There is some hardware that is going to be given out in the near future for the NHL.
No, we’re not just talking about Lord Stanley’s Cup. The finalists for the 2021 NHL Awards have all been announced, which means a number of other honors will be given out. Starting on Monday, June 14, the winners of the awards will gradually get announced throughout the remainder of the playoffs.
From best defensemen to league MVP to top rookie, there are quite a few debates to be had about who should take home the hardware. With that, let’s look at the finalists for the 2021 NHL Awards and who should win each honor:
Who will win the 2021 NHL Vezina Trophy?
It’s not a surprise that the three goalies up for this year’s Vezina Trophy -- Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Colorado Avalanche’s Phillip Grubauer -- come from three of the best teams in the league.
Vasilevskiy is the only finalist to have won the award before, taking home the honor in 2019, in addition to being a finalist last season. He’s been arguably the best goaltender in the NHL for the past few seasons. While some teams, like Fleury’s Golden Knights, have adopted a two-goalie system, Vasilevskiy has been the guy down in Tampa. He had the third-most starts in the NHL and the most wins this season with 31. While his 2.21 goals against average (GAA) was eighth in the league and his .925 save percentage (SV%) was sixth, he had the fourth-most shutouts (5) and second-most saves. And hey, for what it’s worth, he was tied for the most points among goaltenders with four assists.
As mentioned above, Fleury was one part of the two-goalie system Vegas ran this year. It was mightily successful, as the tandem of Fleury and Robin Lehner brought the Golden Knights the second-best record in the league, as well as the William Jennings Trophy, which is awarded to the best goaltending duo. But it was Fleury alone that finished third in the league among wins (26), GAA (1.98) and SV% (.928). His six shutouts also put him at No. 3 in the league. Surprisingly, this is the first time in Flower’s career he is up for the Vezina.
While the Lightning are shelling out $9.5 million a year for Vasilevskiy (he deserves every cent), Grubauer put up a Vezina-worthy season while getting paid just $2.75 million this season for the Avs. He had just one less win than Vasilevskiy while finishing second in GAA (1.95) and eighth in SV% (.922). Grubauer tied with New York Islander Semyon Varlamov for the league lead in shutouts with seven. It’s his first time being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and with free agency looming ahead for Grubauer this summer, he is due for a big pay day.
Prediction: Marc-Andre Fleury
You really can’t go wrong with any of these three, but given Fleury’s dominance across all categories for goaltenders, he should receive his first ever Vezina Trophy.
Who will win the 2021 NHL Hart Memorial Trophy?
Given to the league’s most valuable player, the Hart Trophy will be decided between Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid and Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon.
Matthews ran away with the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, given to the players with the most goals in the regular season, with 41 goals in the shortened season. He had eight more goals than the second-most player, who happened to be McDavid. The Leafs superstar added 25 assists to finish the season with 66 points, which was tied for fifth-best in the league. En route to leading Toronto to first place in the North Division, Matthews led the NHL in game-winning goals with 12 and shots on goal with 222.
Connor McDavid continued to do Connor McDavid things in 2021. Shortened season? No big deal. McDavid led the league with 105 points and 72 assists. His 1.88 points per game was .38 higher than the next best average. Also, he led the league in both power-play points and even-strength points. His 33 goals and 11 game-winning goals ranked only behind Matthews. McDavid won the award back in 2017
MacKinnon helped the Avalanche to a Presidents’ Trophy win and their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. His 65 points ranked eighth in the league, his points per game was fourth (1.35), power play points were third (25), as well as third in shots on goal (206). It’s the second straight season MacKinnon has been a Hart finalist and third time in the last four years.
Prediction: Connor McDavid
While Matthews’ goal-scoring ability was extremely impressive, the numbers McDavid put up this season were very similar to a certain other great that wore the Oilers blue and orange. Putting up video game numbers means you get the most outstanding player honor.
Who will win the 2021 NHL Calder Memorial Trophy?
