At the end of September, the Second City Hockey team made predictions on award winners, as well as which teams will make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. Here’s is a midseason update on those predictions as the Blackhawks near the end of their bye week.
Picks: Nathan MacKinnon (Brandon), Nikita Kucherov (Dave), Connor McDavid (Matt, Ian), Sidney Crosby (Shepard)
Crosby was hurt for two months, and if there’s a Hart contender from Pittsburgh, it’s Bryan Rust. Kucherov is unlikely to crack finalist status for the Hart this season. MacKinnon and McDavid are currently leading their teams to the playoffs, and the debate will likely come down to the two of them. No one had a member of the Bruins, although David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand seem likely to contend versus each other for the third spot.
Picks: McDavid (Dave, Ian, Matt, Shepard), Kucherov (Brandon)
McDavid is first in points with 76, and if anyone is contending with him, it’s teammate Leon Draisaitl, who has 75. Honestly, if Draisaitl wins, however, is that a mark for McDavid?
Kucherov is nowhere close, as he currently sits 12th with 56 points in 48 games. He is unlikely to overcome the 20-point hill it would take at this point to catch McDavid and Draisaitl.
Picks: John Carlson (Brandon), Victor Hedman (Dave), PK Subban (Ian), Roman Josi (Matt), John Klingberg (Shepard)
Carlson leads all defenders in points, with 60 in 50 games. If the Norris truly is a pure offensive award, Carlson stands likely to win, however, his defense leaves room to be desired, and somebody with fewer points could win it from under him. That is unlikely to be Klingberg, however, who is tied for 58th with just 19 points this season. Only Subban is worse on this list (tied for 110th with 11 points). Josi and Hedman are second and third respectively in defensive scoring, and both stand a good chance at being finalists for the Norris. One of them is likely to win, and if money was to be placed, it would be on Josi.
The other likely finalist was Dougie Hamilton of the Hurricanes, but his broken leg will take him out of the race it seemed destined he could win this season.
Picks: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Brandon, Ian), Philipp Grubauer (Dave), Sergei Bobrovsky (Matt), Corey Crawford (Shepard)
Shepard’s hot takes did not work out this season, as Crawford is nowhere near Vezina competition, and has seemingly lost his starter’s net on his own team. Vasilevskiy has fallen to the 19th best save percentage and has saved -9.74 goals above expected. Grubauer has a worse save percentage than Crawford, and Bobrovsky has been, well, a disappointment so far in Florida.
Ben Bishop is the leading candidate for the Vezina this season, but if Darcy Kuemper can return from injury soon, he could re-enter the conversation and Connor Hellebuyck has been the one supporting beam of the Jets this season.
Picks: Cale Makar (Brandon), Kaapo Kakko (Dave, Matt), Jack Hughes (Ian), Quinn Hughes (Shepard)
This is coming down to Makar versus Hughes. At this point, if either Kakko or Hughes are finalists in the Calder race, they will have had excellent post-All Star break runs. Not saying that’s impossible, just highly unlikely. In fact, the best rookie forward this season has been the Blackhawks’ Dominik Kubalik, and the other contender for the Calder is Washington’s Ilya Samsonov.
Picks: Leon Draisaitl (Brandon), Steven Stamkos (Dave), Alex Ovechkin (Ian, Matt, Shepard)
David Pastrnak of the Bruins is running away with the Rocket Richard race, having scored 37 goals in 51 games, unfortunately falling from his 50 in 50 pace to start the season. He will likely still score 50 goals this season, however, and has been a key component for Boston all year. Ovechkin is third, Draisaitl tied for sixth with McDavid, and Stamkos is tied for 25th, having scored just 20 goals this season.
The race will come down to Pastrnak, Ovechkin, and Auston Matthews, who second with 35 goals.
Picks: Aleksander Barkov (Brandon, Dave, Ian), Mark Stone (Matt, Shepard)
This is a harder trophy to judge halfway through the season, as there is no subjective test. Just know:
Sean Couturier will likely win this race this season, and he’s been deserving for a few years now, but voting for Brandon Saad in second or third place is not a bad idea.
