With the long offseason of the NHL finally being done, we can begin to look forward to this year. Over the next few months, hundreds of players will hit the ice and look to help their team to victory. While team performance is always the most important aspect of any sport, there is something to be said for the individuals and what they are able to accomplish.
While it is still many months away from the NHL handing out their awards, it is never too early to make predictions who will take home the major awards come June. While it is of course impossible to know what teams and players will do this year (or if injuries will happen), here are our picks for the 2018 NHL awards.
GM of the Year – Jim Nill
Pegging the GM of the year is always a difficult task, especially within the first few weeks of the season. It usually goes to the GM of one of the teams who makes the most intelligent moves that helps them rise up in the standings. While lots of teams got better throughout the offseason, no one did it better than the Dallas Stars. They improved their roster a lot with additions like Ben Bishop, Marc Methot, Alexander Radulov and others and got a veteran head coach in Ken Hitchcock. The Stars will likely make quite the jump in the standings, which will get Nill his first GM of the Year award. Of course he is not solely responsible for their improvement, but he deserves some credit and this award.
Jack Adams Award – Phil Housley
Similar to the GM of the Year award, this award often goes to the teams that improve year over year or a team that just dominates the league. While Hitchcock ticks off some boxes and could win, we have a different idea. A team that we feel will improve a lot over last year is the Buffalo Sabres. They have been going through a long rebuild for a few seasons and this year, we think this will be the year it finally pays off for them. Housley is a rookie head coach, but has been around the game for so long. While they likely won’t be a top 3 team, they will experience vast improvement, which should be enough for Housley to get the nod.
Ted Lindsay Award – Sidney Crosby
This award is an interesting one, as it is one that is voted on by the NHL Players Association and not the media. So if you walk around NHL locker rooms and ask who the best player in the world is, that name is likely the one that will win this award. While there will be lots that will say Connor McDavid, we think there will be more that will still say Sidney Crosby. He continues to be one of the best players in the game, but hasn’t won this award since 2013/14, but we believe that will change this year. His team will once again be one of the best in the league and if he stays healthy and plays as well as everyone knows he can, there is no reason he shouldn’t win this award once again.
Art Ross Trophy – Jamie Benn
The Art Ross Trophy is given to the player who scores more points than anyone else in the league. There are likely a handful of players vying for this trophy throughout the season, but we believe that one of them will come out on top and have a slight edge, and that is Jamie Benn. Sure, guys like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid might have more individual talent, but winning this trophy is often a bit of a team effort. The Stars have a great team with a lot of players who can scored and pass the puck very well, and as a result of that, Benn should put up a ton of points. While he may not break 100, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see him get close.
Frank J. Selke Trophy – Patrice Bergeron
The Selke is awarded to the forward in the NHL that demonstrates the most skills in the defensive side of the game. In theory, this could be anyone, but we know better than that. Patrice Bergeron has won this award 3 of the past 4 seasons and is a 4-time winner. There are very few reasons to think he can’t do it again. He can just do it all on the defensive side of the puck for a forward, whether it is on the penalty kill, or simply harassing the opponents best player all game. After all is said and done, he may go down as one of the absolute best defensive forwards in the history of the game, and one guy who often doesn’t get enough praise for what he does on the ice.
Rocket Richard Trophy – Steven Stamkos
Goal scoring is an art, and there are plenty of players who can do it extremely well in the NHL. However, when he is healthy, few can score at the clip that Steven Stamkos can. He has won this award two times before (back in 2010 and 2012), and I believe he will make it three this year if he can stay away from the injury bug. He plays on a team with a number of great players who can help him put the puck in the net. Kucherov, Hedman and Namestikov are elite players who Stamkos will have on his side. Yes, there will be some stiff competition from other great scorers in the league such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Ovechkin and others, but ultimately, we think Stammer will get it done.
James Norris Memorial Trophy – Erik Karlsson
In my mind, there is one defenseman that stands above the rest in the NHL, and his name is Erik Karlsson. As long as he is healthy, he is among the best players in the league and can do it all for his team on the ice. While he often gets credited as simply an offensive-minded defenseman that can skate well, he has shown he is so much more than that. He blocks shots more than almost any other defenseman, while also helping to stifle opposing forwards. This year, he should be among the best defensemen on the offensive side of the puck while also being among the best on the defensive side as well, and should walk away with this award, which would be his third.
Vezina Trophy – Matt Murray
The race for the Vezina trophy is one that I believe is quite wide open, as there are a number of different players that I could see running away with this trophy. While many people will be picking players like Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk, Sergei Bobrovsky and others, I am going elsewhere. With Marc-Andre Fleury out of the picture in Pitssburgh, Matt Murray has the reins and should get a ton of starts for the team. He will continue to improve and with one of the best teams in the league in front of him, don’t be shocked to see Matt Murray prove he is one of the best goalies in the game.
Calder Memorial Trophy – Clayton Keller
The Calder trophy is far and away one of the most difficult to predict of them all because their sample sizes are so small or non-existent. The rookie that I am most excited about this upcoming season is Clayton Keller, the talented forward for the Phoenix Coyotes. While he is a little bit small, he makes up for it with his blistering speed and his playmaking ability. The Coyotes are a young and explosive team, and Keller has a chance to shine and play a big role on the team, he might even spend the whole season as a first-liner, which would help. He should be getting more attention in the league then he currently is, and by the end of the season, everyone will know his name.
Hart Memorial Trophy – Connor McDavid
If you thought you could make it through the whole article and not see Connor McDavid take home an award, you’re crazy. McDavid is only 20 years old, but is fresh off of a season in which he won numerous awards, including the Ted Lindsay, the Art Ross and the Hart. He managed to do all of that in only his second NHL season, and is not even close to his full potential as a player. As long as the team doesn’t regress tons or no one in his supporting cast (or McDavid himself), there is no reason to think he will be even better than he was last year, and take home another Hart Trophy. The things he has been doing thus far in his career are incredibly impressive and there is a good chance he continues to do them.