NHL Awards: Puck Daddy’s picks at halfway mark of 2015-16

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NHL Awards: Puck Daddy’s picks at halfway mark of 2015-16
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The 41-game mark is the official halfway point of the NHL season. After the Philadelphia Flyers’ win over the Boston Bruins got them to Game No. 41, it’s time to release our forecast for the NHL Awards with half of the 2015-16 season in the books. 

Who’s the MVP? Who’s the best defenseman? Who’s the top rookie? And is anyone not named “Braden” leading the Vezina race?

Please join Greg Wyshynski, Sean Leahy, Jen Neale, Josh Cooper and Ryan Lambert for these midpoint picks. Keep in mind these are predictions for the races and what their current snaphots look like. 

GREG WYSHYNSKI, EDITOR, PUCK DADDY

Hart: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

Runners-Up: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Luongo has been the backbone for everything the Florida Panthers have accomplished this season. I get the Braden Holtby love, I do. But Luongo has the save even-strength save percentage (.939) as Holtby, and is fourth in shots faced (1,025). Kane has to be in the conversation as the NHL’s points leader. And Karlsson’s just been incredible: point-per-game defenseman playing 28:39 per night. He’d be my No. 2.

Vezina: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers; Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

It’s no contest at this point. Holtby has been the best goalie on the planet since October, finally rounding into the dominant netminder the Capitals knew he could be under the tutelage of Mitch Korn.

If I have Luongo up for the Hart, he’s gotta be in the Vezina conversation as well. As for Schneider, it’s neck-and-neck between him and Corey Crawford for that last slot, as the Blackhawks’ netminder is having the season of his life. We haven’t seen a competition between the Cor(e)ys like this since “Dream A Little Dream.”

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Runners-Up: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes

Karlsson has 45 points in 44 games, is leading the NHL in average ice time for defensemen (28:39). He’s been fantastic in both ends, and it might be time to recognize that we’re in yet another run of Norris trophies for a dominant Swedish defenseman.

Doughty is having a dominant year, with a 58.2 corsi-for percentage. OEL is having the best season of his young career, and is your John Scott-Snubbed-This-Guy of the moment.

Calder: Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings; Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

Panarin is your current leader in points and goals, and has as much to do with Kane being the Art Ross leader than anything else. Domi’s offensive creativity and explosiveness has been impressive. Larkin has been the Red Wings’ best forward, and could win the Calder if he wins the goals race.

Jack Adams: John Hynes, New Jersey Devils

Runners-Up: Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars; Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

Yes, Hynes has had the benefit of Cory Schneider as a last line of defense. But that the Devils have cobbled together enough offense in front of him to be on the wild card bubble is nothing less than extraordinary, given the limited options he has.

Ruff deserves credit for whatever it is the Stars are doing this season – it ain’t always pretty, but it’s never boring. The fact is that until a late slip, they were the team of the first half. And Trotz will likely win the award if the Capitals win the President’s Trophy.

All of this is with due respect to Gerard Gallant, who’s done wonders with the Panthers. But if there’s one “something out of nothing” award, it’s gotta go to Hynes.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Runners-Up: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Ryan O’Reilly, Buffalo Sabres

Even more than Karlsson with the Norris, this is Bergeron’s award to lose in perpetuity, especially as the Bruins’ system and blue line changes and his play hasn’t. Toews has been outstanding with a 58.7 percent faceoff winning percentage. O’Reilly is winning at 58.2 and has more defensive zone starts (263) than anyone other than David Backes. He’s fourth on the Sabres in corsi percentage despite that (49.9). One might say when playing O’Reilly, it’s tough to drive through him …

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09: Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals expels water during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 9, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09: Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals expels water during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SEAN LEAHY, EDITOR, PUCK DADDY

Hart: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Runners-Up: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

Karlsson scores, he helps suppress shots, he drives possession, he makes the Senators an increasingly better team when he’s on the ice compared to when he’s between shifts as he averages over 28 minutes a night. 

