Attempting to make predictions for individual awards before the start of a hockey season is never easy.
Take this year’s Art Ross Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl for example; he went from 70 points in 2017-2018 to a whopping 105 in 2018-2019. And don’t think the case of Draisaitl was a coincidence because the last winner of the Art Ross trophy, Nikita Kucherov, went from 85 points in 2016-2017 to an unreal total of 128 points in 2018-2019.
Although it’s a hefty challenge, here’s a stab at predicting the 2020-21 NHL award recipients:
Hart Memorial Trophy: Connor McDavid
Anyone who has watched Connor McDavid play can tell that he is always the best player on the ice. The only thing that has kept McDavid from winning this award every year is injuries. McDavid has only played two full seasons in his career and has not played a full season since 2017-2018. Putting injuries, aside McDavid has a chance to go down as one of the greatest players of all time. Another reason McDavid is a frontrunner is that he is playing with a point machine in Leon Draisaitl and this will only boost McDavid’s point total.
Art Ross Trophy: Connor McDavid
The Art Ross Trophy is one of the hardest of all the major individual hardware to predict before the start of the season. Last year’s winner, Nikita Kucherov, did not even finish in the top-five in points this year after winning the award by 14 points the year before.
At the start of every year, McDavid is the front-runner for the honors on almost every expert’s board. As the season goes on, injuries pile up and McDavid starts to drop on the board due to his inability to stay healthy. Putting injuries aside, McDavid is the frontrunner for the trophy but do not be surprised if injuries take him off the points leaderboard come spring.
If McDavid does get injured, the new front-runner is Nathan MacKinnon, who has averaged almost 1.3 points per game over the last three years and is on one of the best lines in hockey playing alongside Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin
The Rocket Richard features arguably the closest competition. Alex Ovechkin is an immediate candidate. He is arguably the greatest goal scorer of all-time who at the age of 34 just put together a 48-goal season and was well on pace for 50 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the remainder of the campaign.
The second option is David Pastrnak, who tied Ovechkin for the league lead in goals this season and is part of the best line in hockey with possibly the greatest defensive forward of all-time in Patrice Bergeron and a top-15 player in the league in Brad Marchand.
Lastly, Auston Matthews is in the conversation as a perennial goal scorer with arguably the best release in the NHL. Matthews is on a line with Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. Marner is an elite passer that can make something from nothing and find Matthews no matter where he is on the ice. Hyman is a workhorse who never gives up on the play and helps create room for both Matthews and Marner, resulting in more scoring chances.
All things considered, Ovechkin, Pasternak and Matthews all have the ability to win the Rocket Richard Trophy any given year. However, in this case, Ovechkin is the favorite. Ovechkin is a much more experienced and proven player; he has won the Rocket Richard trophy nine times and has eight 50-goal seasons. Neither Pastrnak nor Matthews has scored 50 goals in their combined 10 years of experience.
Ted Lindsay Award: Nathan MacKinnon
The winner of the Ted Lindsay award is voted by the players, and something all NHL players have in common with regards to Nathan MacKinnon is respect. MacKinnon is one of the fastest players in the league and has an uncanny release on his snapshot.
When you think of the NHL’s most elite players, a few come to mind. Among those are Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, and Auston Matthews. Think of what sets these players apart. Crosby has good edges and a quick release; McDavid has unmatched speed; Matthews has arguably the best release in the league.
When evaluating MacKinnon’s game, there are three impactful traits that are seen right off the bat. He has an insane amount of speed, an unmatched ability to change direction at top speed, and a lightning-like release.
Having qualities like these strike fear into the defender and when players vote for the most outstanding player, they will remember the speed, quickness, agility, and release of MacKinnon.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Victor Hedman
When looking at the Norris Trophy contenders, there are several defensemen that come to mind. But the four that stand out are Victor Hedman, Cale Makar, John Carlson, and Roman Josi. Of all those defensemen, Hedman is the top pick because of his size, strength, puck-moving ability, and superb shot.
Standing at 6-foot-6, Hedman is one of the tallest players in the league today, and he uses his size and strength extremely well. The second thing that stannds out about Hedman is his ability to move the puck. For a bigger player, he can move extremely well and has great vision that he uses to make great lead passes and find his teammates wherever they are on the ice. The third trait Hedman possesses is a great shot. Hedman uses his cannon to put the puck through screens and often finds the back of the net because of his powerful shot.
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron has been an elite defensive presence since he entered the league in 2003. With four Selkes already and always in the running for another, he is the clear top pick for this award. Other contenders that stand out are Anze Kopitar, who already has two Selkes and is a great defensive presence with his size and strength, Ryan O’Reilly, who took home the award last year, and Mark Stone, who has never won a Selke but is in the conversation every year and is hungry coming off one of his best seasons ever
Regardless of who takes home all the individual hardware, there will be no lack of excitement in the upcoming 2020-2021 season.