Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Forman Faceoff - 2015/2016 NHL First-Half Season Awards

The 2015/16 NHL Season is officially past the halfway mark, and with that in mind it's time to recognize the players that have made an impact so far this season. I will look back at the Quarter-Season Awards and how the race has changed at the halfway mark. 

Hart Trophy:

1. Patrick Kane - Kane has been by far the most dominant player in the NHL this season and he retains the #1 spot from the quarter-season rankings. Kane has an NHL-leading 60 points including 23 goals (2nd to Benn) and 37 assists (best in the NHL). What's even more impressive about Kane's NHL-leading 60 points is that he's done it in just 42 games. He is the favourite for the Hart Trophy right now.

2. Jamie Benn - The Stars Captain continues to shine bright and retains his #2 spot from the quarter-season rankings. Benn has an NHL-leading 24 goals, and is 2nd to Kane with 52 points. The Stars are off to an impressive 28-10-4 start and Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin have been a huge part of this. Look for Benn to continue to push Kane for the top spot.

3. Braden Holtby - At the half point of the season, the emerging candidate for the Hart Trophy is Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. The Capitals currently sit 1st in the NHL with 61 points (29-7-3) and Holtby is a huge part of this. Holtby is 25-4-1 on the season (most wins in the NHL) with a 1.93 Goals Against Average and a .932 Save Percentage. Holtby picked up a career 41 wins last season in 73 starts, and he's on pace to break that this year with 25 wins in just 32 starts.

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Patrick Kane, 2. Jamie Benn, 3. Henrik Lundqvist

Vezina Trophy:

1. Braden Holtby - Holtby has not only played himself into Hart Trophy consideration but he has taken over the top spot in the Vezina Trophy race as well. He has an NHL-leading 25 wins on the top team in the NHL, as well as a 1.93 Goals Against Average and a .932 Save Percentage. If Holtby can keep it up for the remainder of the season he could be walking away with some hardware in the summer.

2. Jonathan Quick - After missing the playoffs last season, the Kings are off to a fantastic start at 25-12-2 and in 1st place of the Pacific Division this year. A big reason for this has been the steady play of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick is 22-9-1 (2nd to only Holtby in wins) with a 2.12 Goals Against Average and a .923 Save Percentage. The Kings look well on their way to a Pacific Division Title as long as Quick is playing MVP-caliber hockey.

3. Roberto Luongo - The hottest team in hockey right now at the halfway mark is the Florida Panthers, fresh off their 10th straight win the other night. The Panthers have had a big effort from their top line of Huberdeau-Barkov-Jagr and have played well at both ends of the ice. However, a big reason for the Panthers success has been goaltender Roberto Luongo. Lu has been spectacular this season at 18-11-3 with a 2.06 Goals Against Average and a .930 Save Percentage. If the Panthers can continue their success of late then Luongo should remain in the Vezina Trophy race.

Honourable Mentions - Corey Crawford, Jake Allen, Henrik Lunqdvist

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Henrik Lundqvist, 2. Braden Holtby, 3. Carey Price

Norris Trophy:

1. Erik Karlsson - The reigning and two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is off to another fantastic start this season. Karlsson currently sits 5th in the NHL with 42 points (9 goals and 33 assists) and leads all defenseman in assists and points. Karlsson logs an incredible 28:27 time on ice per game, the most of any player in the NHL. If Karlsson continues to produce at this high rate he will play himself into the Hart Trophy race, but for now he is definitely the favourite for the Norris.

2. Brent Burns - Burns has been one of the better offensive defenseman the last few seasons, but he has been a difference-maker this season taking his game to new levels. Burns leads all defenseman with 16 goals, and is 3rd in points with 34 in 37 games (3rd behind Karlsson 42 and Klingberg 38). Burns logs 26:18 time on ice per game, the 5th most in the NHL. What's even crazier about Burns is he's producing like a forward, with an incredible 163 shots on net which is 4th most in the NHL. Look for Burns to continue to push Karlsson in the Norris Trophy race, he certainly has my vote.

3. John Klingberg - Klingberg was the surprise defenseman on this list at the quarter-season mark, but he continues to shine bright for the Stars and remains at #3 at the halfway mark. Klingberg is 2nd to Karlsson with 38 points in 42 games (6 goals and 32 assists). The Dallas Stars are off to an incredible start at 28-10-4, and Klingberg has been a huge part of this offensive surge. If Klingberg can keep up his production in the 2nd half he will remain in conversation for the Norris Trophy.

