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Awards watch for the 2020-21 NHL season

As the 2020-21 NHL season approaches the stretch run of the regular season and gets closer to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we are going to be taking a look at some of the races for the major individual awards. Here we will look at some front runners or contenders for the MVP, Norris Trophy (best overall defenseman), Vezina Trophy (best goalie), Calder Trophy (Rookie Of The Year), and Jack Adams Award (Coach Of The Year). Here are the top contenders for all of them.

 

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Simply the best, most dominant, and most exciting player in the NHL right now. McDavid is running away with the scoring title and has an outside chance of hitting the 100-point mark in a 56-game season.

That level of production is almost unheard of in this era, and there is only one player capable of doing it. Him. He and Leon Draisaitl are the two biggest reasons the Edmonton Oilers have a chance to be competitive right now. 

Speaking of Draisaitl…

 

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MVP: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

MVP: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

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The NHL’s reigning MVP winner is once again in the running for the award as he remains one of the top offensive players in the league.

The biggest thing that will keep him from winning back-to-back MVPs is that he plays on the same team as the odds on favorite (McDavid). He has been a top-four scorer and elite offensive player in each of the past three seasons. 

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, he has averaged a 45-goal, 115-point pace per 82 games. He and McDavid are setting themselves up to be the best offensive duo of this era. The only question is whether or not Oilers management can build something around them. 

 

MVP: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

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MacKinnon is kind of lost in the shadows of the McDavid-Draisaitl duo but do not sleep him. He is every bit as dominant and dynamic as those two and is the best player on the league’s best team. 

He may not have the numbers that McDavid and Draisaitl do, but that distinction just mentioned might get him a solid share of the votes. 

 

MVP: Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

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Stone is not going to win the award, and he may not even be a finalist, but he should be. 

He is one of the league’s best all-around players and as good of a two-way player as you will find in the NHL today. He is a top-10 scorer that plays Selke Trophy caliber defense on the wing. Like MacKinnon, he is the best player on one of the league’s best teams. 

You have to be aware of him every single time he touches the ice whether he has the puck or not. Because if he does not have it, it is only a matter of time until he takes it from you. 

 

MVP: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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Even as he gets into his mid-30s he is not really slowing down. He is a top-10 scorer this season and has helped drive the Penguins toward the top of the league’s best division (and the league standings) in a year where they have dealt with several injuries to key players. He has played his way into the discussion. 

His line, alongside Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, is one of the best lines in the league. 

 

MVP: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

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You may hate him when he plays against your team but he remains one of the league’s best players.

His combination of elite offense, shutdown defense, and ability to play in every situation makes him one of the most valuable players in the league. He is so good in all situations that when he and Patrice Bergeron are on the ice together during shorthanded situations the Bruins have an even goal differential (six goals for, six goals against). 

 

MVP: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

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He is one of the top-three pure goal scorers in the league right now, and scoring 33 in his first 42 games is just incredible, regardless of the division or the quality of the opposition around him. 

The Maple Leafs have a great opportunity in front of them this season, and Matthews has a chance to lead them to something special. 

 

Norris Trophy: Adam Fox, New York Rangers

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Fox has become the best young player on a team full of young talent. 

He is not only one of the league’s best young defenders, he is one of the league’s best defenders. Period. Regardless of age. He has not only been an elite offensive defenseman this season, but he also plays major shutdown minutes (and plays them extraordinarily well) and has set himself up to be a cornerstone player in the Rangers’ rebuild and a consistent contender for the Norris Trophy. 

 

Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

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On a team full of superstars Hedman is the best and most valuable of the bunch. He is the engine that makes this machine run and is an all-around force on the blue line. 

His size, strength, speed, skill, defensive play, and production is a combination that is unmatched by any other defenseman in the league. 

He has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy four years in a row (winning it one time) and there is no reason he will not be there for a fifth year in a row. 

 

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Norris Trophy: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

Norris Trophy: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

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He has a Norris Trophy or two in his future. The thing that makes the Avalanche so dominant right now is the fact their defense is absolutely loaded with young stars. While the forward (Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog) get most of the attention, the defense is arguably the most impressive part of this team given their age, talent, potential, production, and current cheap contracts against the salary cap. 

Makar might end up being the best player on this team (including MacKinnon) in a very short period of time.

He is that good. 

 

Norris Trophy: Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

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McAvoy may not always have the offensive numbers to compare with the other players here, but do not discount his impact on the Bruins. He has become the focal point of their defense and a sensational all-around player. 

He is one of the best possession drivers in the league on defense and a shutdown player. 

 

Norris Trophy: Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights

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On the list of most underrated players in the league, Theodore is extremely high on that list.

Definitely near the top. Maybe even at the top.

Theodore started to make a name for himself and get some major attention during the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Vegas’ run to the Western Conference Final, and he has been even better this season. A top scorer from the blue line drives possession, defends well. Simply one of the best all-around players in the league on defense. 

 

Vezina Trophy: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

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It is almost unfair that a team this good, with this much depth at forward and defense, and with one of the best coaches in the league, also has the best goalie in the league. There is no weakness on this roster.

