On The Forecheck’s 2019-20 NHL Awards: Part 1

The OTF staff voted for the NHL’s major awards—here’s part one

The ballots were cast...

...by eleven members of the staff here at On The Forecheck, and the results are in!  Each person was asked to rank their top five players/coaches/general managers for 11 of the usual NHL regular season awards.  Points were awarded based on ranking:

1st place: 10 points
2nd place: 7 points
3rd place: 5 points
4th place: 3 points
5th place: 1 point

For each player, I’ll talk a little about the winner, show some statistics courtesy of JFresh’s amazing visualizations (follow him on Twitter at @JFreshHockey immediately or buy him a cup of coffee), show the top five receiving votes (I also included any Nashville Predators players), and last, included an excerpt from one of the staff members on one of their first place votes that did not win.

Today’s lineup are the major player awards: Hart, Selke, Norris, Vezina and Calder trophies.  Watch later this week as we will round out the lineup with the Langway Award, Lady Byng, Jack Adams, Masterton, King Clancy and Jim Gregory GM of the year awards.

Without further ado...

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game

Sean Couturier | Philadelphia Flyers

A long-overdue award for Sean Couturier, and the above picture is a great summation of the impact he had this season.  The Flyers’ associate captain was asked to face the best units in the NHL, including ones like the Boston line of Brad Marchand, David Pastranak, and Patrice Bergeron.  It takes a massive amount of both talent and awareness to be an all-around skilled player—the work Couturier puts into his defensive ability finally shone through this season and it’s (in my opinion) a well-deserved honor.  I think Mark Stone and Anthony Cirelli both have had very similar impacts (if not better in some regards) and will likely finish higher in the official voting than 4th and 5th respectively.

Selke Trophy Voting

Final RankPlayerPointsFirst Place Votes

Norris Trophy

Awarded to the defender who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position

Roman Josi | Nashville Predators

Did you expect anything else?  In previous years, Roman Josi has never finished higher than fifth in the Norris voting (in 2015-16—in 2017 and 2018 he finished in seventh) but has always been mentioned as a breakout candidate for the award.

The major knock on Josi, both in previous years and after he signed his eight-year, $72.4 million contract this past fall, was that he was an offensive-minded defender who didn’t play good defense.  And that assumption wouldn’t necessarily be wrong...until this season.

Per HockeyViz.com, Josi’s isolated impact on unblocked shots against had been 14.2% worse than league average defensively.  This season, that rate dropped to 1.4% below league average, half the time without partner Ryan Ellis, as Josi led the team in minutes per night—often getting extensive power play AND penalty-killing time.

Couple all that with career highs (in a shortened season, no less!) in goals (16), assists (49), points (65) and takeaways per 60 minutes (1.15), and it’s easy to see why Josi deserves to take the award home this season, despite being second in the league in points to John Carlson (75).

(Note: stayed tuned later this week for a more in-depth exploration into Roman Josi’s claim to the Norris Trophy)

Norris Trophy Voting

Final RankPlayerPointsFirst Place Votes

Vezina Trophy

Awarded to the league’s top goaltender

Connor Hellebuyck | Winnipeg Jets

Personally, I can’t believe this came down to one point in the final vote, but Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck walks away with (at least our version of) the Vezina Trophy this season.  It is not exaggerating in the least when I say that Hellebuyck dragged the Jets on his back all season, because like John Gibson in Anaheim last season, he faced an incredible volume and quality of shots against with little to no help whatsoever in front of him.

His all-situations 92.1% save percentage is good for 11th in the NHL, but that’s not even close to the full story.  Hellebuyck saved almost twenty goals saved above expected (GSAx) - allowing 141 goals while the Winnipeg defense allowed 161 expected goals against the Jets’ netminder.  To put that in perspective, the next highest goaltender in GSAx is Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper, with a GSAx of 8.71.  Only Carey Price started as many games as Hellebuyck (58), and Hellebuyck was tops in the NHL in shots and expected goals against.

Connor Hellbuyck should be an absolute no-brainer for the NHL awards, and he should be a contender for the Hart Trophy as well (but more on that later).

Vezina Trophy Voting

Final RankPlayerPointsFirst Place Votes

Calder Trophy

Awarded to the league’s most outstanding rookie player

Cale Makar | Colorado Avalanche

Leading into this season, the debate raged on about who would be the league’s best incoming rookie: Kappo Kakko of the New York Rangers, or Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils?  As it turned out, both would suffer some growing pains on very bad teams (however, both seem to be improving somewhat), while two other names dominated the Calder trophy conversation for much of the season once the first puck was dropped.

Calder Trophy Voting

Final RankPlayerPointsFirst Place Votes

The Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar took an early lead in the discussion and never quite looked back, despite a very impressive season from Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes.  Makar represents yet another prize for the Colorado front office—a team that makes the most of every opportunity they get in the draft, knowing bad seasons don’t last forever.  Given that Colorado also boasts former Nashville Predator Samuel Girard, the Avalanche blueline is young, extremely talented, and perhaps most important, cheap for some time to come.

While the emergence of players like Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins, New York’s Adam Fox and Chicago’s Dominik Kubalik kept the Calder race from staying a two-man contest, Cale Makar made an impact beyond what one would expect for a rookie, posting a 15.8 Goals Above Replacement (GAR) value, good for 8th for defenders and 19th overall in the entire NHL.

Hart Trophy

Awarded to the player judged most valuable to his team

Leon Draisaitl | Edmonton Oilers

No, it isn’t Valeri Nichushkin (it’s a very, very long story), but despite arguments from a sizable chunk of the hockey Twitter crowd, it was it difficult to see anybody else besides Leon Draisaitl winning the vote here.

Hart Trophy Voting

Final RankPlayerPointsFirst Place Votes

Draisaitl led the NHL in points with 110, thirteen more than his teammate Connor McDavid in second place.  His 43 all-strengths goals were good for fourth in the NHL, and that was bolstered by a top-three shooting percentage of 19.7% for all players over 500 minutes.  The man was a playmaker, and, much to Nashville fans’ dismay, he was a goal-scoring, point-generating machine.

It definitely helps to play alongside the greatest player in the NHL for sure, and Draisaitl’s defense is practically non-existent.  However, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, goals and points matter, and that kind of offensive generation in 71 games had the usually woeful Edmonton Oilers well-positioned for a playoff spot.

There are very solid arguments for players like Nathan MacKinnon (led Colorado to a playoff spot despite a very injured roster around him), Artemi Panarin (just third in points overall on a very bad New York Rangers squad) and of course Connor Hellebuyck (see below).  But the staff here at On The Forecheck have spoken, and I get the distinct feeling it’ll be pretty closely in line with how the actual award shakes out as well.  Our 2019-20 Hart Trophy for Most Valuable Player goes to the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl.

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Are you so angry you can’t see straight?  Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned for the second half of the awards this week!

How did our awards match your opinions?

They’re all spot on!7
Hit or miss - either my pick won or finished 2nd or 3rd27
You got one right, but c’mon you guys5
Do you people even watch hockey?4