Honourable Mentions - Drew Doughty, Kris Letang, Ryan Suter

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Erik Karlsson, 2. Brent Burns, 3. John Klingberg

Calder Trophy:

1. Artemi Panarin - It's no secret that Artemi Panarin has been a force for the Blackhawks this season. He has 15 goals, 23 assists for 38 points in 42 games this season, best for all rookies in all 3 categories. Perhaps what has been most impressive about Panarin has been his instant chemistry with new linemates Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov. The trio has been amongst the best lines in the NHL so far this season. Panarin was my Calder Trophy pick before the season, going to be interesting to watch down the stretch.

2. Dylan Larkin - I had Larkin at the #3 spot for the quarter-season rankings, but he leapfrogs Domi into 2nd place at the halfway mark. Larkin has been fantastic for the Detroit Red Wings, another blue-chip prospect drafted by Ken Holland that looks like the real deal. He has 14 goals (2nd to Panarin) 13 assists for 27 points in 39 games and a NHL/rookie-leading +22 on the season. With the Red Wings continuing to build for the future with their youth, Larkin will be a key piece for them going forward. Look for him to keep his name in this race all season.

3. Max Domi - Max Domi was amongst the hottest rookies in the NHL with 8 goals, 12 assists for 20 points in his first 23 games. He has cooled down of late, but still has 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points in 39 games (2nd to Panarin in points and assists). Domi has had great chemistry with fellow rookie Anthony Duclair, look for him to be in conversation for the award all season.

Honorouble Mentions - Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Artemi Panarin, 2. Max Domi, 3. Dylan Larkin

Jack Adams Trophy:

1. Barry Trotz - Trotz is such a consistent Coach that he could be nominated every year, but he has the Capitals playing some of the best hockey in the Ovechkin era right now. The Caps lead the NHL with 61 points (29-7-3), and currently hold a 12 point lead in the Metropolitan Division. With the additions of TJ Oshie, Justin Williams and now Mike Richards, this team is poised for a deep playoff run under Trotz.

2. Lindy Ruff - What a job Lindy Ruff has done with the Dallas Stars this season, a Western Conference best 60 points (28-10-4) and 2nd only to the Capitals (61 points) in the NHL. Ruff has the Stars offense scoring in bunches, with an NHL-best 146 goals in 42 games. He will continue to push Trotz for the award.

3. Mike Babcock - Babcock deserves a ton of credit for being on my list here, a guy coaching one of the worst teams in the NHL. But the fact of the matter is Babcock has done wonders for the Maple Leafs in his first season, the team is actually playing with structure and despite a limited roster is playing quality hockey. Look for Babcock to get more consideration for the Award if the Leafs move up the standings.

Honourable Mentions - Gerard Gallant, Dave Tippett, John Hynes

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Lindy Ruff, 2. Barry Trotz, 3. Mike Babcock

Breakout Player:

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov
 - Kuznetsov retains the #1 spot from the quarter-season rankings as he continues to play fantastic hockey for the Captials. Entering his 2nd full NHL season, Kuznetsov has been spectacular for the Capitals so far. Kuznetsov had 11 goals and 37 points in 80 games during his rookie season, but he has looked like a completely different player with 13 goals, 24 assists for 37 points in 39 games this season. The Capitals have one of the best 1-2 punches at center in the NHL with Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

2. Leon Draisaitl - Leon Draisaitl had a very tough rookie year in the NHL, with just 2 goals and 9 points in 37 games before eventually being sent back to junior halfway through last season. He started this season in the AHL after a poor training camp, but was quickly summoned back to the Oilers when Connor McDavid went down with his shoulder injury. Draisaitl became a center on a line with Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell and they have been together ever since, with Draisaitl and Hall forming particularly strong chemistry. He looks like a completely different player this season, with 9 goals and 23 assists for 32 points in 31 games. It remains to be seen what the lineup will look like once McDavid returns.

