For the third straight year, the Professional Hockey Writers Association has asked its members to vote on Midseason Awards. This continues the revival of a tradition from the 1950s and 1960s.
The PHWA selects seven NHL awards: The Hart, Lady Byng, Calder, Norris, Conn Smythe, Masterton and Selke. For this special occasion, we also voted on things like Defensive Defenseman, Comeback Player of the Year and some year-end awards that we don’t participate in. This mid-season ballot is unofficial, but makes for fun talking points.
This was my ballot:
HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”)
First: Connor McDavid
Second: Nathan MacKinnon
Third: Artemi Panarin
I tried to balance team success and “where would they be without this guy?” in my selections.
What more can I say about McDavid and MacKinnon? They’re the clear one-two right now.
It’s an open competition, however, for third place. The PHWA went with David Pastrnak, but this Panarin statistic stood out for me:
Is Artemi Panarin getting enough attention for how outrageous he's been?— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) January 20, 2020
The Rangers have scored 103 5on5 goals and he's been on the ice for 56(!) of those goals.
With Panarin on the ice, NYR have outscored opponents by 26. In all other minutes, they've been outscored 47-72.
This isn’t a be-all, end-all stat, but compare this snapshot of Panarin’s on-ice impact at 5-on-5 to other MVP candidates:
NORRIS TROPHY (“to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”)
First: Alex Pietrangelo
Second: John Carlson
Third: Roman Josi
The key phrase when thinking about the Norris is “all-round.” So I’m more likely to weigh overall impact more than one end of the ice or the other. With that in my mind, I also look for defenders with heavy power play and penalty kill responsibilities.
I also gave serious consideration to Dougie Hamilton, Kris Letang, Seth Jones and Victor Hedman.
Both would be deserving winners, but I went with Pietrangelo’s more reliable defensive game.
CALDER TROPHY (“to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition”)
First: Cale Makar
Second: Quinn Hughes
Third: Dominik Kubalik
Makar and Hughes are the clear one-two here, both 20 minute-plus blueliners making a significant offensive impact for their respective teams.
Meanwhile, the PHWA chose Victor Olofsson for third place, but I went with Kubalik. It’s gone under the radar, but Kubalik leads all rookies with 21 goals (Olofsson is second with 16). The Blackhawks winger has been on an absolute tear, scoring 10 goals in his last nine games.
LADY BYNG TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”)
First: Jaccob Slavin
Second: Miro Heiskanen
Third: Ryan O’Reilly
The ability to flourish at playing a clean game while embracing heavy defensive responsibility is underrated.
While it was a shame to see Hamilton go down with an injury, it’s good to see Slavin, who took his teammate’s spot at All-Star Game, get more shine.
SELKE TROPHY (“to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game”)
First: Ryan O’Reilly
Second: Anthony Cirelli
Third: Sean Couturier
Like many, I tend to vote for the best “two-way” forward. This might be lazy, but the argument that the best defense is a good offense applies here.
Overcoming difficult zone starts and tough competition, along with a healthy dose of penalty kill usage influence my picks too.
Cirelli is the up-and-comer here, but he won’t be underappreciated for long. On a star-studded Lightning roster, Cirelli is the third most-used forward — after Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. He’s also the second most-used penalty killing forward in the league.
VEZINA TROPHY (“to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position”)
First: Connor Hellebuyck
Second: Ben Bishop
Third: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Physical and mental stamina is critical to my voting and for a starting goalie. So netminders who haven’t played an outsized portion of their team’s games are underrepresented in my selections.
This makes Hellebuyck an easy choice, insofar as he’s played the bulk of Winnipeg’s games — he leads the NHL in games played — and provided a high standard of play.
By that token, this eliminated Darcy Kuemper — third in PHWA mid-season voting — who’s played only 25 games so far this year.
JACK ADAMS AWARD (“to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success”)
First: John Tortorella
Second: Joel Quenneville
Third: Jon Cooper
GM OF THE YEAR AWARD
First: Dale Tallon
Second: Joe Sakic
Third: Don Waddell
Here’s my case for the much-derided Tallon:
- Three-time Stanley Cup winner Joel Quenneville probably doesn’t take over the Panthers without Tallon at his side
- Under-the-radar free agent signings like Anton Stralman, Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari have been significant contributors to Florida’s strong start
Yes, Tallon is probably going to pay for breaking the bank on Sergei Bobrovsky. But I judge GM of the Year on immediate results, which Tallon has garnered. Bobrovsky isn’t have a great year, but he should get going soon enough.
Meanwhile, Waddell (and/or Eric Tulsky) made a raft of solid signings and trades over the summer: Acquiring a first-round pick to take on Patrick Marleau’s contract, Erik Haula for Nicolas Roy, James Reimer, Ryan Dzingel and Jake Gardiner.
DEFENSIVE DEFENSEMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
First: Jaccob Slavin
Second: Esa Lindell
Third: Alex Pietrangelo
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
First: Anthony DuClair
Second: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Third: James Neal