Connor McDavid. Image by: Getty Images
The Hockey News gives custom virtual trophies to the NHL’s top players ever year, factoring in some categories you won’t see among the official NHL Awards, from toughest player to best penalty killer.
The NHL handed out its season-end awards last week. Most of the hardware went to the expected parties – we all knew Auston Matthews would win the Calder Trophy and Sergei Bobrovsky the Vezina – but a few surprises sparked some debates. Was Brent Burns really the best all-around blueliner in the game in 2016-17? Do people still perceive Erik Karlsson as subpar defensively? Do shutdown guys like Jaccob Slavin fit the truer definition of a defenseman? Our custom Hockey News Awards try to render such arguments moot by introducing additional categories that give ever player type his due. We don’t have to worry about defensive defensemen getting overlooked, for example, because we give them their own award.
Here’s a look at the 2016-17 award breakdown, voted on by an eight-staffer panel. Five points went to first-place votes, four points to second, three to third, two to fourth and one to fifth.
MARIO LEMIEUX AWARD (Best player)
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton (40 points)
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (31 points)
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (24 points)
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (8 points)
5. Brent Burns, San Jose (5 points)
The award is based on regular season performance only. Maybe the vote would’ve played differently had we let Crosby’s Conn Smythe-winning spring influence us. But McDavid won the scoring crown by 11 points. He was the game’s most dynamic and dominant talent in 2016-17. After an injury-shortened rookie campaign, he fulfilled his massive promise as a sophomore. He joined Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Mario Lemieux, Jimmy Carson and Sidney Crosby as the only players to start a season as a teenager and reach 100 points.
Also receiving votes: Nikita Kucherov, Auston Matthews, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Carey Price
WAYNE GRETZKY AWARD (Most valuable player)
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton (37 points)
2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (29 points)
3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (20 points)
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (19 points)
5. Brent Burns, SJ (5 points)
McDavid’s talent almost singlehandedly elevated the Oilers from good to great, helping them make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The advanced stats show a stunning contrast with and without him on the ice. He makes others better – look at his effect on Patrick Maroon’s career-best season.
Also receiving votes: Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews
SAKU KOIVU AWARD (Comeback player)
1. Eric Staal, Minnesota (27 points)
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (25 points)
3. Sam Gagner, Columbus (10 points)
4. Peter Budaj, Los Angeles/Tampa Bay (7 points)
5. Radim Vrbata, Arizona (6 points)
Staal believed he could still excel as a scoring-line center in the NHL after a disastrous 2015-16. The Wild and coach Bruce Boudreau agreed. They were right. Staal, 32, found great chemistry with Charlie Coyle. Staal led the team with 28 goals, and his 65 points were his most since 2011-12.
Also receiving votes: Patrick Eaves, Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson, Carey Price, Jake Allen, Jimmy Howard, Bryan Little, Justin Schultz, Kyle Turris, Marian Hossa, Nazem Kadri, Jeff Skinner, Henrik Zetterberg, Pekka Rinne
BOBBY ORR AWARD (Best defenseman)
1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (40 points)
2. Brent Burns, San Jose (31 points)
3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay (25 points)
4. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles (5 points)
5. Roman Josi, Nashville (5 points)
Karlsson received all eight of our first-place votes. And this guy didn’t win the Norris? We can tell you the pro-Burns block of the real-life NHL vote didn’t come from THN, which has four staffers who hold awards votes. We were squarely in the Karlsson camp. Karlsson was always revered as a peerless offensive D-man, but he silenced critics of his defense by finishing second in the NHL in blocked shots.
Also receiving votes: P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter, Torey Krug, Mark Giordano, Jaccob Slavin, Dustin Byfuglien, Shea Weber, Zach Werenski
PATRICK ROY AWARD (Best goalie)
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (40 points)
2. Braden Holtby, Washington (31 points)
3. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota (19 points)
4. Carey Price, Montreal (15 points)
5. Cam Talbot, Edmonton (8 points)
‘Bob’ slimmed down to avoid more groin injuries, and it worked. He led the league in goals-against average and save percentage. There was no better netminder wire to wire.
Also receiving votes: Corey Crawford, Frederik Andersen, Matt Murray, Craig Anderson, John Gibson
GUY CARBONNEAU AWARD (Top penalty killer)
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston (17 points)
2. Zdeno Chara, Boston (15 points)
3. John Gibson, Anaheim (12 points)
4. Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville (8 points)
5. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim (7 points)
Bergeron logged the most shorthanded minutes per game of any forward on the team with the NHL’s top-rated penalty kill. He’s a faceoff expert and the best defensive forward of this generation. He’ll finish his career as one of the greatest two-way forwards of all-time, having just tied Bob Gainey for the lead in Selke Trophies with four.
