With the NHL Awards now all presented to the winners, it’s a good time to quickly review this humble hockey writer’s ballot submitted back in April. I got three of the five winners correct while casting first place votes for Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane, Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin. I voted finalists as my first place winners in both Lady Byng and Selke Trophy, but I admittedly didn’t have Anze Kopitar in my top five for the Byng award given out to the most gentlemanly player.
That was probably the most glaring omission from my ballot, so here it is with a brief explanation after each category:
1. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
3. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
4. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
5. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
My take: Kane was the most dominant player in the NHL last season, and I had little hesitation with picking him as tops in the NHL. I voted Ovechkin second because of Washington’s regular season, and the way the Russian sniper continued growing as a leader along with being his explosive self in the offensive zone. Could I have placed Sid a little bit higher on the list? Maybe, but he was too cold early in the season for me to put him in the top three despite the way things eventually finished for Sid and the Penguins. It also wasn’t going to be at the expense of Benn, who is the best player on that Dallas team by a wide margin, and deserves all kinds of credit for continuing to push the Stars once Tyler Seguin went down with injury. I thought Burns was a game-changer for the Sharks all season, and thought he merited a vote for his truly dominant season on the back end for the Sharks. But I guess I was the only one since my fourth place vote was the only vote he got in the Hart balloting.
1. Drew Doughty, LA Kings
2. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
4. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
My take: This is the one that really gets people upset. I have voted Drew Doughty tops on my Norris ballot for two years in a row because I value his two-way game for the Kings, and the way he sacrifices some offense to play hard at both ends of the ice. I also couldn’t ignore the goals scored by Burns along with the clear physical presence he had for San Jose on a nightly basis. I couldn’t ignore Erik Karlsson’s historic offensive numbers, but I don’t think the Norris is about handing the award to the player with the best stats. Karlsson has stepped up his defensive play of late, but it’s telling to me that Doughty and Burns both led teams that made it to the playoffs. Karlsson did not. If I had to do it over again I’d have flip-flopped Victor Hedman and Kris Letang on the ballot, but I felt very strongly about Doughty, Burns and Karlsson as my 1, 2 and 3.
1. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
3. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
4. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
5. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
My take: Connor McDavid was brilliant for a half-season, but that’s all he played. Artemi Panarin was dominant for the Blackhawks from the go-go and produced all season. Ditto for Shayne Gostisbehere, who was a game-changer for the Flyers and almost helped push them into the playoffs. I gave Larkin and Eichel the edge over McDavid because they played full seasons, and put up similar stats with Eichel putting up more goals and points than the Edmonton rookie. It was a tough break that he got injured during the season, but that had a major impact on my Calder ballot.
1. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
2. Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres
3. Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
4. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
5. Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres
My take: This is always one of the toughest awards to vote on. Barkov and Eriksson were no-brainers, and I probably should have had Anze Kopitar in my top five instead of maybe Patrick Marleau if I had to do over again. On the bright side, I wasn’t the PHWA voter that gave a first-place vote to Patrick Kane in this category.
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
3. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks
4. Anze Kopitar, LA Kings
5. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
My take: Maybe I’m biased, but I feel like Patrice Bergeron got robbed of this one. The numbers are overwhelming when it comes to face-offs, and the quality of competition he plays against on a nightly basis. I might feel badly about having Kopitar back at fourth on my ballot, but then again 15 voters had Bergeron fourth or fourth on their Selke ballots. I’m not sure what they were watching last season.