The NHL recognized the best of the best at its annual awards show down in Las Vegas on June 20th. The league handed out 13 various awards as eligible voters pulled the handle on the slot machine to see who would come up aces at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Let’s recap the major trophy winners and just to remind you the recipients were rewarded on their regular-season performances only, regardless of what happened in the playoffs.
The biggest winner of the night is typically the Hart Memorial Trophy winner and this year’s recipient was none other than Russian forward Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Many fans and pundits pegged Pittsburgh Penguins‘ captain Sidney Crosby as this season’s most valuable player to his team but let’s face it, this was Kucherov’s campaign. He’s now the second Tampa player to take the award home as Martin St. Louis won it for his performance in 2003/04.
The 25-year-old Kucherov racked up 41 goals and 87 assists this year for 128 points to lead the league and broke Alexander Mogilny’s record of 127 points for the most in a season by a Russian player which was originally set back in 1992/93 when Mogilny was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
In addition, Kucherov’s haul was the most in the NHL since Mario Lemieux notched 161 points in 1995/96 and his Pittsburgh teammate Jaromir Jagr registered 149 points. Kucherov won the trophy hands-down by garnering 164 first-place votes out of a possible 171. Crosby, who has won the Hart twice before, came in second with the 2016/17-winner Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers placing third.
Kucherov skated in each of Tampa’s 82 games this season and managed at least one point in 62 of them and also tallied 38 multiple-point contests. His team was 54-5-3 when he earned a point and went 8-11-1 when he was held off the scoresheet. Tampa won 62 games this season to tie the league mark for wins in a season with the 1995/96 Detroit Red Wings and Kucherov was one of the main reasons why.
Kucherov also won the Ted Lindsay Award which goes to the top player as voted on by his peers from the NHL Players’ Association. The other finalists were forward Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton’s McDavid.
This year’s Mark Messier Leadership Award went to forward Wayne Simmonds of the Nashville Predators and it exemplifies excellent leadership both on and off the ice and also recognizes those who help grow the game in their community. The 30-year-old was also a finalist for trophy last year. Calgary Flames’ captain Mark Giordano and Carolina Hurricanes’ veteran skipper were also finalists
The top goaltender this season was none other than Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy as the Russian captured the Vezina Trophy. He won 39 games to lead the league while posting six shutouts. He had a save percentage of 92.5 and a goals-against average of 2.40 in 53 regular-season games and is the first Tampa netminder to win the award. Vasilevskiy earned 28 of the 31 first-place votes from the league’s general managers as Dallas Stars’ goalie Ben Bishop placed second and Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders was third.
Barry Trotz was more or less the favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top head coach and the New York Islanders‘ bench boss did indeed win it. Trotz led the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup triumph in 2017/18 and then jumped ship during the offseason. The Islanders posted 23 more points this season compared to last year and went from worst to first in goals against as they gave up just 196 goals this year. Trotz also won the award with Washington in 2015/16. Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper came in second in the balloting with Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues coming in third.
Center Ryan O’Reilly of the Blues won the Frank Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. Of course, he was also the winner of this year’s Conn Smythe Trophy as he led St. Louis to their first Stanley Cup. O’Reilly was one of the league’s top faceoff men for the second consecutive year by winning 56.9 per cent of his draws. He beat winger Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights and center Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins for the honor. The 28-year-old O’Reilly also scored 77 points this year on 28 goals and 49 assists in 82 games.
New York Islanders’ goalie Robin Lehner captured the Bill Masterton Trophy for sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance to the sport. Lehner went 25-13-5 this year with a GAA of 2.13 and a 93.0 save percentage with half a dozen shutouts. He also shared William M. Jennings Trophy with teammate Thomas Greiss for the team with the least goals conceded this season. Lehner revealed that he was struggling with mental health and addiction problems last year and overcame them. Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and veteran center Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks were also finalists for the Masterton.
Veteran Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames was named the league’s best blue liner and won the James Norris Trophy. The 35-year-old was the second-highest scoring rearguard this year with 17 goals and 57 helpers for 74 points. The Calgary captain also had a plus-39 rating to lead the league. The toothless Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Tampa’s Victor Hedman were also finalists.
The general manger of the year award was taken by Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins with Doug Armstrong of St. Louis and Don Waddell of the Carolina Hurricanes also being nominated.
Florida Panthers’ forward Aleksander Barkov was named the league’s most sportsmanlike player and took home the Lady Byng Trophy. The 23-year-old from Finland scored 35 goals and 96 points to set a new franchise record and recorded 100 takeaways to rank second in the league. The other finalists were O’Reilly of the Blues and Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames.
Swedish center forward Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks was favored to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie and he came through. The 20-year-old played 71 games this season and notched a franchise record for a rookie with 66 points on 28 goals and 38 assists. He beat out St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington and Buffalo Sabres’ blue liner Rasmus Dahlin in the voting.