The first month of the NHL season has passed and it’s no surprise that both Tampa Bay (10-3-1) and Nashville (11-3) are at the top of their respective divisions. What may be a surprise is the early play of last year’s Stanley Cup finalist Vegas, which is off to a 6-7-1 start and is in seventh place in the eight-team Pacific Division.
What is also surprising is the play of a certain Anaheim goalie as well as the New York Islanders, who currently sit in first place in the super-competitive Metropolitan Division. With all of this in mind, let’s take an early look at the favorites to win some of the NHL’s most prestigious year-end awards.
The Hart Trophy The Hart Trophy goes annually to the NHL’s most valuable player. Last year, it was New Jersey’s Taylor Hall who is not a favorite to repeat. Edmonton forward Connor McDavid won it two years ago and is a favorite to win it in 2018-19. McDavid has helped the Oilers to an 8-4-1 start and has 19 even-strength points (21 overall).
The unlikely favorite to win the Hart Trophy Anaheim goalie John Gibson. Goaltenders rarely win the Hart – Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2001-02 was the last – but Gibson’s performance is why the Ducks are 6-6-3. Without him, they might be winless. Gibson is sixth in save percentage (.945) and has goals against average of 2.36. This is for a team that is 29th in the league in goals per game (2.4). If Anaheim could score, they would be dangerous.
Art Ross & Rocket Richard Trophies The Ross Trophy goes to the NHL’s points leader. So far in 2018-19, the leader is Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, a third-year player from Finland who has 24 points. Rantanen should be in the thick of the race as the Avalanche are one of the highest-scoring teams (3.7 goals per game, 3rd) in the league.
McDavid, of course, is always a threat and his 21 points is tied for second currently. Rantanen’s teammate Nathan MacKinnon is another gifted scorer and don’t forget Chicago star Patrick Kane (19 points currently.
The Richard Trophy goes to the leading goal scorer each year. MacKinnon and Kane are part of a logjam at the top of the scoring list with 11 goals. Both are favorites as is last year’s winner Alex Ovechkin who has 10 goals currently and Toronto’s Auston Matthews who also has 10.
Norris Trophy The top defenseman in the league right now might be Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang. The veteran kind of disappeared over the past season and a half but has 12 points in 10 games this season and he’s playing over 25 minutes per night. If not Letang, then Nashville’s P.K. Subban is a favorite. He has 10 points in 13 games thus far and his defense is almost unmatched. Morgan Reilly of Toronto is another favorite. Reilly leads all defensemen with 16 points so far this season.
Vezina Trophy The leader right now is Gibson whose .945 save percentage is amazing considering the Ducks are last in the NHL in possession time and second-to-last in shots per game. Devan Dubnyk has had similar success - .932 save percentage – on an equally weak defensive Minnesota Wild. Boston’s Jaroslav Halak is 4-1-2 with league-leading goals against of 1.45 and a .952 save percentage. The Bruins are third in the NHL in goals against allowing just 2.3 per game. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne will likely be in the conversation as well especially if the Predators can make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.