3. Kyle Palmieri - Palmieri spent the first 5 years of his NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks, while he was productive at times he never was able to solidify his position in the top 6 and was often up and down in the lineup. His best season came in 2013/14 where he scored 14 goals and 31 points in 71 games, both career-highs for goals and points. He was traded to his hometown team the New Jersey Devils in the summer and has been playing on the top line with Mike Cammalleri. This has translated into immediate success for Palmieri who has a career-high 17 goals and 30 points in 41 games so far this season. If he can keep up his strong play he's on pace for 30 goals and 60 points.

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, 2. John Klingberg, 3. Martin Jones

Most Disappointing Player:

1. Jakub Voracek - Voracek was the #1 spot at the quarter-season rankings with just 13 points in 24 games and remains there at the halfway mark. He has played better of late, but the struggles continue for Voracek as he has just 4 goals and 25 points in 38 games this season. Voracek had a career year last season with 81 points in 82 games. He followed that up by signing an 8-year, $66 million extension this summer. If the Flyers hope to return to the playoffs they will need more from Voracek and Giroux in the 2nd half of the season.

2. Tyler Johnson - TJ had a breakout year last season with 72 points in 77 games and another 23 points in the playoffs. Unfortunately for TJ he hurt his wrist in the playoffs and had surgery in the offseason, and he hasn't looked the same so far this season. He has just 4 goals and 11 points in 27 games, a big reason why Tampa Bay has struggled early on. The "Triplets" line of Palat-Johnson-Kucherov are finally all healthy and it remain to be seen if they can find some of the magic they had last year.

3. Phil Kessel - I had Crosby in the 2nd spot at the Quarter-Season rankings, but he has been on fire lately with 12 points in his last 9 games and looks like himself. However, his Penguins teammate Phil Kessel has been a huge disappointment this season after the big trade from the Maple Leafs in the summer. Kessel was brought it to add scoring to the Penguins already lethal offense, but he has struggled with just 12 goals and 23 points in 40 games. Kessel was supposed to light it up playing with either Crosby or Malkin, but he hasn't been able to find consistency in his game so far this season.

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. Jakub Voracek, 2. Sidney Crosby, 3. Nick Foligno

Comeback Player:

1. David Krejci - Injuries limited David Krejci to just 47 games last season, a big reason why the Bruins missed the playoffs. With a changing Bruins roster it remained to be seen how Krejci would return, but he has been nothing short of spectacular this season. Krejci has 11 goals, 22 assists for 33 points in 35 games (including 3 game-winning goals) and has been a big part of the Bruins early season success.

2. Bobby Ryan - It has been a difficult few years for Bobby Ryan since scoring 31 goals in the 2011/2012 season. He has had a difficult time finding his scoring touch in Ottawa, scoring just 41 goals in his first 2 seasons in Ottawa. He didn't have a terrible year last season, with 18 goals and 54 points in 78 games, but he wasn't a difference maker. Fast-forward to this season, and Bobby Ryan has been just that for the Senators, with 13 goals and 36 points in 39 games.

3. Mats Zuccarello - Perhaps one of the scariest injuries of last season was Mats Zuccarello fracturing his skull during the playoffs courtesy of a slapshot to the head from Ryan McDonagh. Zuccarello reported couldn't speak for 4 days, had blood in his brain and lost feeling in his arm (scary stuff). One only wondered if Zuccarello would be able to ever play hockey again, but flash forward to this season and Zuccarello has been on fire. In 40 games this season, Mats has 16 goals and 31 points, both team-highs for the Rangers. His career-high for goals is 19 (2013/14), but with 16 goals in 40 games he is well on pace to break 20 goals this season.

Quarter-Season Rankings: 1. David Krejci, 2. Bobby Ryan, 3. Mats Zuccarello

Rocket Richard Trophy:
1. Jamie Benn - 24 goals
2. Patrick Kane - 23 goals
3. Vladimir Tarasenko - 23 goals

Art Ross Trophy:
1. Patrick Kane - 60 points
2. Jamie Benn - 52 points
3. Tyler Seguin - 50 points

Selke Trophy:
1. Jonathan Toews
2. Anze Kopitar
3. Ryan O'Reilly

Mark Messier Leadership Award:
1. Jamie Benn
2. Jonathan Toews
3. Max Pacioretty

General Manager of the Year Award:
1. Brian MacLellan - Washington Capitals
2. Jim Nill - Dallas Stars
3. Marc Bergevin - Montreal Canadiens

Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff

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