By Sonny Sachdeva, March 26 2015 —
As the NHL’s 2014–15 regular season nears its close, all eyes are on the league’s biggest names to see who will nab the historic awards. The Gauntlet predicts this season’s award winners.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy is awarded to the player who finishes the regular season with the most points.
Unlike previous years where one or two players emerged as clear leaders, the current campaign consists of a sizable list of players who all could take the scoring crown by the season’s end.
After ranking as low as 15th earlier this season, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins leads the pack with 74 points. However, 13 other players sit within 10 points of the top spot with a handful of games left to play.
With an elite supporting cast and the motivation to silence critics who have suggested he’s lost a step, Crosby is the best bet to remain on top and snag this season’s Art Ross — a win that would net him the third scoring title of his career.
Maurice Richard Trophy
The Maurice Richard Trophy is given to the player who finishes the regular season with the most goals.
Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin is a near-lock to win the award. The Capitals captain sits at 47 goals with nine games remaining in their schedule.
Ovechkin’s closest competition comes from Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos and New Yorks Rangers forward Rick Nash. They sit second and third with 40 and 39 goals, respectively. However, Ovechkin’s recent play suggests a takeover is unlikely, as he has scored eight goals in his last 10 games.
Unless Ovechkin fades completely over the final weeks of the season, the Russian sniper will capture his fifth “Rocket” Richard Trophy.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Awarded to the league’s most valuable player as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, the Hart Trophy is a harder one to call.
Many feel Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is the leading candidate to win, though history suggests this is unlikely. Only seven goaltenders have won the award in the 90 years it’s been handed out, and only three of those occurred within the last 50 years.
Still, Price has had a remarkable season, evidenced by the fact that his team has earned the most points in the league despite being one of the lowest-scoring. The Canadiens have ranked among the top clubs in the NHL, and Price is certainly worthy of the award.
However, if the historical pattern of giving the award to the league’s top goal or point scorer holds up, then Ovechkin is a strong candidate for the Hart as well.
This one isn’t up for debate. The Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender, is all but guaranteed to go to Montreal’s
Price leads the league in goals against average, save percentage, shutouts and wins. He has led the Canadiens to the top of the Eastern conference standings despite their limited offensive capabilities.
One unlikely name will surely draw consideration as well. Devan Dubnyk, traded to the Minnesota Wild from Arizona midway through the season, is posting career numbers and has arguably been the sole reason for the Wild’s late-season success. Dubnyk has put together a 22–6–1 record since joining the Wild and ranks in the top five in terms of goals against average, save percentage and shutouts.
That being said, Price has undoubtedly put forth the most complete season of any netminder in the league and remains the most deserving for this year’s Vezina trophy.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
The Norris Trophy is given to the NHL’s best defenceman. Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano emerged as a surprising candidate for the award early in the season.
Giordano led all defenceman in scoring for much of the season, piling up 48 points in 61 games, while remaining one of the best defensive-minded blue-liners in the league.
Unfortunately, a torn bicep tendon ended Giordano’s season early, leaving the field open for other candidates to take the Norris trophy.
Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang could do just that as the offensively-gifted defender is in the midst of the finest season of his career. With 54 points in 66 games, Letang sits second in overall scoring behind Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who’s scored four more points while playing five more games.
After a stroke nearly ended Letang’s career last season, he has come back with a purpose, putting forth elite performances in both ends of the rink while proving he’s more than a product of his elite teammates.
Giordano remains the most deserving in the league when it comes to Norris voting, but if his injury ruins his chances, Letang is the most likely to the crown.
Calder Memorial Trophy
While Giordano’s chance to bring an award back to Calgary may have been lost to injury, the Flames still have hope in the form of Johnny Gaudreau.
The Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top rookie, could end up in Gaudreau’s hands by season’s end.
He has some tough competition, however. Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and Florida’s Aaron Ekblad both have strong chances to win.
Ekblad, selected first overall in last year’s NHL entry draft, has emerged as a reliable defenceman at the tender age of 19, while Forsberg has been a consistent scorer all season long.
As the season nears its close, however, Gaudreau is leading all rookies in scoring with 57 points in 71 games. As remarkable as it is that Gaudreau has found a way to contribute in his first NHL season, it’s even more impressive considering how much smaller Gaudreau’s 5’9”, 150-pound frame is compared to his contemporaries.
The Flames have become one of the most surprising stories of the season, remaining in the playoff hunt for the first time in years, and Gaudreau’s clutch play has been a key factor in this. Assuming he can keep up his strong play and maintain his lead in the rookie scoring race, Gaudreau could be the first Flame to win the Calder in 25 years.