Breaking Down Trophy Races
The NHL’s regular season has hit the home stretch. There are playoff spots to be secured and home-ice advantage on the line as 16 teams will keep their dreams of a Stanley Cup championship alive.
While the ultimate goal for players is to skate around the ice with the Stanley Cup trophy held high above their heads, there is some other hardware at stake as teams get ready to wrap up the 82-game regular season.
With the exception of the NHL’s Norris Trophy, which goes to the top defenseman in the league, clear front-runners have emerged in the NHL major individual award races according to the NHL trophy odds.
Red-Hot Matthews Hart Trophy Favorite
Toronto Maple Leafs captain Auston Matthews is scoring goals at a dizzying pace as he is closing in on the 60-goal mark.
More often than not, the Hart Trophy goes to the NHL’s leader in points and this season it could be a different deal.
Matthews is not going to catch Edmonton’s Connor McDavid in the NHL points race, but he is still considered the favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy according to the NHL trophy odds.
Matthews would join 2016 winner Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks as the only American-born player to win the Hart Trophy.
It would mark the first time since Edmonton legend Wayne Gretzky won the award eight seasons in a row that a player from one of the Canadian franchises won the NHL’s top individual honor three years in a row. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and McDavid won the Hart Trophy in the last two seasons.
There are really no other viable candidates other than Matthews and McDavid. Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames are well back of the two front-runners.
Josi, Makar Vying for Norris Trophy
There was a time when repeat winners was the rule and not the exception when it came to handing out the Norris Trophy.
Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens won it seven times in a span of eight seasons. Pierre Pilote of the Chicago Blackhawks was the winner three seasons in a row before Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr won the Norris Trophy an unprecedented eight straight seasons.
Denis Potvin, Rod Langway, Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque and Nicklas Lidstrom all won the award in back-to-back seasons or, in Lidstrom’s case, for three seasons running.
However, since Lidstrom won the award during the 2007-08 season, there have been repeat winners, but never a player to win the award in consecutive seasons.
That is a streak that appears ready to continue if the NHL trophy odds prove to be accurate.
Reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox of the New York Rangers is enjoying another sensational season, but he is a distant fourth in this season’s race.
Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators, the winner following the 2019-20 campaign, has surged to the front of the pack and is the current leader just ahead of Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.
Josi has already set Nashville’s single-season scoring record and, while it will take some doing for him to reach 100 points, going over 90 seems a certainty. Makar is second only to Josi in points among defensemen. Makar does lead all defensemen with 25 goals.
Shesterkin has Replaced The King on Broadway
When 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist was nearing the end of his incredible run as the New York Rangers’ No. 1 goalie, fans of the team were understandably concerned about how things would look when “The King” was no longer stonewalling the best forwards in the NHL.
Igor Shesterkin, a fourth-round pick by New York in the 2014 NHL Draft, is having a season that would make Lundqvist proud.
Shesterkin is set to play more than 50 games for the first time and he is vying with Frederik Andersen of the Carolina Hurricanes for the goals-against average crown.
When it comes to the Vezina race, Shesterkin is well ahead of Anderson while Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames is even further back.
This is the one race where the odds should be closer than they are but at the current time. Shesterkin is well ahead of Andersen, although their numbers are almost identical with the exception of save percentage, where Shesterkin is setting the pace.
Shesterkin and Andersen squared off on Tuesday. Andersen stopped 28 of 30 shots in Carolina’s 4-2 win. Shesterkin had 21 saves on 24 shots.
Seider Emerging from Star-Studded Calder Trophy Pool
Coming into the season, Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks and Cole Caufield of the Montreal Canadiens were popular choices to win the NHL Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider was also in the mix, but there were questions about whether he would produce enough offensively to outduel dynamic offensive players like Zegras, Caufield and Seider’s own teammate, Lucas Raymond.
Seider is in the top 20 among NHL defensemen in scoring thanks to his five goals and 41 assists. He has shown to be a building block for a rebuilding Detroit Red Wings team.
Seider has held up more than admirably while playing more than 23 minutes a game and usually matched up against the other team’s top scoring threat. He is one of 13 defensemen with at least 120 hits and blocked shots.
Zegras and Raymond are the next closest competitors while Boston Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman is among the candidates being undervalued.