The finalists for the NHL Calder Memorial Trophy are the Dallas Stars’ Jason Robertson, Carolina Hurricanes’ Alex Nedeljkovic and Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov. But frankly, there’s been a clear winner for quite some time.
Kaprizov, the Russian forward who played in the KHL for the last six seasons, was exactly as advertised for the Wild this season. He led all rookies in points (51) and goals (27) and was second in assists with 24. Kaprizov also led the Wild in points and goals, finishing tied for second in assists. Thanks to Kaprizov, the Wild became one of the more exciting teams to watch this season, but their season ended early with a first-round exit in the NHL playoffs. Kaprizov had three points in seven postseason games.
Robertson was a bright surprise in an otherwise disappointing season for the Stars. He led all NHL rookies in assists with 28, was second in points and tied for second in goals. He finished second on the Stars in points, goals and assists. People didn’t expect Robertson to have this kind of rookie season, as he was not even considered for the Calder by the Vegas oddsmakers until early April. While there has been more hype around his younger brother, Nick, a draft pick of the Maple Leafs, the young Stars forward is deserving of the finalist recognition.
Originally the third-string goalie at the start of the season for the Hurricanes, Nedeljkovic got the opportunity for some playing time when starter Petr Mrazek went down with an injury. The goaltender took full advantage, starting in 23 games this season and finishing with a 15-5-3 record, a 1.90 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. Even with Mrazek and fellow Canes goalie James Reimer available, Nedeljkovic saw the most starts in the playoffs. Nedeljkovic was one of the best goalies, and by far the best rookie goaltender this year.
Prediction: Kirill Kaprizov
No rookie has been as consistent and as game-changing as Kaprizov was this season. There’s no reason he doesn’t get the award.
Who will win the 2021 NHL James Norris Memorial Trophy?
With two young first-timers and a seemingly perennial finalist, the Norris Trophy has been arguably the hottest topic all season long when it comes to the NHL awards. The Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar, New York Rangers’ Adam Fox and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman are the three finalists this season.
After winning the Calder Trophy last season as the best rookie in the league, Makar took a huge step forward in his development. He had 44 points in 44 games, with his 1.0 points per game pace leading all defensemen who played at least 10 games. He was fourth among NHL defensemen in power-play points (22) and led all defensemen in game-winning goals with three. If Makar does take home the award, he would be the first player in Avalanche franchise history, which includes the team’s time in Quebec as the Nordiques.
Fox blossomed in his second season in the NHL with 47 points, which was tied for second among defensemen. He was second among defensemen in power-play points (23) and third in takeaways (38). A plus-19 on the season, he led all Rangers in time on ice and led all Rangers defensemen in both power-play and shorthanded time on ice. He would be the first Rangers since Brian Leetch in 1973 to win the award, however no player that has ever won the Norris has been on a non-playoff contender.
For the fifth straight season, Hedman is a finalist for the Norris. He won the award back in 2018 and has finished third in voting the last two seasons. His 45 points ranked third among defensemen while he led all blueliners in power-play points. Hedman ranked seventh in the league in average time on ice per game. While it wasn’t Hedman’s best season, he still helped lead a Lightning team without Nikita Kucherov to the eighth-best record in the league.
Prediction: Victor Hedman
It’s going to be a controversial decision, but with Makar missing games due to the Avalanche’s COVID-19 issues, and the fact that no one has ever won the Norris that’s been on a team that’s missed the playoffs, Hedman will most likely get selected as the winner. Strange to think that in one of his more subpar years, he still is the frontrunner for the award.
Who will win the 2021 NHL Ted Lindsay Award?
The Ted Lindsay Award, given out to the “most outstanding player in the regular season,” will be decided between the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid.
We won’t get into too much more detail when it comes to McDavid and Matthews, as both are also finalists for the Hart Trophy and were previewed above. McDavid led the league in points, by a lot, and Matthews led the league in goals. No Maple Leaf has won the award, so Matthews would be the first. If McDavid wins, he would be the seventh player to win the award at least three times, joining Crosby, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, as well as Jaromir Jagr, Guy LaFleur and Alex Ovechkin.
