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Early NHL Awards Predictions

Welcome back to Easy Like Ea-Monday Morning, you’re easy reading article to start off your week. The best part is if you are reading this properly, you should be doing so on the pooper during company time! The NHL season is currently in the calm before the storm stage so this seems like the perfect time to make some wild predictions for the end of season awards. A couple of Habs will enter the conversation and we will discuss if any players can take home some hardware.

HART MEMORIAL TROPHY
Awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to their team
2021 Winner – Connor McDavid
2022 Finalists – Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Connor McDavid (EDM), Nikita Kucherov (TBL)

Bit of a boring top 3, however I don’t see much changing when it comes to this award. Both McDavid and MacKinnon are men on missions as both have failed to live up to the playoffs expectations that their fan bases expect. McDavid does get a bit of a pass, but it is well within reason to believe that McDavid can duplicate what he did last season. For as much as people loved to degrade the competition in last season’s North Division, the Pacific is going to be much worse this year.

This will also give MacKinnon a bit of a point production bump, however he has continually elevated his game every season and the sting of losing in last year’s playoffs should be a driving force for him. His strict diet and demands on him and his teammates is just proof of how serious he takes his job and you got to love seeing that as a fan. As a teammate, maybe not so much but winning cures all!

When it comes to Kucherov I just wanted to have one ‘fresh face’ in here, although I will say that Matthews should be a motivated man as well this season with realistic chances at back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophies. Kucherov showed in the playoffs that he has not lost a step and in my opinion is the best chance for the field to beat McDavid in points.

My Pick – Nathan MacKinnon

VEZINA TROPHY
Awarded annually to the NHL goaltender who is adjudged the best at this position
2021 Winner – Marc-André Fleury

2022 Finalists – Darcy Kuemper (COL), Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL), Connor Hellebuyck (WPG)

I am very excited for the Darcy Kuemper coming out party. He is well respected around the league for the most part, but Kuemper with Colorado should cement him a spot on Canada’s roster in February. Between the market he played in and the team he was on, Kuemper was and has been heavily underrated for years. Even with the loss of Ryan Graves and Connor Timmins, the Avalanche still ice one of the best and deepest blue lines in the league which should play to Kuemper’s advantage.

Kuemper’s biggest competition will be back-to-back Vezina runner-up Vasilevskiy. It is hard to argue that anyone has been better that Vasi over the last couple of years, he won his first Vezina in 2019 and then followed that up with 2 Stanley Cups and a Conny Smythe. Despite the losses for the Lightning this off-season, their team is still a wagon and their D-core is essentially in tact.

Another name who has perennially been in the Vezina conversation is Connor Hellebuyck. He is finally getting some support from the front office as on paper, Cheveldayoff has assembled the blue this team has had in a few years. Dillon and Schmidt aren’t the sexiest of names, but they will provide stability to a defensive unit that Hellebuyck has carried for a couple of years.

My Pick – Andrei Vasilevskiy

CALDER MEMORIAL TROPHY
Awarded annually to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL.
2021 Winner – Kirill Kaprizov

2022 Finalists – Moritz Seider (DET), Spencer Knight (FLA), Cole Caufield (MTL)

For most Habs fans, this award starts and ends with Caufield and there is reason for optimism and excitement here. Caufield was a pivotal part of the last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final and there was a clear level of confidence to his game and he proved to everyone that he is here to stay. There is a clear path for Caufield to win the Calder as he is expected to play on the Habs top line beside Suzuki and possibly Toffoli to reignite some of last seasons magic. Can he score 30 goals? Sure, but let’s not assume it is a forgone conclusion and keep in mind that this is going to be a strong rookie class so Caufield will have a ton of competition.

I took a massive swing and a miss on a rookie goalie last season and then doubled down with a different goalie at the mid-season mark. While I don’t think that Knight will win the Calder this year, he walks into the best situation of any rookie this season. The Panthers went punch for punch with a few of the top teams in the league last year and they only got better this off season. It is clear that it will be Knights crease to lose this season, however there will be rough patches, thankfully he has the team in front of him to help compensate for that.

The final name is sure to confuse and possibly anger some of you, but it get’s better. Seider is my pick for the Calder this season. I do think Zegras, Byfield, etc all have a chance to enter the conversation, but Seider is a player who has not gained the fanfare he deserves just yet. Things will change soon and the general public will take notice sooner rather than later. Last season Seider absolutely demolished the SHL playing for Rogle BK. He led all junior players assists (7) and points (28) and was named the SHL Defenseman of the Year and followed that up be being named Defenseman of the Tournament at the recent World Championships.

I may be tempering expectations too much with Caufield but Seider is a name to get familiar with quick.