Also receiving votes: Mikael Backlund, Kevin Hayes, Jake Allen, Vincent Trocheck, Jaccob Slavin, Jay Beagle, Sami Vatanen, Brad Marchand, Marcus Kruger, Anze Kopitar, Derek MacKenzie, Mark Giordano, Hampus Lindholm, Colton Parayko, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Michael Frolik, Sergei Bobrovsky
ROD LANGWAY AWARD (Best defensive defenseman)
1. Ryan Suter, Minnesota (13 points)
2. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina (10 points)
T-3. Mattias Ekholm, Nashville (9 points)
T-3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay (9 points)
T-3. Shea Weber, Montreal (9 points)
Suter “only” played 26:55 a night this season, his lowest mark since joining the Wild for 2012-13. He’s an absolute horse, regularly matched against opposing team’s toughest players and a big reason why Minnesota ranked among the NHL’s stingiest teams.
Also receiving votes: Zdeno Chara, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Drew Doughty, Mark Giordano, Josh Manson, Erik Karlsson, Hampus Lindholm, Torey Krug, Duncan Keith, Brent Burns, Matt Niskanen, Marc Methot, Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Jake Muzzin
CAM NEELY AWARD (Breakout player)
1. David Pastrnak, Boston (21 points)
2. Mikael Granlund, Minnesota (18 points)
3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton (17 points)
4. Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville (14 points)
5. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay (9 points)
It’s easy to forget ‘Pasta’ was the NHL’s youngest player as a rookie in 2014-15. After a bit more seasoning, his offense finally exploded, as predicted.
Also receiving votes: Cam Talbot, Jaccob Slavin, Mark Scheifele, Cam Atkinson, Justin Schultz, Alexander Wennberg, Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler, Conor Sheary, Rickard Rakell, Dougie Hamilton
TEEMU SELANNE AWARD (Best rookie)
1. Auston Matthews, Toronto (40 points)
2. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg (29 points)
3. Zach Werenski, Columbus (23 points)
4. Matt Murray, Pittsburgh (14 points)
T-5. Mitch Marner, Toronto (6 points)
T-5. William Nylander, Toronto (6 points)
The NHL featured an unbelievable rookie class in 2016-17. Standouts such as Matthew Tkachuk would win our award some years but couldn’t even crack the top five. Matthews gradually distanced himself from Laine, becoming the first teenager to score 40 goals since Rick Nash in 2003-04.
Also receiving votes: Matthew Tkachuk
BOB PROBERT AWARD (Toughest player)
1. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg (16 points)
2. Mark Borowiecki, Ottawa (13 points)
3. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia (12 points)
4. Zdeno Chara, Boston (9 points)
5. Ryan Reaves, St. Louis (7 points)
Byfuglien is listed at 260 pounds, making him the NHL’s second-heaviest player. A hit from him is a collision with a minivan. He erases people. Some of the players who received votes don’t fall under the typical “tough” definition but are warriors in their own ways. Kris Russell blocks more shots than anyone. Crosby takes more physical punishment than anyone.
Also receiving votes: Cody McLeod, Matt Martin, Marcus Foligno, Luke Schenn, Radko Gudas, Tom Wilson, Jared Boll, Milan Lucic, Shea Weber, Jamie Benn, Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Ryan Getzlaf, T.J. Oshie, Patric Hornqvist, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Kesler, Sidney Crosby
SCOTTY BOWMAN AWARD (Best coach)
1. Mike Babcock, Toronto (34 points)
2. John Tortorella, Columbus (27 points)
3. Guy Boucher, Ottawa (17 points)
4. Todd McLellan, Edmonton (13 points)
5. Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota (10 points)
The Leafs made the playoffs despite giving seven rookies prominent season-long roles. They are blessed with great young talent, but it takes a special coach to harvest it so well and so quickly. Babcock has Toronto way ahead of schedule.
Also receiving votes: Mike Sullivan, Glen Gulutzan, Peter Laviolette, Bill Peters, Barry Trotz
SAM POLLOCK AWARD (Best GM)
1. David Poile, Nashville (31 points)
2. Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh (16 points)
3. Brian MacLellan, Washington (14 points)
4. Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton (11 points)
5. Lou Lamoriello, Toronto (9 points)
The Preds' success has Poile’s fingerprints all over it. Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban and Ryan Johansen were all acquired via wily trades. Nashville’s other pillars, Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, were draft-day steals, more Poile wizardry.
Also receiving votes: Chuck Fletcher, Jarmo Kekalainen, Steve Yzerman, Pierre Dorion, Doug Armstrong, Stan Bowman, Ron Francis, Brad Treliving, Jeff Gorton, Ray Shero