A winner of the award three times in his career, Crosby has a chance to join Gretzky and Lemieux as the third player in NHL history to win the award at least four times. The Penguins captain previously took him the award in 2007, 2013 and 2014. Crosby’s 62 points were 10th in the NHL, finishing the regular season with 24 goals and 38 assists. He helped the Penguins finish first in the East Division.
Prediction: Connor McDavid
*Insert explanation from Hart Trophy for Ted Lindsay Award*
It’s no Stanley Cup, but a Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award are decent consolation prizes for McDavid's sensational season.
Who will win the 2021 NHL Frank J. Selke Trophy?
Mark it down now as 10 years in a row that Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron has been nominated for the Selke, given to the best defensive forward in the NHL, as he’s a finalist along with Golden Knights forward Mark Stone and Florida Panthers star Aleksander Barkov.
Already a four-time winner of the award, Bergeron can make history by becoming the first player to win the award five times. Only he and Bob Gainey have been awarded the trophy four times in the history of the league. Bergeron led the league in faceoff wins (714) as well as win percentage (62.3%), with a minimum of 650 attempts. It was the 10th-highest percentage among players to take at least that many faceoffs since the statistic was first tracked in 1997. He also led the Bruins in blocked shots, in addition to being second in takeaways. He helped lead the Bruins to a tie for the fourth-fewest goals-allowed per game (2.39). It would be Bergeron’s first Selke win since 2017.
A takeaway machine, Stone led the NHL in that category with 58 steals. It was the fifth time in the last seven seasons that the captain of the Golden Knights led the league in takeaways. Stone helped the Golden Knights to the best goals against average in the league (2.18), in addition to a league-best 86.8% penalty kill success rate. With the assistance of Stone, Vegas had the best record in the NHL this season. It’s his second nomination for the award in the last three years, and he would be the first winger to win the award since Jere Lehtinen in 2003.
It’s the first Selke nomination for Barkov, as the Finnish captain of the Panthers was critical in the team finishing with the fourth-best record in the NHL. He led Florida in takeaways, shot attempts (SAT) and was second in blocked shots. His 54.9% faceoff percentage ranked 15th in the NHL. He would be the first Panther to win the award.
Prediction: Patrice Bergeron
There’s a reason he’s up for the award every year. After not winning it the last three seasons, Bergeron should finally get No. 5 and join Gainey in elite Selke company.
Who will win the 2021 NHL Jack Adams Award?
The Jack Adams Award, given to that season’s coach that has “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success,” is between the Carolina Hurricanes’ Rod Brind’Amour, Florida Panthers’ Joel Quenneville and Minnesota Wild’s Dean Evason.
The Hurricanes became an elite team this season, finishing the regular season with the third-best record. The team’s .714 points percentage was the highest in franchise history. Under Brind'Amour, Carolina was the only team to rank in the top three of both power-play percentage and penalty-killing percentage. The team made the playoffs for the third season in a row and have appeared to emerge under Brind'Amour as a legitimate threat in the NHL for the near future.
Quenneville and the Panthers made the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Panthers had their highest points percentage (.705) in their history, in addition to most goals per game (3.36). After being tied for the third-worst goals allowed per game last season, Quenneville helped turn the Panthers’ defense to have the ninth-best goals allowed per game (2.70). Florida finished with the fourth-best record in the league.
After being a middle-of-the-pack team for years, the Wild emerged as one of the better teams in the NHL in Evason’s first full season as head coach. Evason helped the Wild to their best points percentage (.670) in franchise history. Their 3.21 goals scored per game was also the most in team history.
Prediction: Rod Brind’Amour
Rod the Bod has brought success back to Raleigh after a nine-year stretch where the Hurricanes failed to make the postseason. The Hurricanes have gone from a good team to a great team to an elite team, thanks in part to Brind’Amour.