The 2017 NHL season has been action packed in a number of ways. You got 18 year olds making pushes for the Richard, defensemen in the Art Ross race, and the Leafs are good again. Without further ado, let’s get right into it:
Ryan Kesler – Anaheim Ducks
At the midpoint of the season, Kesler was pretty much the undisputed leader for the Selke, and not much has changed since. Point totals don’t necessarily favor him, but that has never been what the Selke is about. For the last 5 years the Selke candidates have basically been Toews, Bergeron, and Kopitar. All 3 of these guys have been having rather down years (with the exception of Toews who has picked it up a little bit in the second half) which only helps Kesler. He is currently leading all centers in shifts/game, has a 58 FOW% (good for 6th amongst centers with at least 50 GP), and he currently has the 3rd highest SH TOI amongst centers. Another interesting stat is he has 0 giveaways on the PK. ZERO. Kesler has been an integral part in the teams attack as well as the penalty kill which makes him my pick at this point.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobrovsky has had a total career renaissance this season. Posting a .931 SV% (nearly a career high), which tops the league in goaltenders who have played > 50 games. Additionally, he has allowed a league low 2.04 goals/game for all eligible goaltenders. It is also absolutely worth mentioning that he has been the best goaltender on one of the best teams in the league this season. Bobrovsky played an integral role in the Jackets’ 16-game winning streak earlier this year, only allowing 1.64 goals/game over that stretch. The Jackets are currently sitting at 100 points, tied for the best in the NHL and have locked up a playoff spot with 11 games to go with a lot of the success being credited to this guy. He is all but a lock for the Vezina.
Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs
This is one of the harder winners to pick because there has been so many great standout rookies this year. In making this decision, it ultimately came down to Matthews and Laine. These two have been trading blows, going back and forth for the rookie goal scoring lead (which Laine currently has). While Laine leads rookies in points, I give the edge to Matthews because he has played a significant role in leading the once-terrible Leafs to a potential playoff appearance while the Jets appear to be headed for a long summer. Matthews is also much more valuable on the power-play and just appears to be more important to his team from an outside point of view Also, the NHL loves a good story line, and what’s better than a kid from Scottsdale making noise on a national level? Besides, he’s overshadowing an entire NHL franchise, that has to mean something.
Brent Burns – San Jose Sharks
Burns appears to be consensus favorite for the Norris. One point that can be used against him is similar to one that has been used on Erik Karlsson many times and it is that Burns could be considered as sort of a “glorified forward” as he makes most of his production in the offensive zone. While that is a valid point, Burns plays a great 200-foot game and is a very solid defensive defenseman. It is also worth mentioning that Burns has a case for the Hart which is something that I believe carries a lot of weight in this decision. There are a few defensemen that have a case because they are much better in the defensive zone than Burns, for example Victor Hedman. But in recent years point production has been given a lot of weight in considering the Norris winner. Because of this, I think Burns takes home the trophy.
Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins
As we speak, Sidney Crosby leads the league in goals with 40, but right behind him at 37 sits this guy. It is worth noting, however, that Crosby just notched a hat trick the other night, so Marchand was essentially neck-and-neck with Sid not 2 days ago. I think Marchand ends the season with the most goals because he’s been the hottest player in the league for about a little over a month now and I see him riding it out until the end of the year. The Penguins are sitting comfortably in the playoff spot as of now, something that makes me think Crosby can take his foot off the gas a bit. On the other hand, the Bruins have both the Leafs and the Bolts pushing for a playoff spot, and the Bruins could potentially slip down into a wild-card spot in the drop of a hat. Staying where they’re at or dropping to a wild card is the difference in seeing Ottawa and Washington first round. Because of this, I think Marchand keeps up this torrent scoring pace and eventually edges out Crosby.
Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers
Much like Marchand’s situation with the Richard, I think the situation that the Oilers are currently in propels McDavid into winning the Art Ross. Not too long ago, Edmonton was sitting pretty in 2nd place in the Pacific, and now all of a sudden, 3 teams are separated by 2 points and Edmonton has slipped into a wild card spot. McDavid has struggled a bit lately yet he is still tied with Crosby for the lead with 80 points. McDavid is too good to maintain this relatively-low level of play. If the season ended today, the Oilers would play the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. This is obviously a matchup that heavily favors San Jose. McDavid and the Oilers would be wise to make a late season push to match up with either Anaheim or Calgary in the first round. Personally, I’d like to see the battle of Alberta, but regardless, I think McDavid ends up with the Art Ross.
Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers
After a rookie year that was shortened by a collar bone injury, McDavid started right where he left off with over a PPG pace and showcasing his speed, creativity, and silky mitts. Looking at the other Hart candidates, they all have a very strong supporting cast. Crosby has Malkin and Kessel, Kane has Panarin, and Marchand has the likes of Bergeron and Pastrnak. All of the success that the Oilers have had has came through Connor McDavid. The Oilers have missed the playoffs the last 10 years and now they have received a generational talent that can not only get them to the playoffs, but one day be perennial contenders. The definition of league MVP is a very controversial one. Whether you think it means the player that is most valuable to his team, or the best player that season, McDavid is arguably both of those which makes him the Hart winner in my book. While the NHL is still Crosby’s league, it’s only a matter of years before it becomes McDavid’s.