As NHL teams hit the 10-game mark of the 2019-20 regular season, surely it’s time to hand out some hardware. Here are the too-early trophy winners for your consideration:
Art Ross Trophy: John Carlson, Washington
Even if you’re someone who expects the unexpected, you didn’t see this one coming. Carlson, Washington’s linchpin defenseman with the big shot from the blueline, is the league’s leading scorer with 21 points. Granted, the Capitals have played a league-high 13 games which gives him a bit of an unfair advantage in a story about “10-game” trophy winners. But hockey, like life, isn’t always fair. So here we are, and let’s give credit where credit’s due. The only other defenseman to lead the NHL in scoring this late in the season was Bobby Orr. The Bruins legend is also the only defenseman to lead the NHL in scoring at the end of the season, doing so twice, in 1969-70 (120 points) and 1974-75 (135 points). Carlson isn’t Bobby Orr. He’s not going to end up with 100-plus points and he’s not going to be the NHL scoring leader when April rolls around. But he’s doing a pretty good No. 4 impression so far, and he’s on track to post a career-best season in points for the third year after 68 points in 2017-18 and 70 last season.
Rocket Richard Trophy: David Pastrnak, Boston
This one, you might have seen coming. Pastrnak tied for 14th in the league in goals last season, but with 38 in 66 games, his 0.58 goals-per-game rate ranked fourth overall, just a fraction behind leaders Alex Ovechkin (0.63), Leon Draisaitl (0.61) and (surprise!) Viktor Arvidsson (0.59). This season, Pastrnak is lighting it up with 10 goals in nine games. Fun fact: his 1.11 goals-per-game rate puts him on pace for 91 goals this season, which would be one less than Wayne Gretzky’s all-time single-season mark of 92. Obviously that’s going to happen, but Pastrnak is poised for (another) breakout season and could very well end stealing Ovechkin’s goal-scoring crown. Already playing in his sixth NHL season, it’s easy to forget that Pastrnak is still just 23 years old and his best days are ahead of him. That’s a scary thought if you’re a goalie.
Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid, Edmonton
It was very tempting to go with McDavid’s running mate Draisaitl, but who are we kidding? The Oilers are winning and McDavid is the main man. It’s close, though. Both players are playing more than 23 minutes a game – Draisaitl is averaging nearly 24 minutes – and they sit second and third in league scoring behind Carlson. McDavid leads the NHL in power-play points (nine) and he’s tied for the league lead with several other players with two game-winning goals. Through 11 games, he’s had a five-point game, a four-point game and six multi-point games. He’s on pace for 150 points. He probably won’t get there – but it wouldn’t be a shocker if he did, either.
Norris Trophy: John Carlson, Washington
When you’re drawing Bobby Orr comparisons, you get the Norris Trophy.
Vezina Trophy: Pekka Rinne, Nashville
Well, well, well…look who we have here. Rinne, the soon-to-be 37-year-old Predators netminder, has had his share of playoff bumps over the past few years, but he continues to be dominant in the regular season. Rinne hits the arbitrary 10-game mark with a 6-0-1 record, 1.98 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Nashville’s commitment to defense is well-documented and they’re one of the highest-scoring teams in the league this season, averaging more than four goals per game. So, you might think Rinne has it easy. But then you look at Nashville’s incumbent backup/starter-in-waiting Juuse Saros, who’s 0-3-0 with a 4.75 GAA and .853 save percentage, and you realize Rinne still brings something to the table. Can he keep it going and claim his second career Vezina Trophy? It’s within the realm of possibility, though the Preds will want him fresh for the post-season so 55-60 games looks like his ceiling.
Calder Trophy: Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto
Buffalo’s Victor Olofsson is leading the rookie scoring race with six goals and 10 points in 12 games, but all of his goals and nine of his 10 points have come on the power play. Mikheyev, meanwhile, has four goals and nine points, none of which have come on the power play. Plus, he’s emerging as a two-way force and he’s already earned coach Mike Babcock’s trust enough to become a mainstay on the penalty kill, with his 2:32 of PK ice time per game leading all rookies. Can the 25-year-old KHL veteran hold off the likes of Olofsson, Cale Makar, Jack and Quinn Hughes, Kaapo Kakko and take home the Calder? Well, Mikheyev was a question mark for the Leafs at the start of the season and now he’s looking like an answer. Don’t count him out.
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Boston
It feels a little early to be handing out the Selke, so let’s have four-time winner Bergeron hold on to it for now.
Lady Byng Award: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Remember how they used to give Mike Bossy the Lady Byng all the time because Gretzky was always winning the scoring title and MVP? It’s going to be tough – but certainly not impossible – for MacKinnon to outdo McDavid for the Art Ross and Hart, so he gets the 10-game Byng as consolation. Five goals, 14 points, zero penalty minutes.
Jack Adams Award: Dave Tippett, Edmonton
Kudos to Ralph Krueger in Buffalo and Jared Bednar in Colorado, but Tippett has guided the Oilers – the Oilers – to the top of the Western Conference on the strength of an 8-2-1 start. Edmonton has had to come from behind in virtually every victory, but a win’s a win and the Oilers are coming out on top in games they surely would’ve squandered in past seasons. Tippett’s calling card is defense and he has the Oilers – the Oilers – among the NHL’s best teams in goals against. We know Edmonton’s going to score. If they can play Tippett-style defense, they’re going to score in the playoffs, too.