Early 2021 Season Trophy Candidates
Trophies are a way to demonstrates the effort and the talent of a player during a year. Sometimes, results can be unpredictable while it can also be super evident, as it was during the era of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, breaking records year after year. There are many trophies for every aspect of the game. Principally, there is the Hart Trophy, rewarded for the most valuable player to his team, the Art-Ross, for the most points by a player in a single season, the Maurice-Richard, for the player who scored the most goals in a single season, the Vezina, for the best goaltender throughout the year, the Norris, for the best defenseman, and the Calder, for the best rookie. Here are my predictions for these trophies;
Hart and Art-Ross
Winner: Connor McDavid (EDM, 85+ points)
Connor Mcdavid is the pure example of a hard worker. Born on January 13th, 1997, in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Connor is a franchise player who elevates his teammate's game by his skill and hockey sense. McDavid has been in the spotlight for a long time now. At only 14th years old, he was already on the watch list of NHL scouts, while he was averaging more than two points per game with the U16 Toronto Malboros, more precisely recording a total of 77 points in 33 games, which is still a record for anyone at his age in this league. He is on a whole other level. Often compared to the Gretzky of his era, I don’t see how he couldn’t win this trophy, knowing that he keeps upgrading year after year and he’s still only 23. Plus, he will probably be playing with Kailer Yamamoto more often this year, with who he seems to get in touch pretty well. Yamamoto recorded 26 points in 27 games. If he can play all the 56 games, the duo would be nasty (much more than with Zack Kassian as a first-line winger).
Nathan Mackinnon, Hart and Art-Ross (COL, 80+ points)
Nathan Mackinnon is an extremely talented center evolving for the Colorado Avalanches. The key qualities of his games are his puck-handling, his vision, and his speed. Last year, he had an astonishing season while Landeskog and Rantanen both got injured, recording 93 points in 69 games. If his line can avoid the injuries, it might be unstoppable, while he could be close to McDavid for the run for the most points. Born at the same place as another franchise player (Sidney Crosby), he has often played for Team Canada, which shows where he ranks amongst the Canadian centers of his era. He is the type of player that can adjust to any player. Extremely creative, he can make plays seconds before you could have think of it. He might achieve his peak and win these awards this year.
Jack Eichel, Hart (BUF, 70+ points)
Jack Eichel, the star of Buffalo, who would be accompanied by the former New Jersey Devils star Taylor Hall, said it himself, he is tired of losing. Still young (24 years old), he keeps evolving and he is more determined than ever. He might not finish in the top 3 for the most points, but that doesn't forbid him from being a Hart Trophy nominee. There’s much more than points in this game. He would probably take more responsibilities defensively and positively impact the determination of his players by his leadership. Known for his puckhandling, shooting, and passing abilities, Jack is a flashy player who is considerably hard to stop on a one on one.
Leon Draisaitl, Art Ross (EDM, 75+ points)
Leon Draisaitl, the best German hockey player in the world, had a hell of a season last year, winning the Art-Ross with 110 points in 71 games. Of course, it would be disrespectful not to put him in the favorites to win it, knowing the Edmonton elite center is probably at his peak and dominated the league last year, averaging a better point average than Connor McDavid or any other players. His main qualities are his strength and his powerful and precise shot which terrifies the goalies. He is a pure goalscorer who didn’t get drafted third overall in 2014 for nothing. While some people still think McDavid carries him, he wasn’t even playing with him for the main part of the season last year. Let’s hope he gets along well with either Puljujarvi or Yamamoto, depending on the lines.
Winner: Auston Matthews (TOR)
Auston Matthews is a pure goalscorer evolving for the Toronto Maple Leafs. From San Ramon, California, Auston didn’t get drafted by playing in a U18 league. Instead, he decided to show his talent to the world by dominating the NLA league(Swiss Division 1), racking up 46 points in 36 games at only 18 years old, which is the best anyone has ever made at this age in this league. First overall in 2016, Matthews lived up to his expectations by being one of the best goalscorers in the league. At only 23 years old, the American keeps upgrading and is going to be linked up with Mitch Marner, an elite winger, and Joe Thornton, former San Jose Sharks captain. With 47 goals last year and a downgrading Alexander Ovechkin, Matthews is, in my opinion, the favorite to win the trophy this year, if he stays healthy.
