Friday November 21st, 2014

Almost every NHL team will have at least 20 games in the ledger by the time this weekend's action is in the books, making this the perfect time to reflect upon the top performers of 2014-15.

This isn't a prediction of who'll take home the hardware in June. This is simply a recognition of the award-worthy efforts we've seen through the first quarter of the season.

Disagree with our choices? Leave your picks in the comment section below.

Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby


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His hands have cooled of late (just two points in his past five games and one goal in his past ten), but Crosby is still the best player on the league's best team. He's put up multiple points in seven of his 17 starts and has provided the leadership that's helped the Pens smoothly transition from coach Dan Bylsma to Mike Johnston. You want to see someone committed to doing the little things, keep an eye on Sid.

IN THE MIX:

Vladimir Tarasenko: The Blues look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender despite playing much of the season with an injury-ravaged lineup. The thrilling play of Tarasenko (11-11-22, +15) has been key to their flirtation with the top spot in the Western Conference. He's not just their best player—he might be the league's top entertainer.

Steven Stamkos: For a guy who says he's not yet 100% coming off last season's broken leg, Stamkos looks pretty darn good. He's posted 13 goals, one shy of the league lead, and 10 assists to pace a Lightning club that should challenge for the Eastern title.

Jakub Voracek: Admittedly a long shot (maybe more so than a defenseman like Calgary's Mark Giordano or a netminder like Nashville's Pekka Rinne), but Voracek deserves consideration after the start he's had. He leads the league in both assists (20) and points (27) and has been one the consistently bright spot on a Flyers team that seems intent on finding new ways to embarrass itself.

Vezina Trophy: Jonathan Quick


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Left to his own devices on most nights by a sleepy Kings team that's battling some issues on defense, Quick has responded with some of his best play since L.A.'s 2012 Stanley Cup run. He's made a league-leading 526 saves (there's that porous D) on the way to a 2.05 GAA and .938 save percentage and looks like he's prepared for any challenge.

IN THE MIX:

Pekka Rinne: He should probably be in the MVP mix as well as this category. His presence has revitalized a Predators team that struggled during his absence last season, and his boxcar stats (.930 save percentage and 1.92 GAA) rank among the league leaders. He's held the opposition to two goals or fewer in 13 of his 17 appearances.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Everyone loves a comeback story and Fleury's writing a beauty this season for the Penguins. His 2.10 GAA and .926 save percentage are both miles ahead of his personal bests and his four shutouts are tops in the league.

Carey Price: A pretty distant fourth, but backstopping the Canadiens, the top team in the league, with 12 wins keeps him in the conversation.

Norris Trophy: Mark Giordano

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Giordano is doing it all for a Calgary team that has been one of the young season's best surprises He's stepped up his offense to compensate for a string of injuries up front, scoring in 16 of 21 games and racking up 6-16-22 totals that lead both the Flames and all NHL defenders.

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IN THE MIX:

Shea Weber: Why? Because he's Shea Weber. He's always in the mix. And given the success of the Preds this season, this could be his best chance yet to claim the award that's unfairly eluded him to this point of his career.

Drew Doughty: He's doing it all for a Kings D corps that's been ravaged by injuries and suspensions. He's playing 28:45 a night, topping the 30-minute milestone in six of his past eight, and boasts excellent possession numbers. Plus you know he's riding the spillover love from last season's playoffs.

Ryan Suter: He plays nearly half the game for the Wild and has possession numbers that are bordering on 60%. Ridiculous.

Calder Trophy: Filip Forsberg

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The Calder's the best he can hope for, but Forsberg probably deserves some Hart consideration as well. Eighth in league scoring (9-13-22) and tops with a +20 rating, he's the clever and creative engine that's powered the offensive revival in Nashville. No one else even deserves consideration for the award at this point.

IN THE MIX FOR RUNNER-UP:

Johnny Gaudreau: The transition from college to the pros hasn't been a smooth one for Johnny Hockey, but he's shown some flashes of that elite skill level along the way during his first season with the Flames . His 11 assists trail only Forsberg among rookies.

Damon Severson:  His numbers aren't flashy (4-4-8) but he's made an instant impact on New Jersey's blueline, getting pucks to the net (a league-best 52) and logging heavy minutes (22:23, second among rookies) against the best the opposition has to throw out there. Smooth, smart and efficient, he looks like a gem.

Aaron EkbladThe top pick in the 2014 draft hasn't taken long to establish himself as a legitimate NHL player. He's making his share of mistakes, but over the past couple weeks he's finding it easier to atone for them with a big play for the Panthers at either end of the ice. He's eating a lot of minutes, playing physical and proving to be a quick learner. No wonder they love him down there in Florida.

Jack Adams Award: Willie Desjardins

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Desjardins is proving nightly that the Canucks were wise to recognize this season as a reboot rather than a rebuild. He's managed the Sedin twins far more effectively than his predecessor (Henrik and Daniel are back in the top-20 of the scoring race), he has both special teams performing better, and the team's winning percentage is up by more than 100 points. Maybe he learned something along the way to that AHL championship last season, eh?

IN THE MIX:

Bob Hartley: The guy squeezes a quarter's worth of results from a Calgary nickel on a nightly basis. The power play is much improved (21.4%, up from 15.7 in 2013-14), he has the highest scoring blueline in the league, and he has the Flames contending for top spot in the Pacific Division.

Peter Laviolette: Granted his special teams are lousy and his Predators rely too heavily on one line, but he's changed the culture almost overnight in Nashville and has them in top spot in the Central. Who saw that coming?

Jack Capuano: A guy who spent most of last season with the ax over his head has done an excellent job of mixing a slew of new players—many of them at the last minute—into a cohesive unit. The Isles are 8-1 in close games, evidence of his ability to push the right buttons in pressure situations.

 

 

 

 

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