Throughout this week, while the rest of the NHL gets into game action and the Capitals impatiently await Saturday’s season opener against the New Jersey Devils, we’ll take a look at how we think the Eastern and Western Conference standings will shake out and which team will sip from the Stanley Cup next June.
But first …
Here are predicted award winners:
Hart Trophy (MVP): Alex Ovechkin
Ten years after their NHL baptisms, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are still very much in their primes and both will benefit from new additions on their right side, Ovechkin witrh T.J. Oshie and Crosnbby with Phil Kessel. Ovechkin’s commitment to a two-way game last season will continue this year, earning him the swing votes he needs to beast out Crosby.
Runnersup: Crosby, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos
Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion): Sidney Crosby
With Chris Kunitz on his left and Kessel on his right, there will be some serious fireworks coming from the Penguins’ top line this season and Crosby will reap the benefits.
Runnersup: Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos
Rocket Richard Trophy (goals leader): Alex Ovechkin
The arrival of T.J. Oshie will attract attention from opposing defenses, opening up more space for Ovechkin in his pursuit of 500 goals and his sixth goal-scoring title. A healthy Steven Stamkos will make this an interesting race that could go down to the final weekend.
Runnersup: Stamkos, Phil Kessel, Vladimir Tarasenko
Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Drew Doughty
Erik Karlsson will attract a lot of attention with his offense, but Doughty has been a rock on the Kings’ blue line and his ability to guide L.A. back into the playoffs will sway voters. Don’t be surprised, however, if someone named John Carlson makes a strong push for the award.
Runnersup: John Carlson, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender): Braden Holtby
It’s hard to top what Carey Price accomplished last season, when he led the NHL in goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (93.3), especially in a new era of 3-on-3 overtimes, where goalie statistics will be fattened. But Holtby garnered a good deal of respect and attention last season and will cement his reputation as a No. 1 netminder on a Cup contender.
Runnersup: Price, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne
Calder Trophy (top rookie): Jack Eichel
Not since Crosby and Ovechkin has so much hype surrounded two NHL rookies entering the same season. Connor McDavid is an enormous talent but he’s also carrying the enormous weight of playing in Edmonton, where Wayne Gretzky cut his teeth. Eichel, on the other hand, has more talent around him and should put up more points than McDavid. That, and a strong contingent of American voters, should help his cause.
Runnersup: McDavid, Max Domi, Sam Bennett
Breakout player: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Very few players in the league possess the offensive skills of Kuznetsov, who improved throughout last season and finished with 11 goals and 26 assists. While it would be a stretch to suggest Kuznetsov could double those totals, he’s due for an offensive explosion that will also make Andre Burakovsky’s numbers dramatically improve.
Runnersup: Burakovsky, Jonathan Drouin, Kevin Hayes
Jack Adams Award (top coach): Barry Trotz
Mike Babcock will change the culture in Toronto and Jeff Blashill should be an excellent replacement in Detroit, but Trotz will finally see the results of his strong coaching fundamentals and handling of star players.
Runnersup: Mike Babcock, Jeff Blashill, Todd Richards
MORE CAPITALS: Looking back on 10 years of Alex Ovechkin in D.C.