for the Jack Adams Award. 

    During his previous run with the Stars from 1995-96 to 2001-02, Hitchcock coached them to a Stanley Cup in 1999 and a return to the Final the following year. In 2011-12, he took home the Adams by guiding the St. Louis Blues to a 109-point season. 

    Having missed the 2017 playoffs after finishing atop the Western Conference in 2015-16, the Stars turned to Hitchcock to get them back on track. If he succeeds, they could become Cup contenders, making Hitchcock a favorite to win coach of the year honors.


    Second: Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers 

    Boughner joins the Panthers after two seasons as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks. He'll be expected to refocus a team that reached the postseason in 2016 but missed the cut last season. A return to playoff form could earn Boughner an Adams nomination.


    Third: John Stevens, Los Angeles Kings

    Stevens spent the past seven seasons as an assistant bench boss with the Kings. Now he's their head coach and faces the difficult task of guiding them back to their former Cup-contending ways. Stevens could earn an Adams nod if the Kings reach the playoffs this season.


    Dark horse: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights

    Expectations are low for the expansion Golden Knights this season. Gallant, however, is a well-respected coach who was a finalist for the Adams in 2016. If the Golden Knights overachieve and reach the playoffs in their first NHL campaign, Gallant could become a nominee again. 

Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Winner: Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

    Keller collected two assists during a brief three-game trial with the Coyotes late last season. His play provided a tantalizing glimpse of what could be in store for the 19-year-old in his first full NHL campaign.

    The 5'10", 168-pound Keller is small by NHL standards but he's a speedy skater with superb playmaking ability. His style of play is comparable to Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau, another diminutive forward who's gone on to NHL stardom.

    Though Keller's a center, he tallied eight points during preseason play as a right wing alongside left wing Max Domi and center Derek Stepan on the Coyotes' top line. If he remains a first-line player this season, he could become the favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy.


    Second: Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils

    The Devils chose the 18-year-old Hischier with the first overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft. The 6'1", 176-pounder is a slender but slick playmaking center with a deceptively hard shot. He netted seven points to rank among the preseason scoring leaders and appears to have played himself into a top-six role with the Devils.


    Third: Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

    McAvoy made his NHL debut in April during the Bruins' opening-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Though the Bruins were eliminated in six games, the 19-year-old defenseman tallied three points and acquitted himself well. A confident two-way blueliner, McAvoy could become a key player for the Bruins.


    Dark horse: Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

    Boeser joined the Canucks straight out of college late last season, tallying four goals and five points in nine games. The 20-year-old should get plenty of quality playing time on the rebuilding Canucks. He showed preseason promise with seven points in five games. Boeser has the potential to challenge for this season's rookie scoring lead.

Frank J. Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Winner: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

    Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy last season for the fourth time since 2011-12. He's the best defensive forward of this generation and among the best of all time.

    A model of consistency, Bergeron reached or exceeded 20 goals eight times in his NHL career and 50 points nine times. A hardworking and tenacious two-way player, he's a superb penalty killer and led the league last season in faceoff wins (1,089).

    Now 32, Bergeron's shown no indication that he's slowing down. If he remains healthy and keeps playing at a high level, he could win the Selke for a record-setting fifth time.


    Second: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

    Kopitar, 30, won the Selke in 2016 and was a finalist in 2013-14 and 2014-15. His offensive numbers declined last season but he remained an effective defensive center. A bounce-back effort in 2017-18 should once again put him in the running for this award.


    Third: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

    Like Kopitar, Toews is a former Selke winner (2013) and a two-time finalist (2014 and 2015). Nagging injuries hampered the Blackhawks captain last season, though he did finish with 58 points in 72 games. If he can avoid injury this season, the 29-year-old Toews should regain his Selke-worthy form.


    Dark horse: Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators

    Centers usually get the nod for the Selke. However, Stone could make a good case for the nomination this season. The right winger led the league in takeaways in each of the last two seasons. He's a good two-way forward who deserves some consideration for his defensive game.

James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top Defenseman)

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Winner: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Since his NHL debut in 2009-10, Hedman steadily rose to become one of the league's elite defensemen. Now in his prime, the 26-year-old Swede should be a serious contender this season for the James Norris Memorial Trophy.

