Sunday, July 21, 2024

NHL midseason awards: Oilers’ McDavid leading Hart Trophy race, Bruins’ Ullmark a Vezina frontrunner

The NHL is halfway through the 2022-23 season, and that means it’s time to hand out some midseason awards to honor the players and coaches who have stood out so far.

A lot can change between now and the end of the season, but we can still highlight the players who are leading the awards races with roughly 41 games under their designer belts. Some of those races, like the Hart and Vezina Trophies, seem to be over already. 

However, the battles for the Norris and Calder Trophies are still hotly contested at this point. With half the season in the rearview mirror, here are the players who have earned some recognition.

Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

I do not care whether the Edmonton Oilers make the playoffs. If Connor McDavid was not on this team, it would be squarely in the draft lottery. The same simply cannot be said for a vast majority of the league’s best players. McDavid is the most valuable player in the NHL, and it is not particularly close this season.

Through 43 games this season, McDavid leads the league in goals, assists and points. He’s on pace to finish the year with 67 goals and 151 points. The league hasn’t seen totals that high since Mario Lemieux tallied 69 goals and 161 points in the 1995-96 campaign. Maybe the hockey world takes McDavid for granted because he drops jaws on a nightly basis, but he is dragging an otherwise pedestrian roster into playoff contention. Unless something drastic happens, there shouldn’t be much debate about the Hart Trophy. — Nivison

Honorable mentions: Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils | Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres | David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Vezina Trophy: Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins

This is probably the easiest award prediction that either of us have. Linus Ullmark has simply been the best goaltender in the league throughout the first half of the season.

Obviously, Ullmark benefits from playing in front of a Bruins team that reached the 30-win mark faster than all but one team in NHL history. However, it can’t be understated just how impressive he’s been in between the pipes all season. Ullmark currently leads the league in wins (22), goals-against-average (1.88) and save percentage (.938), while also registering a pair of shutouts. According to MoneyPuck, Ullmark owns a .967 save percentage when facing unblocked shots, so it’s clear that the Bruins’ defense isn’t the only reason he’s thriving.

Ullmark has been selected to his first NHL All-Star Game, but something tells me that won’t be the last accolade the Boston netminder earns during the 2022-23 season. — Bengel

Honorable mentions: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets | Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars | Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders

Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks

This was an incredibly tough decision. Adam Fox is more than worthy of consideration for this award, but I had to go with Karlsson for a couple different reasons. First of all, Karlsson is on pace for 106 points this season. That’s an elite number for any player, let alone a defenseman. Fox is also having a strong statistical season, but he’s not quite on the same level as Karlsson.

The other impressive thing about Karlsson is that he isn’t just racking up empty points on the power play. The Sharks, a team that will be in the draft lottery, are dominating at five-on-five when Karlsson is on the ice. Another important factor to consider is that Karlsson is doing all this while being paired with Jaycob Megna, a 30-year-old AHL journeyman defenseman with 127 games of NHL experience under his belt. In contrast, Fox gets to play with Ryan Lindgren, who has proven himself to be an effective defender at the age of 24.

The battle for this award will be fun to watch down the stretch, but for right now, I have to give it to Karlsson. — Nivison

Honorable mentions: Adam Fox, New York Rangers | Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres | Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg Jets

Calder Trophy: Matty Beniers, Seattle Kraken

There’s a few names that make sense when it comes to the NHL’s top rookie this season. Vegas Golden Knights goalie Logan Thompson is certainly in the conversation, as he’s filled in admirably for Robin Lehner, who is missing the entire 2022-23 campaign due to hip surgery. Still, Matty Beniers gets the nod.

Beniers currently ranks second on the Seattle Kraken with 34 points (16 goals and 18 assists) in 41 games. He’s done a phenomenal job centering Seattle’s second line and has been on fire lately with a goal in five of his last six games. While Beniers playing in 10 games for the Kraken at the tail end of last season may not sound like much, I truly believe that such experience has made a world of difference for the 20-year-old this season. Beniers is on pace for 33 goals on the year and is one of the main reasons that the Kraken have a great shot at qualifying for the playoffs in the franchise’s second season. — Bengel

Honorable mentions: Logan Thompson, Vegas Golden Knights | Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets | Matias Maccelli, Arizona Coyotes

Jack Adams Award | Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins

Coming into this season, the Boston Bruins were dealing with injuries to key players. On top of that, veterans like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci were another year older. It was easy to expect a slow start or a step back this year, but instead the Bruins have been the NHL’s best team.

In his first year on the job, Jim Montgomery has the Bruins first in the league with an absurd record of 32-5-4. The second-place team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are nine points behind Boston in the standings. Montgomery has done all this with Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand, Derek Forbort and Jake DeBrusk missing significant time due to injury.

Given the injuries and the strength of the Atlantic Division, what Montgomery has done to this point is hard to believe. — Nivison

Honorable mentions: Don Granato, Buffalo Sabres | Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes | Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy: Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres

There’s no doubt that McDavid is the best player in the world. However, I’m going to cheat a little bit when it comes to the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. After all, the award goes to the player that leads the league in goals, so there’s really no room for opinion there. There’s nothing wrong with tabbing McDavid as the “Rocket” Richard Trophy favorite, but I’m not going to go chalk.

Instead, I’m taking Buffalo Sabres phenom Tage Thompson to lead the league in goals when the dust settles on the 2022-23 regular season. Thompson currently ranks third in the goals department with 31 so far this season, so he’s certainly within striking distance. The 25-year-old budding star has six multi-goal games this season, including a five-goal performance earlier in the year. Right now, he’s on pace to tally 64 goals this season. Considering his ability to score from anywhere on the ice, Thompson can definitely catch McDavid and turn in a historic campaign. — Bengel

Honorable mentions: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers | Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars | David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.