The NHL Awards are typically a fixture of the Las Vegas sports summer calendar, much like the NBA Summer League or the Triple-A baseball season.
That didn’t stop Review-Journal NHL reporters Ben Gotz and David Schoen from filling out mock ballots. (Note: Writers don’t get a vote for every award on the official ballot.) We’re revealing their selections now because the playoffs were supposed to start Wednesday.
Gotz: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
No one has been more valuable to his team than MacKinnon. He is the NHL’s fifth-leading scorer with 93 points. His next-closest teammate has 50. The Avalanche are a Stanley Cup contender despite numerous injuries because of MacKinnon.
Schoen: Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers
This is a right-now vote. If the season resumes and the New York Rangers reach the playoffs, then Artemi Panarin almost certainly gets the nod in a photo finish. But Draisaitl leads the NHL in points with 110 and has the Oilers in position to reach the playoffs for the second time since 2006.
Vezina (Best goaltender)
Gotz: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Hellebuyck doesn’t just deserve this award — he deserves to be in the Hart conversation. He ranks first in shots faced, saves and shutouts, and is second in wins and goals saved above average. The Jets, who have the league’s third-worst scoring chance percentage, would be a mess without him.
Schoen: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Hellebuyck is the trendy choice, as his play helped mask the Jets’ deficiencies on defense. But Rask has posted better numbers in goals-against average, save percentage, goals saved above average and high-danger save percentage. The difference is Rask played 17 fewer games.
Norris (Best defenseman)
Gotz: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
The Washington Capitals’ John Carlson is having the best offensive season for a defenseman since 1994-95 with 1.09 points per game. But this isn’t the “best offensive defenseman” award. Josi has been real good on offense with 65 points in 69 games and excelled defensively, too.
He trails only Carlson in scoring among defensemen, leads all blue liners in individual expected goals and is second in expected goals percentage. Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman could win this honor every season, and St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo is having his best offensive season, but Josi gets the nod.
Calder (Best rookie)
Gotz: Cale Makar, defenseman, Colorado Avalanche
It’s tempting to pick Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, but another blue liner should get this prize. Makar is simply special. He has 50 points in 57 games and is the second-leading scorer on a great Colorado team.
Hughes came on strong in the final 25 to 30 games, but it’s Makar at the wire over his fellow dynamic defenseman. The Avalanche rookie tops Hughes in points per game, points share and expected goals share while playing 11 fewer games. Chicago’s Dominik Kubalik, a 30-goal scorer, also garnered consideration.
Selke (Best defensive forward)
Gotz: Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Couturier finally should win this award after receiving votes in 10 previous seasons. He has won 59.7 percent of his faceoffs and leads the Flyers, who are allowing the seventh-fewest goals per game in the NHL, in shot attempts percentage.
It’s tough to get past Boston center Patrice Bergeron and St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly, who own four of the past six trophies. But Couturier is winning almost 60 percent of his faceoffs and has paid his dues for what is largely a reputation award.
Jack Adams (Best coach)
Gotz: Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
This is a tough field with the Avalanche’s Jared Bednar, the Flyers’ Alain Vigneault and the Columbus Blue Jacket’s John Tortorella getting consideration. Sullivan has kept afloat a team that has dealt with injuries to key players Sidney Crosby, Evegeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel.
Flip a coin, with about eight deserving coaches. In his first season, Vigneault has squeezed the maximum out of the Flyers, who are one point out of first in the Metropolitan Division and already surpassed last season’s point total.
Jim Gregory GM of the Year
Gotz: Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Sakic was a Hall of Fame player and is quite an executive, too. The Avalanche are on the shortlist of Cup contenders while also boasting one of the league’s best farm systems. No team arguably is positioned better in the short and long term.
Sakic’s bold decision-making through trades and free agency turned the Avalanche into an elite team. Colorado has made the second-largest improvement in the league from last season, jumping from a .549 points percentage to .657.
Lady Byng (Most gentlemanly player)
MacKinnon has only 12 penalty minutes in 69 games.
To show how subjective voting for this trophy can be, 59 players received votes last year. O’Reilly has only 10 penalty minutes to go with 61 points in 71 games.