    Hedman was among the few bright spots in 2016-17 for the injury-riddled Lightning. Though the club missed the playoffs, he reached career highs in goals (16), assists (56) and points (72). He finished second among Lightning scorers and NHL defensemen.

    The 6'6", 223-pound Hedman is an impressive combination of size and superb two-way skills. He's the anchor of the Lightning defense corps and will play a vital role this season in their quest to return to Stanley Cup contention.


    Second: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators 

    Karlsson won the Norris Trophy in 2012 and 2015 and was a finalist last season. While his offensive skills garner the most attention, he's no slouch in the defensive zone. Offseason foot surgery could hamper his performance this season. If Karlsson returns to full health, he should once again be in Norris contention.


    Third: Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

    Burns took home the Norris for the first time last season. The hirsute Shark led his team and all NHL defensemen in scoring (76 points) and finished ninth among the league's scoring leaders. The 32-year-old could see a drop-off in production this season but should remain among the top Norris candidates.


    Dark horse: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

    Entering his 13th NHL season, the 32-year-old Suter remains among the NHL's most reliable defensemen. He can log big minutes, plays a fine all-around game and has missed only five regular-season games since 2012-13. Often overshadowed by flashier offensive blueliners, Suter's undervalued play is worthy of Norris consideration.

Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Winner: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

    Holtby was a significant reason why the Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team in 2016 and 2017. He's a former Vezina Trophy winner (2016) and a finalist last season.

    Consistent and unflappable, Holtby tallied a league-best nine shutouts last season. He also tied with Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot for the league lead in wins with 42. Among starters, he finished second in goals-against average (2.07) and fourth in save percentage (.925).

    During the offseason, the Capitals lost defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt to free agency and the expansion draft. Holtby's stellar goaltending, however, should help them buy time as they bring in replacement blueliners. He will keep the Capitals among the NHL's top teams in 2017-18.


    Second: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

    Price won the Vezina in 2015 and was a finalist last season. He's among the league's elite goalies and the Canadiens' best player. Price has his work cut out for him this season behind a depleted blue line, but he has the ability to carry them once again into the playoffs.


    Third: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

    Bobrovsky played a big role in the Blue Jackets' impressive improvement last season. Thanks to his efforts, he took home his second Vezina Trophy. Bobrovsky has been hampered in the past by nagging injuries. Should he remain healthy this season, he could be in the running for another Vezina.


    Dark horse: Cam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers

    No NHL goalie played more minutes (4,294) or faced more shots (2,117) than Talbot last season. The underrated Oilers netminder tied with Holtby for the most wins and posted up seven shutouts. Another strong performance like that in 2017-18 could earn him a Vezina nod.

Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Winner: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers 

    In just his second NHL season, McDavid took home the Hart Trophy in 2017. The 20-year-old Oilers captain also won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer and the Ted Lindsay Award as the league's most outstanding player as voted by his peers.

    It was a remarkable sophomore campaign for McDavid. He led the Oilers to their first playoff berth in a decade. He became the first Oiler since Wayne Gretzky (1987) to win the scoring title and the first to win the Hart since Mark Messier in 1990. He was also the only NHL player to reach 100 points last season.

    McDavid is already fulfilling expectations as the league's next great superstar. He's only scratched the surface of his potential. Bigger and better things are ahead.


    Second: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

    The 30-year-old Crosby isn't a kid anymore but he remains the face of the NHL. In 2016-17, the Penguins captain picked up his second consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, leading his club to a second straight Stanley Cup. He also won the Maurice Richard Trophy as last season's leading goal scorer (44).


    Third: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

    Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, Matthews led the Leafs and all rookies last season in goals (40) and points (69). That impressive debut helped Toronto reach the postseason for the first time in four years. Like McDavid, the 20-year-old Matthews has considerable potential to reach greater heights.


    Dark horse: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

    Often overshadowed by other NHL stars, the 24-year-old Scheifele has steadily blossomed into an offensive star with the Jets. He finished seventh last season among the league's leading scorers. If his production keeps rising and the Jets reach the playoffs, Scheifele could garner MVP consideration.


    Player stats via Additional info via Hockey Reference and