SEATTLE KRAKEN

NHL Awards Favorites: Kraken rookie Beniers likely Calder winner

Apr 12, 2023, 11:39 AM

Seattle Kraken Matty Beniers...

Kraken center Matty Beniers and RW Jordan Eberle celebrate during a March 30, 2023 win over Anaheim. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

(AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

Connor McDavid has put together the first 150-point season in the NHL since the mid-1990s, Erik Karlsson is the first defenseman to hit 100 points in more than 30 years and the Boston Bruins made history by setting the single-season wins record.

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Put all that together, and who will win the league’s major awards this year seems pretty obvious.

McDavid could again be the unanimous choice for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, Karlsson is a favorite to win the Norris Trophy for a third time and the Bruins could sweep for top goaltender, defensive forward and coach honors.

HART (MVP)

Who will win: Connor McDavid, Edmonton.

Other contenders: Mikko Rantanen (Colorado), David Pastrnak (Boston), Jack Hughes (New Jersey).

McDavid won it unanimously in 2021, and the Oilers captain has only strengthened his position as the best hockey player in the world by surpassing 60 goals. The last player to record 150 points in a season was Mario Lemieux and, before that, Wayne Gretzky.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche have been ravaged by injuries and Rantanen is their most consistent star not to miss time. Pastrnak, like McDavid, reached the 60-goal plateau, and Hughes has the Devils back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

CALDER (Best Rookie)

Who will win: Matty Beniers, Seattle Kraken.

Other contenders: Stuart Skinner (Edmonton), Mason McTavish (Anaheim), Owen Power (Buffalo), Matias Maccelli (Arizona), Wyatt Johnston (Dallas).

Beniers looks like the runaway leader as the top scorer in his class and after helping the Seattle Kraken make the playoffs in their second season.

Skinner emerged as the Oilers’ starting goaltender and helped them overcome defensive deficiencies. Maccelli has made a late push to be second among rookie scorers, but the Coyotes have not been anywhere near the playoff race, unlike the Kraken or Johnston and the Stars.

NORRIS (Best Defenseman)

Who will win: Erik Karlsson, San Jose.

Other contenders: Adam Fox (N.Y. Rangers), Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg), Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo), Miro Heiskanen (Dallas).

No defenseman until Karlsson had reached 100 points since Brian Leetch in 1991-92. Doing it at the age of 32 makes Karlsson the most likely choice, even though the Sharks have been out of contention most of the season.

Fox won the Norris in 2021 and has since added penalty-killing responsibilities as the Rangers prep for the playoffs. Morrissey has nearly doubled his career high in points, Dahlin has put in a strong year at age 22 and Heiskanen has added more offensive production to his all-around game.

VEZINA (Best Goalie)

Who will win: Linus Ullmark, Boston.

Other contenders: Juuse Saros (Nashville), Ilya Sorokin (N.Y. Islanders), Jake Oettinger (Dallas), Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg).

The only knock against Ullmark: He has started only 47 games in a tandem with Jeremy Swayman that will get Boston the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. But Ullmark’s .938 save percentage is the highest by any goalie with 40-plus appearances in a season since the Bruins’ Tim Thomas in 2010-11, and his 1.89 goals-against average is the best since Dwayne Roloson in 2003-04.

Sorokin and good friend Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers, the reigning Vezina winner, have pushed into the conversation with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy for the best at the position in the NHL. Saros, Oettinger and Hellebuyck all had great years, but Ullmark had the best of his career for the NHL’s top team.

SELKE (Best Forward)

Who will win: Patrice Bergeron, Boston.

Other contenders: Mitch Marner (Toronto), Jordan Staal (Carolina).

Bergeron has already won the Selke five times and been a finalist each of the past 11 seasons, and at age 37 he still sets the standard for being an elite all-around forward. The Bruins captain has won 60.6% of faceoffs (third in the league), plays almost two minutes a game on the penalty kill and consistently draws the toughest matchups — winning them a vast majority of the time.

When Bergeron retires, there will be stiff competition as to who’s the best defensive forward in the league. Until then, there’s no debate.

JACK ADAMS (Best Coach)

Who will win: Jim Montgomery, Boston.

Other contenders: Todd McLellan (Los Angeles), Dave Hakstol (Seattle), Rod Brind’Amour (Carolina).

Montgomery has coached the Bruins to the most wins in a season in NHL history, a triumphant return after being dismissed by the Stars in 2019. Nine-time Stanley Cup-winning Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman praised others but said on performance alone the award should go to Montgomery.

“He’s positive, he’s got a lot of confidence,” Bowman said. “He seems to have kept the confidence up with the team.”

McLellan leading the Kings back to the playoffs speaks for itself. Hakstol has turned the Kraken around quickly, and Brind’Amour is always in the conversation because of the Hurricanes’ consistency.

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NHL Awards Favorites: Kraken rookie Beniers likely Calder winner