Vezina: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers; Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

A .940 even strength save percentage, two shutouts and backstopping currently holding the best record in the NHL. It’s been to fun to watch Mitch Korn’s magic work on Holtby, and he’s primed to keep these numbers strong in the second half.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Runners-Up: John Klingberg, Dallas Stars; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

See: Hart Trophy

Calder: Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings; Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

The “Breadman” leads all rookies in scoring and has formed a solid second line for Chicago with Patrick Kane and fellow Russian Artem Anisimov. He’s also been deadly on the power play with 10 goals with the man advantage.

Jack Adams: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers; Dave Tippett, Arizona Coyotes

Many times the coach who wins does helps improve a team that many thought wouldn’t have much success that season (Hi, Bob Hartley!). In this case, the coach on the best team gets the award. Trotz has done a great job molding the Capitals in two seasons (with a little help from key acquisitions by GM Brian McLellan). The Capitals are back to being the fun Capitals, not those dastardly imposters we saw under Dale Hunter.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Runners-Up: Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild; Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

While Bergeron has owned this award three of the last four seasons, his grip might be loosening. As for Couturier, Broad Street Hockey had a great post about the strides he’s made this season.

Los Angeles Kings' Marian Gaborik, right, of Slovakia, celebrates his goal with teammate Drew Doughty, center, as Calgary Flames' Jiri Hudler, from the Czech Republic, skates away during first-period NHL hockey game action in Calgary, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Los Angeles Kings' Marian Gaborik, right, of Slovakia, celebrates his goal with teammate Drew Doughty, center, as Calgary Flames' Jiri Hudler, from the Czech Republic, skates away during first-period NHL hockey game action in Calgary, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

JEN NEALE, EDITOR, PUCK DADDY

Hart: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; TyJam BenGuin, Dallas Stars

For a player to earn the MVP, they have to be irreplaceable to their team. That is Braden Holtby for the Washington Capitals. The Caps are still good team with Philipp Grubauer in net but they are nearly impossible to beat with Holtby there. Kane is surrounded by superstars on the Blackhawks. They can win without him. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are replaceable by one another. Take away Benn and you’ve still got Seguin and vice versa; they’re essentially one person (i.e. TyJam BenGuin).

Vezina: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Mitch Korn’s reclamation project continues to improve to the benefit of the Washington Capitals and the detriment of the rest of the league. The only question mark is his health down the stretch. Corey Crawford hasn’t garnered as much attention as the rest of his Blackhawks teammates. He leads the league with six shutouts on the season. I still don’t know what to make of Quick. This is purely based on record. 

Norris: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Runners-Up: John Klingberg, Dallas Stars; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Give Doughty the Norris already. John Klingberg is a remote second for the breakout year he’s having. I added Karlsson as is dictated by the CBA.

Calder: Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings; Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

Panarin benefits immediately from having Patrick Kane on his opposite wing and from spending the last handful of seasons in the KHL. People forget he’s a 24-year-old rookie. As for the kids, Larkin has exceeded expectations and would be even better statistically if he hadn’t missed some games with injury. Domi is just one fun player to watch.

Jack Adams: Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers

Runners-Up: Dave Tippett, Arizona Coyotes; Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

Their last few games notwithstanding, the Florida Panthers have taken full advantage of the Montreal Canadiens’ slide. Florida feels like this year’s version of last year’s Calgary Flames, if that makes sense. They are better than they should be and maybe we’re seeing that correct itself right now. Gallant leads the pack so he gets the praise. Trotz is in the hunt because the Capitals are dominant. Granted, the Pacific Division is hot garbage, but did anyone think the Coyotes would be hanging with the other teams, especially given their goaltender carousel?

