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Who's in the driver's seat for NHL awards?

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Alex Ovechkin might not be the favourite, but he could bag both the Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard if his renaissance season continues.

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Let's quickly dive into each award because I guess we have to assess Ovechkin and everyone else's chances. So I'll give my choice for a current front runner and some other names to watch. So we'll begin with the Hart. And again, it's Ovechkin at this moment in time for me. He's one point off the league lead in both goals and points.

But most importantly here is that the Oilers are not in the postseason picture right now. If you look outside of Edmonton-- and we can look outside of Edmonton because they're not doing so hot-- Ovechkin probably has the strongest case at this moment.

That said, Jonathan Huberdeau, Cale Makar, Igor Shesterkin, maybe Auston Matthews-- it could be a wide-open field again, because the last two Hart Trophy winners have maybe taken themselves out of the race, or at least contention. I think those players-- the ones I mentioned just now-- they have a chance to put together what would be a decent case based just on individual accomplishment.

Obviously, this is an individual award based on that. But it doesn't have to be just points. There could be Shesterkin you know, transcending the Vezina Trophy or Cale Makar scoring 40 goals, Auston Matthews scoring 60 and maybe not quite getting the point totals that you'd normally expect.

Or there's just Jonathan Huberdeau, who's been sort of pacing the field all season long, at least it seems, or close to. And he could just do it for the Florida Panthers. Still, Ovechkin is my number one.

But I will say, Washington's starting to struggle just a little bit. They've lost 8 of 11 since the start of January. And in those eight games, Ovechkin just has one goal. And now, that does illustrate how important he is. But meaningful success-- it's required in Edmonton, right? It should probably be required in Washington as well.

OK, to the Rocket Richard quickly. And now, this is obviously not a narrative-driven award. It's not subjective in nature one bit. It is objective-- whoever scores the most goals. But it's worth looking at the projections here, because the current race doesn't tell the complete story.

Chris Kreider has the lead right now by one. He, of course, of the New York Rangers. But Draisaitl-- Leon Draisaitl, of the Edmonton Oilers-- currently projected to win by about five goals, surpassed 60 for the season. Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin about five or six behind Draisaitl right now, based on projections.

So if you're shopping around, you can see a nice number on Leon Draisaitl, who's been very, very good, and could be very, very good, and might have to be very, very good for the Edmonton Oilers to accomplish anything this season. He's still probably the one that should be considered the front-runner for this award. And, of course, not making the playoffs won't hurt him in the least.

Let's go to the Norris Trophy, as mentioned. You know, Cale Makar having an immensely special season. He scored his 17th of the season in overtime in prime time on TNT over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. And with that he just continues to check off every box-- the goal scoring, as I've mentioned, flirting with historic levels. He's well over a point per game. He's part of one of the best defensive tandems in the game. He plays for one of the best teams, probably the best team in the entire game.

He's also the most aesthetically pleasing player to watch. I mean, everybody wants to watch Cale Makar. And of course that influences voters. He's playing 25 minutes a night. But the most influential thing here might be-- well, maybe not the most influential. I mean scoring 30 goals as a defenseman just doesn't happen. So that would probably be pretty influential.

But one factor is that he's due-- at 23 years old, Cale Makar is somehow due because he didn't win the award last year. We know how this works. Voters like to see you go through it a little bit, come close, then go over the top, then win it. Cale Makar is in that position. He's due at only 23 years of age.

Still though, there have been tremendous performances on blue lines across the league. Adam Fox, Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, they all have more points than Cale Makar right now. He does have games in hand of course. The Colorado Avalanche lagging behind a little bit. But Fox leads all defensemen in scoring. He won last year. He's got to be in the conversation.

Hedman and Josi have been the heartbeat for two teams in Tampa and the Nashville Predators, who have exceeded expectations, if you want to call it exceeding expectations for the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, at least. But I don't think anyone had them at the very top of the league with how their off-season went. And certainly Nashville was a team everybody, it seemed, was sleeping on. And Roman Josi has helped them bridge that gap.

So Norris-- it seems very interesting, because there's a lot of candidates. But I feel like Cale Makar is just running away with this at this point. Vezina-- this one's sort of similar. Igor Shesterkin probably should have a massive lead. But the knock on him right now is that he's only played in 26 games.

Now, of his starts, he wins about four out of every five on average. And his important metrics, in terms of his season performance-- far and away-- save percentage, goals saved above average-- far and away the best in the league. It's his to lose at this point.

So the second tier, at least for me, with Jack Campbell recently dropping off I think, is Juuse Saros and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Interestingly enough-- and we'll get to the coaches here in a second-- but Nashville and Tampa Bay, who I just talked about with the Norris Trophy-- they have Norris candidates, Vezina candidates in Saros and Vasilevskiy, and Jack Adams candidates. Probably no coincidence there, but individual performances lifting those two teams right now. And when that drives meaningful results, often they get paid in terms of hardware.

But Saros has been the NHL's workhorse-- probably the opposite in terms of usage compared to Shesterkin-- leading the league in saves. And he's probably been the most significant factor in Nashville's surprise season.

And then Andrei Vasilevskiy is like the standard. Vasi is Vasi. It's possible that Saros and Shesterkin have played above that standard right now. But it's also possible that they could drop below that standard before the end of the season, and Vasilevskiy would be given the nod.

The Calder Trophy, rookie of the year. I'm coming around to the idea that Moritz Seider's season has been the most impressive so far. Of course, he's playing top-four minutes with the Detroit Red Wings. He's got strong relative underlying numbers, and is playing in a role that most first-year guys don't really step into.

But while those results are good, he's not driving meaningful results, or helping drive meaningful results, with those numbers. And I think I'd be more inclined to lean that way if he was playing for even a team that was fringe on the postseason.

But since he's not right now, I think it's a two-horse race between the most productive, or at least the ones we expect to be most productive, which is Lucas Raymond and Trevor Zegras. And while Zegras has the name, and he has the highlights, and ESPN wants to put them on TV any chance they get, Raymond has been more productive at this point. So he gets the nod from me.

And finally, the Jack Adams-- we will save the Selke and Lady Byng talk for another time-- and for me here it's Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers. This is a hugely narrative-driven award, right? It's all about the story. And Gerard Gallant doesn't have-- no one has the story he has right now for the Jack Adams Award.

His history, in terms of being kicked to the curb, literally, once, the backdrop of the season for New York, which went through this sort of identity crisis, at least it seemed, and just the fact that Gallant is having major success in a major NHL market, I think voters are going to be quick to reward him. And I think he deserves it

Yeah, the show-me-a-good-goaltender, show-me-a-good-coach trope is alive and well here, but it is with any candidate. I mean, my next two are John Hines and Mike Sullivan. And they are probably having their performances boosted by the fact that they have top-five Vezina guys in Saros and Tristan Jarry, respectively.

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