My Pick – Mortiz Seider

FRANK J. SELKE TROPHY
Awarded annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game
2021 Winner – Aleksander Barkov

2022 Finalists – Aleksander Barkov (FLA), Joel Eriksson Ek (MIN), Sean Couturier (PHI)

The Selke is has had multiple repeat winners, look no further than Patrice Bergeron, but this year to me feels like the year that Barkov lets it be known that moving forward this is his award to lose from now on. The addition of Sam Reinhart should provide additional offense to the Panthers top line, without taking anything away from the defensive side of the puck. I also believe that Panthers will be a force which would likely be correlated with the success of the team’s top line.

Joel Eriksson Ek is a bit of a wild card here, but I think that he is fully deserving of being in the conversation yet again. Yes he does play center on a line with Jordan Greenway, but ignoring that, JEE he emerged as one of the top two-way players in this league. He can shut down the opposing team’s top line will still being a scoring threat.

Couturier’s near point per game season last season drastically flew under the radar. A brief injury stint and a Flyer’s team that failed to meet expectations last summer kept Couturier out of the spotlight. However, it’s a new year and the Flyers have made a couple of very solid moves to improve their roster. The team success if the last missing piece for Couturier to emerge as a front runner, and I think this is the season that both he and his team take that step forward to become contenders.

My Pick – Aleksander Barkov

JAMES NORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY
Awarded annually to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position
2021 Winner – Adam Fox

2022 Finalists – Charlie McAvoy (BOS), Cale Makar (COL), Ivan Provorov (PHI)

It was hard to not include Adam Fox on this list, but I wanted to keep him and Hedman off this list. To me the front runner is Charlie McAvoy, his surface and underlying numbers have been great for a couple of years now and they continuously get better. He doesn’t put up the offensive numbers that the Norris has become synonymous with, however a 55-65 point season is within reason without sacrificing any of his defensive play.

Barring injury, Makar will most likely be in Norris conversations year after year for the next decade. He has one of the best pure offensive skill sets among defenseman in the league and he just got off his ELC. There is a clear trend of Avalanche players in this article and Makar will be one of the key players for the team’s success.

Finally a name who probably isn’t get much (if any) traction for the Norris right now is Ivan Provorov. Provorov has been trending in the right direction for a couple of seasons now and was really the only defender that moved the needle for the Flyers last season. This year he will get to play with the best partner of his career in Ryan Ellis. I love them as a pairing and I love the potential for both of them to break out with career seasons as one of the league’s best duos.

My Pick – Charlie McAvoy

JIM GREGORY AWARD
Annual award presented to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to their team’s success
2021 Winner – Lou Lamoriello

2022 Finalists – Joe Sakic (COL), Bill Zito (FLA), Julien Brisebois (TBL)
Honourable Mention – Ron Francis

Ron Francis needs a nod of appreciation. Building a team based on analytics was bold and enticing and I am excited to see the end results. I just don’t think the Kraken will do enough to compete with the top teams.

This and the Adams Award are very tough to predict this early because there are a lot of changes around the league that are still to come. However at this point of the season these are my front runners. I love the move by Sakic to acquire Kuemper, and while they lost some key pieces, he brought back Landeskog and Newhook should help offset some of those loses.

Bill Zito may have been robbed last season, the Panthers were a legit contender who did not get the playoff run they deserved. Zito made the team even better this off season and they will be getting Ekblad back who was lost to injury late last season. He also has $1.3M in cap space which I believe will pro-rate out to $5.3M come the trade deadline.

Brisebois has been shafted on a few occasions over the past couple of years and that will likely continue this year. I do believe he will get more credit this year now that they have their full roster healthy, however they will still be using the LTIR relief to fit under the cap. At this point it is hard to believe that this is not what is keeping him away from this award, but I’m sure he is fine collecting Cup rings.

My Pick – Bill Zito

JACK ADAMS AWARD
An annual award to recognize the work of the top General Manager in the NHL.
2021 Winner – Rod Brind’Amour

2022 Finalists – Jared Bednar (COL), Gerard Gallant (NYR), Jon Cooper (TBL)

Again difficult award to predict but I do believe that the Avalanche may be the scariest team in the league during the regular season next year. As the saying goes, ‘show me a good goalie and I will show you a good coach’, Kuemper is a massive upgrade in nets and I think this is what takes the Avalanche over the top in all facets.

Gerard Gallant is joining the Rangers at the right time as the team’s front office has made it clear that there are no more excuses, it is time to win. On paper the roster is stacked and I have always love Gallant as a coach and he has a history of paying immediate dividends for new teams.

Finally, just like Brisebois Jon Cooper may have been getting black balled because of how stacked his roster is. This year could be the year where he finally gets the recognition he deserves for being the league’s best coach.

My Pick – Gerard Gallant

As always don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce family and check our Youtube channel for all of our podcasts and videos. This week on Not Sauce For Work Peeze, Terry and Eagle discuss the NFL Hall of Fame, Xavien Howard then jump into some MLB to discuss the Colorado Rockies before finishing off with some Messi talk.

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