Picking the winners of the 2016 NHL Awards
Hockey's best and brightest will gather in Las Vegas on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, Sportsnet; preview show starts at 6 p.m. on NHL Network) to marvel at Brent Burns's sartorial splendor. And while they're there, they'll celebrate the game's finest talent at the annual NHL Awards show.
Here's a look at the finalists for each major award, along with our predictions for the winner in each category.
Hart Trophy (MVP)
Finalists: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Benn failed to repeat as the league's scoring champion, but still managed to set new personal bests in goals (40), points (89), power play goals (17) and power play points (30). He was at his best during the season's final 10 games when he led Dallas to an 8-2 finish while star center Tyler Seguin was sidelined by an Achilles injury.
Crosby rebounded from a sluggish start to pace the league with 44 points after the All-Star break. His resurgence in all three zones lifted the Pens out of the lottery and into second place in the Metropolitan Division, setting them up for an eventual run to the Stanley Cup.
Kane became the first American-born player to lead the league in scoring with his career-high 106 points. He banked 40 of them during a 26-game streak that was the longest ever by an American and the longest in the league since Mats Sundin's 30-game streak in 1992-93.
Predicted winner: Kane
Ted Lindsay Award (MVP as voted by players)
Finalists: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
The Hart winner has doubled with the Lindsay in each of the past two years. No reason to believe that streak will be broken this time around.
Predicted winner: Kane
Vezina Trophy (best goaltender)
Finalists: Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning; Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Bishop led the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and ranked second with a .926 save percentage, setting a pair of franchise records in the process. His six shutouts were a new career high and tied for second most in the league.
Quick led all goaltenders in appearances (68), starts (68) and minutes played (4,034), picking up 40 wins along the way to set a new franchise single-season mark. He also earned his 41st career shutout, passing Frank Brimsek and John Vanbiesbrouck for the most by a U.S.-born netminder.
Holtby, though, had a season for the ages. The Caps keeper earned 48 wins to tie Martin Brodeur's single-season mark, and he led Washington to the Presidents' Trophy. Though his other numbers were merely great (he ranked fifth with a 2.20 GAA and eighth in save percentage at .922), he was easily the class of the field.
Predicted winner: Holtby
Calder Trophy (rookie of the year)
Finalists: Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
The question of whether or not Panarin should be considered a rookie after seven pro seasons in Russia is moot. By Calder standards he makes the cut, so his rookie-leading 30 goals and 77 points are impossible to ignore. And while he certainly benefited from playing alongside Patrick Kane, the relationship was symbiotic. There's no way he has the season he does without his right-handed doppelganger working alongside him.
McDavid lost 37 games to a broken collarbone, taking him out of consideration for many voters. That's too bad, because he was clearly the best rookie performer when he was on the ice. The No. 1 pick in last year's draft earned three Rookie of the Month awards and averaged 1.07 points-per-game, trailing only Kane and Benn.
Gostisbehere might have been the most impressive rookie, by virtue of excelling at a more difficult position. The 23-year-old defenseman transformed Philadelphia's attack when he arrived in November, and made the Flyers a more effective possession team. His 15-game point streak was the longest by a rookie backliner in league history. He also set a rookie mark by scoring four overtime winners.
Predicted winner: Panarin
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward)
Finalists: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
A pretty solid case can be made for each of the three finalists for this award which essentially honors the best all-around player in the game. Kesler was the heart and soul of the league's top penalty kill, the rare forward who topped his team in shorthanded time on ice. He also led the league in shorthanded face-off wins and defensive zone victories. Kopitar epitomized strong two-way play, helping the Kings to post the league's third-best defensive record.
But Bergeron, who is a finalist for the fifth consecutive year, was a touch better than both. He posted the second-best CF Rel (relative Corsi For when on the ice as opposed to what his team did when he was not) of any player in the league while starting the second-most shifts in the defensive zone among all forwards. He also led the NHL in face-offs taken and face-offs won, and set a career high with 32 goals.
Predicted winner: Bergeron
Norris Trophy (best defenseman)
Finalists: Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
The most contentious award of the night is Ground Zero for the battle between stat nerds and the eye testers. Karlsson, a two-time Norris winner, is the darling of the #fancystats crowd. He's the game's ultimate possession driver, posting a CF% Rel 5-on-5 of +7.22. His box car stats weren't bad, either. He led the league with 66 assists and became just the second defenseman in the past 20 years to top 80 points. He also chewed up an astonishing amount of ice time, leading the league with an average of 28:58 per game.
Doughty is equally skilled, the lynchpin of L.A.'s third-rated defense and the ultimate all-situation performer. He was third in time on ice and led the league in shifts per game (33.3) while earning nearly equal time on the power play (3:03 per game) and penalty kill (2:56). His offensive numbers weren't eye-popping, but there's no denying his impact in all three zones within the confines of Darryl Sutter's defense-first system.
Burns will finish a distant third, but he put together a terrific regular season, finishing 11th in the scoring race with a career-best 75 points while leading all defensemen in goals (27), shots (353) and power play points (30).
Predicted winner: Doughty
Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship)
Finalists: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers; Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
This might be the surest thing outside of Kane's inevitable Hart win. The Lady Byng tends to go to the player who piles up the most points while accumulating the fewest penalties. Eriksson had a solid season, posting 30 goals and 63 points while picking up just 12 penalty minutes in 82 games. Barkov was right on his tail, setting new career highs in goals (28), assists (31) and points (59) while accumulating just eight penalty minutes in 66 games.
But Kopitar was a level above. He led the Kings with 74 points, good for 12th overall in the NHL, and was second in the league with a +34 rating. He also played with the requisite personal discipline, picking up just 16 minutes in penalties over 81 games. With the Selke likely to elude his grasp, this is his consolation prize.
Predicted winner: Kopitar
Jack Adams Award (coach of the year)
Finalists: Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers; Lindy Ruff; Dallas Stars; Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
Gallant wildly exceeded preseason expectations, leading a team that had missed the playoffs in 2014-15 to the Atlantic Division title. The Panthers also set franchise records for wins (47), points (103) and single-season winning streak (12 games).
Ruff might have done him one better. The veteran bench boss guided another 2014-15 non-playoff team to a title in the Central Division, the NHL's toughest, and the organization's first conference crown since 2002-03. The Stars scored a league-high 265 goals and survived some middle-of-the-road goaltending thanks to Ruff's judicious use of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.
The high-flying Capitals figured out the importance of defense under Trotz, finishing second in both goals-against (2.33) and penalty killing (85.2%). The new look suited them. Washington set a franchise record with 56 wins and captured the Presidents' Trophy with 120 points.
Predicted winner: Gallant