Vasilevskiy is not only the best goalie in the league and the most productive, he has also been incredibly durable over the past couple of years and taken on a gigantic workload. He should be the clear favorite. 

 

Vezina Trophy: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

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Fleury has never won the Vezina Trophy in his career or even been a finalist.

The latter point should change this season. He is having one of the best seasons of his career and is doing so at a time when he seemed to be on the way out the door in Vegas. After losing his starting job in the playoffs a year ago, followed by a summer of trade rumors, it seemed his days as the clear starter in Vegas were finished. He has not only reclaimed his starting job, but he has also been one of the most productive goalies in the league this season. 

 

Vezina Trophy: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

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Not only is Hellebuyck productive and durable, but he also does all of this while playing behind one of the weaker defenses of any potential playoff team in the league. He has lead the league in shots faced and shots saved in each of the past three seasons.

He is probably at best a distant third behind Vasilevskiy and Fleury at this point, but he is still one of the league’s best goalies. 

 

Vezina Trophy: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

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This has been a great bounce-back year for Saros and he has helped play a Nashville team that looked out of it back into playoff contention. As of publication, he has the league’s best even-strength save percentage and one of the league’s best all situations save percentages. 

The crease in Nashville belongs to him, and as long as he keeps playing like this it will be in very good hands. 

 

Calder Trophy: Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild

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Kaprizov has completely changed the outlook and perception of the Minnesota Wild, almost entirely on his own.

He has brought excitement, production, and star power to a franchise that has desperately lacked all of it for years. He is an emerging star in this league and has been the odds on favorite to win the Calder Trophy for most of the season.

He is, though, starting to get a bit of a push here in the stretch run. That push is coming from the next player on the list. 

 

Calder Trophy: Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars

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If anybody is going to take the Rookie Of The Year crown from Kaprizov, Robertson is going to be the player. He has been a game-changer for the Stars this season and helped make up for the offense they have been missing with the injuries to Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov.

He has been just as productive as Kaprizov overall, while doing it in fewer games, with less ice-time per game, and while being a couple of years younger. 

Kaprizov played his way out to a big head start with his performance this season, but Robertson is quickly closing that gap. He might even be starting to overtake him. 

 

Calder Trophy: Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

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Shesterkin opened the season as one of the odds on favorites to win the Calder, and he has not really disappointed. His .920 save percentage in his first 28 appearances is among the best in the league (rookies or veterans) and is showing that he can be the Rangers’ long-term solution in net, following in the footsteps of Henrik Lundqvist

The New York goalie position is going to be fascinating to watch over the next decade not only because of Shesterkin with the Rangers but also because of the Islanders’ impressive rookie. 

 

Calder Trophy: Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders

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Islanders fans have been waiting for Sorokin for years, and he has proven to be well worth the wait. He has won 12 of his first 17 starts with a .922 save percentage. The NHL stage has not been too big for him and he has the look of a franchise goalie that is going to own this spot for years. 

Goaltending like this behind a defensive team as good as the Islanders makes them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. 

 

Jack Adams Award: Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers

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Quenneville is already a Hall of Fame coach, and he is on the verge of making another team a contender. The Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises in the league this season and have put together their best season in franchise history.

In most cases, the Jack Adams Award tends to go to the coach of a team that overachieves on the strength of its goaltending. That has not necessarily been the case here. The Panthers are legitimately good, and Quenneville has been a key part of that.

He has won the Jack Adams Award just one time in his career (during the 1999-00 season with the St. Louis Blues) and he has a great chance to win it again this season. No Panthers coach has ever won it. 

 

Jack Adams Award: Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes

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The Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the league and Brind’Amour has been an incredible job during his watch helping to build this group into a contender. They play with a purpose but are allowed to shine with their skill and creativity. He is blunt and to the point, but also fair. He would be a worthy winner. 

 

Jack Adams Award: Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche

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Coaches of good teams tend to get punished in the Jack Adams voting, but even with great talent, it is still not easy to win at this level. The Avalanche had some injuries to deal with this season, but nothing has really slowed them down. They are just as dominant defensively as they are offensively and have every ingredient you want to see for a potential Stanley Cup-winning team. 

 

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Jack Adams Award: Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins

Jack Adams Award: Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins

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The injury situation in Pittsburgh at times this season has been significant, while they entered the season with two completely unproven goalies (at least in terms of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith being asked to be the starting goalie over a full season). Even though the Penguins have missed Evgeni Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen, Jason Zucker, Teddy Blueger, Brandon Tanev, Zach Aston-Reese, Marcus Pettersson, and Brian Dumoulin for significant stretches they still have one of the best records in the league, look like a Stanley Cup contender in the way they play and are one of the league’s best teams. 

 

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Jack Adams Award: Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild

Jack Adams Award: Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild

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Evason checks a lot of the boxes for your typical Jack Adams Award winner. 

A team that is exceeding expectations? Check.

Great record overall? Check.

Team success driven by a lot of great goaltending? Check again.

Not sure he is the best coach in the league, but given how good the Wild have been this season and how much their roster has transformed into something exciting he is going to get plenty of attention and votes for this award. He might even win it. 


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