Runner-Up: Mika Zibanejad (NYR)
Mika Zibanejad is a star center playing for the New York Rangers. Evolving with Artemi Panarin, he gets the chance to have an exceptional star on his wing who has a fantastic hockey sense. Drafted sixth overall in 2011 by the Ottawa Senators, the 27 years old player has proved last year he is one of the best in the league by recording an incredible total of 41 goals in 57 games, which was the best goal average per game last year. Knowing that their chemistry will already be established by the start of the year, he might be devastating.
Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)
Andrei Vasilevskiy is an elite goaltender evolving for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The tall goalie (6'4) had an amazing season last year, finishing it with the most precious trophy; the Stanley Cup. Having a cup in his arsenal will allow him to have less pressure on his shoulders and he might be less nervous around the net. The 26 years old’s best Russian goaltender in the world had an incredible post-season run, finishing with a goal against average of 1,90 and a save percentage of ,927%. The terrific goalie has an extremely quick reaction time and is super athletic.
Runner-Up: Carter Hart (PHI)
Carter Hart is a young goaltender playing with the Philadelphia Flyers. The kid is already super talented. In his first year on the league last year, he managed to keep a goal against average of only 2,42 in 43 games. At 22 years old, he is to youngest starting keeper and has a high potential, being drafted 48th overall in 2016, which is very low for a goaltender. He is extremely good in butterfly and read the game exceedingly well, by always being placed at the good area.
Winner: Cale Makar (COL)
Cale Makar is a young defenseman playing on the same team as Nathan Mackinnon; the Colorado Avalanche. Winner of the Calder trophy last year, he showed his potential to the world by piling 50 points in only 57 games. He has terrific vision and fast puck-handling. Cale can make exceptional plays that only stars can make. Being on the first powerplay line with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen will also help him a lot. Knowing that it was only his first-year last year, I see it as a preview of his superstar ceiling he might achieve soon.
Runner-Up: Victor Hedman (TBL)
Victor Hedman is an established star veteran with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Winner of the Stanley Cup last year, he has achieved a lot. Victor is not only a good offensive defenseman but also very solid defensively, finishing the 2019–2020 season with a differential of 27. He has a facility of circulating with the puck on the neutral zone and has a devastating shot. Not old enough to regress (30 years old) and with a cup, he might be more determined than ever to show what he’s capable of doing with the loss of Nikita Kucherov for the entire 2021 season.
Winner: Kiril Kaprizov (MIN)
Kiril Kaprizov is an extremely talented Russian right-winger who played the last three years with CSKA Moskva. Last year, he managed to get 62 points in 57 games at only 23 years old. He has an astounding shot that terrifies the goalies. The advantage he has with Alexis Lafreniere is that he’s already used to playing with old players and he played on a way better league (The KHL, second-best league in the world behind the NHL). Without a doubt, looking at how talented he is NOW compared to the other rookies, he has the best chances of winning the Calder trophy.
Runner-Up: Alexis Lafreniere (NYR)
Alexis Lafreniere, the name everyone is talking about in the NHL, got drafted first overall by the New York Rangers in 2020. He has a lot of qualities; his strongness, his vision, his shot, and his attitude. It looks like he’s made to be first overall; He’s ready. Alexis managed to get an amazing total of 112 points in 52 games last year, which was the best in the league, and doing it before his draft is a huge accomplishment. The left-winger is a strong power forward who has great chances of becoming a franchise player for the New York Rangers.
In brief, my choices are:
- Hart and Art-Ross = Connor McDavid
- Maurice Richard = Auston Matthews
- Vezina = Andrei Vasilevskiy
- Norris = Cale Makar
- Calder = Alexis Lafreniere
Don’t forget that these are my personal choices and it doesn’t mean your opinion isn’t the right one.