We’ve seen some nice starts from players through the first quarter of this NHL season and it’s now time to take a look at some of the surprise (and not so surprising) frontrunners for the popular awards thus far in the early season. Who do I think would be taking home hardware if the season ended today, and how are their chances to really landing those awards? Let’s take a look.
Hart Trophy FrontRunner (League MVP): Evgeni Malkin (PIT) – It’s hard to go against Evgeni Malkin right now. He leads the league in points with 31 and has been the biggest part of why Pittsburgh is not an average team right now because of all of their injuries on defense and in net. One flaw to Malkin so far has been his goal scoring in which he is only on pace for 29 this season while he had 47 total in total last season. Other than that he is doing it all and really helping anchor a Pittsburgh team to one of the best in the league when they probably shouldn’t be right now.
On Pace: Goals 29, Assists 98, Points 127
Chance I give Evgeni Malkin to win the Hart Trophy: 60% chance
Runners Up: Niklas Backstrom (MIN), Marc Savard (BOS)
Vezina Trophy FrontRunner (Top Goalie): Niklas Backstrom (MIN) – Niklas Backstrom is by far the most underrated player in the entire NHL, and in my mind he is a top 5 goalie overall. If I asked you before the season started where you’d think Minnesota would be in the standings in late November with the second least amount of teams goals scored and I bet you’d never say 5th place in the western conference, you’d probably say 15th. However, because of Niklas Backstrom they are 5th in the West and he is the main reason why Minnesota is a good team right now. Besides Mikko Koivu, nobody even stands out on this entire team besides Backstrom. That says Vezina to me.
With Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur out for some time, this even makes Backstroms chances to win the Vezina more possible.
On Pace: Wins 52, Losses 22, OTL 4, SV% .930, GAA 2.00
Chance I give Niklas Backstrom to win the Vezina Trophy: 35% chance
Runners Up: Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Tim Thomas (BOS)
Norris Trophy FrontRunner (Top Defenseman): Shea Weber (NSH) – I think this choice is the most obvious of frontrunners so far. Weber has been an absolute monster this season. He leads all Defenseman in goals (10), points (21) and is a +10 rating and overall 19th in the league in total points. The only knock on Weber and how he may perform down the road is the team around him is not all that good, but I believe as of right now that is a compliment to Weber and what he has done on the stat sheet with such a mediocre team. It’s definitely not his fault they are mediocre as a team.
Could Weber be the next 30 goal scoring defenseman since Paul Coffey? At the pace he’s going and with his shot and the amount of ice time he logs, sky’s the limit.
On Pace: Goals 39, Assists 43, Points 82, +37, PIM 94
Chance I give Shea Weber to win the Norris Trophy: 20% chance
Runners Up: Mike Green (WSH), Dan Boyle (SJS)
Calder Trophy FrontRunner (Top Rookie): Derick Brassard (CLB) – While Derick may not have too much competition right now outside of Kris Versteeg and maybe Drew Doughty, he is still lighting it up and really turning some heads to make a solid case for himself as a Calder frontrunner. Derick has been the best all around rookie so far (in my opinion) especially when you consider where he is playing and who he is playing with, unlike Versteeg who is playing on a superior team with better linemates. Where would Columbus be right now without Brassard’s hot start? Most likely not a win over their loss total like they are right now.
If you want a real telling stat for Derick Brassard, he has 8 goals on only 39 shots this season.
On Pace: Goals 34, Assists 48, Points 82
Chance I give Derick Brassard to win the Calder Trophy: 50% chance
Runners Up: Kris Versteeg (CHI), Drew Doughty (LA)
Jack Adams Award FrontRunner (Top Coach): Todd McLellan (SJS) – This is another obvious choice and rightfully so. McLellan has turned the San Jose Sharks who were a good team into a great team in just his first year at the helm. San Jose leads the league in points, goals scored and have only 3 regulation losses in their first 21 games played. Not only that, but he is helping Patrick Marleau and Ryan Clowe have bounce back seasons and is helping Devin Setoguchi and Christian Ehrhoff have breakout seasons, plus he has gelled in the newcomers of Rob Blake and Dan Boyle like they’ve been playing on the team for years. Do I need to say anything else?
On Pace: Wins 66, Losses 12, OTL 4
Chance I give Todd McLellan to win the Jack Adams Award: 90% chance
Runners up: Claude Julien (BOS), Joel Quenneville (CHI)