NHL Midseason Player Award Predictions

by John Pagnotta | Jan 9, 2024 | General | 0 comments

Photo Credit: espn.com
The regular season for the NHL has nearly reached the halfway point as many NHL teams have played close to 41 games so far. There have been lots of surprises from many new players and the usual bunch (McDavid, Pastrnak, Draisaitl, Matthews), which has created an exciting award watch for NHL fans. With that in mind, here are my predictions for each NHL award through the midpoint of the year…

Art Ross Trophy/Hart Memorial Trophy

There have been lots of different participants in the Art Ross/Hart Trophy race so far compared to past years. J.T Miller, Quinn Hughes (a defenseman!), Sam Reinhart, Elias Pettersson, and Filip Forsberg. Artemi Panarin and David Pastrnak have looked like beasts this year as they both have 55 points. However, 2 players are running ahead of everyone else: Nathan McKinnon (22-43-65 pts) and Nikita Kucherov (28-39-67 pts). Both of them have 42 more games to play and it will be exciting to see who finishes with more points. On a Lightning team that hasn’t played up to their standards (19-17-5, 5th in Atlantic), the 30 year old superstar Kucherov will heat up even more as the Lightning find their stride and narrowly beat McKinnon to win the Art Ross. With that being said, the Lightning are barely standing tall with Kucherov going off, so who knows where Tampa would be without him? Give him the Hart too!

Winner: LW Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
Runner-ups: C Nathan McKinnon (COL), LW Artemi Panarin (NYR)

Photo Credit: thespokesman-review.com

Calder Memorial Trophy

Out of all the rookies this year, the most dazzling one has been superstar Connor Bedard. He has looked great for a struggling Blackhawks squad as he has been scoring at a near point-per-game pace (15 goals, 33 points in 39 games) and was the clear front-runner for the award. Over the weekend, Bedard had to leave a game vs the N.J Devils with a fractured jaw and was placed on IR. The star can still win the Calder, but it will definitely be a closer race than it originally was. D-man Luke Hughes has been solid for the Devils, as he is 3rd among rookies in assists (16) and points (23), and has been red hot lately. D-man Brock Faber has been solid for the Minnesota Wild as he has been playing over 20 minutes a night and has a plus-minus of +9 (T-1st among rookies). Furthermore, Jackets center Adam Fantilli is having a nice rookie year as he is 2nd in points (24) and 3rd in goals (11). Typically, fractured jaws take 4-6 weeks to play, so Bedard can definitely still be in the thick of the race if he returns by early-to-mid February. Even while missing several weeks, he will win the Calder in his opening season as a Blackhawk.

Winner: C Connor Bedard (CHI)
Runner-ups: D Brock Faber (MIN), D Luke Hughes (NJD)

James Norris Trophy

There have been many candidates in the mix to receive the Norris Trophy. Evan Bouchard, Victor Hedman, Charlie McAvoy, Adam Fox, Josh Morissey, and Rasmus Dahlin are deserving players for the award. However, 3 of them have separated from the rest: Noah Dobson, Cale Makar, and Quinn Hughes. Dobson has taken strides in both sides of his game this season, as he has scored at a point-per-game pace (32 assists, 38 points in 39 games), has a +20 plus/minus, and 89 blocked shots. In addition, he is one of the leaders in TOI through the NHL (26:33) as the Islanders have dealt with many injuries to their d-line. For the Avs, Cale Makar has continued to be one of the best defensemen in the game with 47 points (35 games), 64 blocked shots, and a 24:34 TOI. The frontrunner in the Norris marathon is Quinn Hughes. Hughes showed steps of a breakout the last 2 seasons, as he had 68 and 76 points respectively. The d-man has been tremendous and vital to a surprising Canucks squad that is one of the top teams in the NHL to date. He has 49 points in 39 games (10 G, 39 A), a +26 plus/minus, and 24:33 TOI. As long as Vancouver and Hughes keep rolling, he will be taking home some hardware!

Winner: D Quinn Hughes (VAN)
Runner-ups: D Cale Makar (COL), D Noah Dobson (NYI)

Photo Credit: apnews.com

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy

Sam Reinhart (28 goals), Zach Hyman (25 goals), and Brock Boeser (24 goals) being three candidates for the Maurice Richard Trophy has been a pleasant surprise to watch this year. All of them have sustainable paces, but it won’t lead to any hoisting of a trophy. Auston Matthews is in the lead with 30 goals despite playing in only 36 games and is in contention to win another Maurice Trophy. He has been a prolific goal scorer for his entire career, as he’s only scored under 40 goals in 2 of his 7 seasons (excluding this season). Nikita Kucherov definitely has a chance, as he is in line to win the Art Ross/Hart with his outstanding play for the Lightning. However, Kucherov won’t be winning 3 trophies as Matthews will heat up and take his 3rd Maurice Trophy in the last 4 seasons.

Winner: F Auston Matthews (TOR)
Runner-up: LW Nikita Kucherov (TBL), C Nathan McKinnon (COL)

Vezina Trophy

Just like most of the other awards, this year’s Vezina race is different from the previous few years. Star goalies like Ilya Sorokin (12-7-8, 3.17 GAA, .909 SV%), 2022 Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin (16-8-0, 2.76 GAA, .908%), last year’s Vezina winner Linus Ullmark (13-5-2, 2.74 GAA, .917 SV%), and Jake Oettinger (11-7-2, 2.93 GAA, .901 SV%) have struggled or not performed to their career standards. This has paved the way for new goalies to enter the mix. Jeremy Swayman (11-3-4, 2.43 GAA, .922%), Connor Hellebuyck (20-6-3, 2.27 GAA, .921 SV%), and Cam Talbot (14-9-3, 2.17 GAA, .923 SV%) have had incredible performances throughout the year for their respective teams. Adin Hill (10-2-2, 1.93 GAA, .933 SV%) was having an unheard-of start for the Golden Knights that was similar to Ullmark’s season last year before he got injured. Hill is supposed to return next week, which would boost his chances of winning the Vezina if he stays healthy the rest of the way. However, the Bruins won’t be getting back-to-back Vezina winners as Hellebuyck will keep the Jets soaring to the playoffs with his 2nd Vezina of his career. Since Swayman plays in more of a time-share and an amazing defensive system, Hellebuyck will get more starts if he stays healthy and his chances of winning the trophy should only increase if this standard continues for the rest of the regular season.

Winner: G Connor Hellebuyck (WPG)
Runner-ups: G Jeremy Swayman (BOS), G Cam Talbot (LAK)

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My name is John Pagnotta and I live in Queens, NY. I am a sophomore at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School. I am a huge fan of the Jets, Mets, Islanders, and Knicks. I started following sports when I was around 7 years old and I have not lost love for it ever since!

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