Selke: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Ryan O’Reilly, Buffalo Sabres

I don’t like throwing around the ‘once in a generation’ talent but Toews is getting to that point. He can score and shut down the opposition in the same game; it’s not an either/or with him. O’Reilly and Bergeron are just additions to this list because they can win faceoffs. Like Doughty and the Norris, this is Toews award to win.

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) waves to the crowd on the night the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated his 24 game point streak earlier in the season before an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) waves to the crowd on the night the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated his 24 game point streak earlier in the season before an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

JOSH COOPER, EDITOR, PUCK DADDY

Hart: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Nobody in the NHL has scored with the consistency of Kane this season. His 26-game point streak, and overall offense, has helped soften the blow of lesser production from captain Jonathan Toews and winger Marian Hossa.  

Vezina: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Holtby ranks third in the NHL in save percentage at .932 and second in goal-against average with 1.93. He has not lost a game in regulation since Nov. 10. Luongo is having arguably the best season of his career and Quick is the backbone of the league’s most balanced defensive unit, but both haven’t played with the same show-stopping consistency as Holtby.  

Norris: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

Runners-Up: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Suter is on pace for a career year for both goals and points. He plays the Minnesota Wild’s big offensive and defensive minutes, the team’s top power play and their top penalty kill. According to War on Ice, the Wild are markedly better with him on the ice than off the ice. Few defensemen in the league display his level of balance. This award is defined as given to the league’s top all-around defenseman and Suter has been just that all year.

Calder: Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets; Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

Panarin has proved the perfect running mate for Kane on Chicago’s best line, leading league rookies in points at the halfway point. Hall of Fame Russian forward Pavel Bure heaped praise on Panarin, comparing the youngster to himself.

Jack Adams: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars; Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings

Trotz has done a phenomenal job with the NHL leading Capitals, a team that has the league’s second-best offense and top defense. He has buried the stigma that he can’t develop young forwards, helping Evgeny Kuznetsov to 38 points in 42 games, just one fewer point than captain Alexander Ovechkin.

Selke: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Runners-Up: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

Kopitar leads Kings forwards with an average of 2:20 of shorthanded ice-time per-game. He draws the top matchups every night and still leads the team in scoring with 35 points in 42 games. Is this the year he finally wins his first Selke?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07:  Head coach Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals speaks with the media prior to the game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 7, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07: Head coach Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals speaks with the media prior to the game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 7, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

RYAN LAMBERT, LEAD COLUMNIST, PUCK DADDY

Hart: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Runners-Up: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Jamie Benn Dallas Stars

As I write this the Senators are a point out of a playoff spot and have exactly one player really playing very well. Kane and Benn play on All-Star teams. If his current pace continues, Karlsson would be the first defenseman to break 85 points in a season since Brian Leetch did it in 1995-96. The average save percentage that year was .898. Right now, it's .916.

Vezina: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers; Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

Holtby has been great this season and seems to only be getting better, though playing on the best team in the league certainly doesn't hurt. One has to imagine that Luongo hits a wall at some point due to his age, and Schneider will be there at the end of the year but his team's pretty bad so that hurts his candidacy.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Runners-Up: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

People really seem to not want Karlsson to win the Norris (including several of my PD colleagues, I'm sure), but he's far and away the best defenseman in the league. No one is close to his talent level. He's a generational player. And the statistics show he does a better job of suppressing shot attempts, shots on goal, scoring chances, high-quality chances, and goals when he's in his own zone than Doughty does.

Calder: Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Runners-Up: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

Panarin gets the nod here because McDavid missed a few months and Eichel started out slow. And Panarin also plays with Patrick Kane, which helps pad the stats a bit.

Jack Adams: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

Runners-Up: Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings; Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars

Trotz has a lot of talent to work with, but the Caps winning a Presidents' Trophy this season should get him this award. I know you're supposed to give it to the bad team with the high PDO but the work Trotz has done here is exemplary.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Runners-Up: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins

Just give this award to Bergeron every year until he retires. He's earned it.

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