Picks: John Hynes (Brandon), Rod Brind’Amour (Dave, Shepard), Joel Quenneville (Ian, Matt)
John Hynes was fired and then rehired, but Nashville is not currently in the playoff picture, so it’s very unlikely that he’d win in either location.
Joel Quenneville has the Panthers third in the Atlantic division, behind the Bruins and Lightning, and Rod Brind’Amour has the Hurricanes in the second wild card, a point behind the Blue Jackets for the first with a game in hand. That’s with the recent loss of Dougie Hamilton, at the time of his injury a Norris-contending defenseman.
Other potential winners are Barry Trotz with the Islanders, Sheldon Keefe with the Maple Leafs, Mike Sullivan with the Penguins, John Tortorella with the Blue Jackets, Travis Green with the Canucks and Dave Tippett with the Oilers.
GM of the Year
Picks: Joe Sakic (Brandon, Dave, Matt), Don Waddell (Ian), Ray Shero (Shepard)
So... Ray Shero was fired. Everybody else remains an active GM, and both Carolina and Colorado are in playoff positions, so either Sakic or Waddell could be fair game to win the award. Other potential winners are Don Sweeney in Boston, Dale Tallon in Florida and Jim Benning in Vancouver.
As it stands, three teams are running away with the Central Division. The Blues have 68 points in 50 games, the Avalanche have 62 in 49, and the Stars have 60 in 49. The next closest team is the... *rubs eyes*... Blackhawks, with 54 points in 51 games, tied with the Jets.
The only person with all three in the top three was Ian (although he had the Blues in third, and the Predators in the wild card). The other four of us all had the Predators somewhere in the top three (not looking good, as they sit at the bottom of the division). It is very unlikely they fight their way back into a top-three seed.
The Pacific currently has both wild cards, and the tightest race in at least the West. The Canucks have begun to peel away with the lead, with 60 points in 50 games, and four teams are currently stuck at 57 points, including the Oilers, Flames, Coyotes and Golden Knights (who have played the most games in the West with 52). The Sharks are sixth in the division with 48 points, and it’s fair to believe they’re effectively out of it.
Every one of the five had San Jose somewhere in the top three. The other two were Vegas and Calgary, both with fights ahead of them the rest of the year. Only one person had Arizona making the playoffs (Brandon) and one had Vancouver (Ian).
Western Wild Cards
Vegas and Arizona would be the Western wild cards if the playoffs started today, based off of point percentage. Brandon correctly had the Coyotes in the wild card race, but nobody was that low on the Golden Knights. The most popular wild card appearances that are not currently in the playoffs: Chicago (Shepard and Matt), Winnipeg (Dave and Matt).
The Lightning gain on the Bruins every day. Those two teams are on top of the Atlantic division yet again, as the Bruins currently have 70 points in 51 games and the Lightning have 63 in 49. With the way the Lightning have played since about December, they could be back on top of the division by the end of the year, and having suffered through some troubling times to begin the year, be back in place to succeed in the playoffs.
Every person had some order of Tampa, Boston, and the Maple Leafs in the top three. Right now, however, the Panthers stand in the way with two points over Toronto and a game in hand. Every person but Shepard had the Panthers making the playoffs, however. Surprisingly, the Maple Leafs are not currently in playoff position.
The Metropolitan division is the tightest in the NHL, as six teams are currently above Toronto and competing for a playoff spot. The Capitals lead the way with 73 points in 50 games, while the Penguins sit at 67 in 50. The Islanders have 63 in 49, the Blue Jackets 62 in 51, the Hurricanes 61 in 50, and the Flyers 60 in 50. And yet...
Four people (Matt, Ian, Shepard, Brandon) had the Devils in a wild card spot. They are currently at the bottom of the Metropolitan division and have already traded Taylor Hall, their lone (true) star. The four most popular picks from the Metro, however, were the Capitals, Penguins, Islanders and Hurricanes.
Eastern Wild Cards
The two current Eastern wild cards are the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes. No one had Columbus in the playoffs, and everyone had Carolina.