As the NHL season grinds to a close, it’s fitting to take a look toward summer in Las Vegas, where the NHL awards will be given out to a multitude of deserving players around the league. Of course, some of the top nominees for these awards are not surprising-players like Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk seem to have a knack for receiving the same award year after year-but each year brings fortune to different individuals, and this year is no different. Let’s take a look at the forerunners and darkhorses for a few of the most coveted NHL awards.
Hart Memorial Trophy (League MVP)
Winner: Evgeni Malkin
This year, the NHL’s current leading point scorer, Evgeni Malkin, is the forerunner for the Hart. Malkin is a huge reason for the Penguins’ success this season given the long absence of Sidney Crosby. The Russian forward’s strong and inspirational play, game in and game out, makes him Hart worthy.
Runner up: Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux is also worthy of being a Hart candidate is Claude Giroux. His performance of late has slowed down, but it is impossible to ignore the impact that he makes on the Flyers’ team on and off the ice.
Dark Horse: Henrik Lundqvist
Although no goalie has won the Hart since Jose Theodore in 2002, Henrik Lundqvist is also a legitimate candidate to bring home the hardware. He is probably the best goalie in the league, and his play is a huge reason why the Rangers currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)
Winner: Henrik Lundqvist
With “King Henrik” in mind, it’s obvious that the Swede is the forerunner for the trophy. Lundqvist has an impressive 1.87 G.A.A., a staggering .934 save percentage, and a league-leading eight shutouts on the season.
Runner up: Brian Elliot
Though astounding, Lundqvist’s G.A.A. and save percentage are second only to Brian Elliot, goalie for the St. Louis Blues. However, since Elliot splits time with other Blues’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak, he has 21 fewer starts than Lundqvist, which may restrict him from being Vezina worthy.
Dark Horse: Jonathan Quick
Quite possibly the most underrated goaltender in the league, Jonathan Quick is a dark horse for this year’s Vezina. The LA goaltender has posted seven shutouts, a respectable 2.00 G.A.A., and a stellar .928 save percentage. He is also tied in first in goalie starts this season.
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Winner: Erik Karlsson
It’s easy to crown Erik Karlsson as this year’s favourite for the Norris trophy. The Swede’s stellar 72 points (10th in the league) mixed with his ability to get the job defensively makes him a great selection for the Norris.
Runner up: Nicklas Lidstrom
It’s hard to count Lidstrom out for this award considering he’s won it six times in the past decade. However, his performance has slowed down this season, and injuries have kept him off the ice for too long.
Dark Horse: Brian Campbell
The dark horse for this category is Florida’s Brian Campbell. He leads the league in average ice time per game among defensemen, and has an impressive 49 points thus far, 28 of which come on the powerplay.
Calder Trophy (Best Rookie)
Winner: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
This year’s rookie of the year award looks like it’s going to last year’s first overall draft pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Despite injury, the 18-year-old has generated 46 points in 54 games, and fans are realizing that he’s the real deal.
Runner up: Gabriel Landeskog
Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog is also in the running for the Calder, largely because of his play late in the season. The 19-year-old is huge part of the Avs’ current push for a playoff spot and continues to show off his raw talent.
Dark Horse: Adam Henrique
The New Jersey Devils’ star left winger has been a surprise for must experts, but his 16-31-48 stat line doesn’t lie: this kid can play. Completing a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac, Henrique will be a force to be reckoned with heading into the playoffs.
Jack Adam’s Trophy (Best Coach)
Winner: Ken Hitchcock
In all likelihood, the winner of this year’s Coach of the Year award will be Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues. After taking over early on in the season, the veteran coach has posted a 40-12-8 record, good enough to secure the Blues’ top ranking in the league.
Runner up: Paul McLean
Paul McLean of the Ottawa Senators has transformed a team projected to miss the playoffs into a team that is a definite threat in the Eastern Conference looking forward i
nto the playoffs.
Dark Horse: John Tortorella
It would be difficult to ignore John Tortorella’s success this season with the Rangers. He is certainly a good candidate for this award, as the Rangers are currently first in the Eastern Conference, while managing possible distractions such as the HBO series 24/7.