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NHL Awards Given Tonight – VHN Picks The Winners

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It’s an unusual year no matter how you slice it for the NHL. A bubble for teams just to complete the season. Constant testing for the COVID-19 virus. And now shoehorning the NHL Awards into a one-hour socially distanced show tonight before Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final.

The pandemic in no way diminishes the NHL’s awards. Even with a shortened regular season, you still had to be one of the best at your position to earn a nomination. VHN gazes into the crystal ball to see if we can predict the winners.

Please keep in mind these are regular season awards – voting was completed before the playoffs.

First the winners we already know:

Art Ross – Leon Draisaitl (EDM)

Rocket Richard – tie Alex Ovechkin (WSH) and David Pastrnak (BOS)

Jennings Trophy – Tuuka Rask and Jaroslav Halak (BOS)

Lady Bing Trophy – Nathan MacKinnon (COL)

Jim Gregory GM of the Year – Lou Lamoreillo (NYI)

Jack Adams – Bruce Cassidy (BOS)

Bill Masterton – Bobby Ryan (OTT)

Selke Trophy – Sean Couturier (PHI)

Messier Leadership Award – Mark Giordano (CGY)

King Clancy Trophy – Matt Dumba (MIN)

Willy O’Ree Award – Dampy Brar

Tonight’s NHL Awards

Calder Trophy – Rookie of the Year

Winner: Cale Makar (COL)

Runners Up: Quinn Hughes (VAN), Dominik Kubalik (CHI)

While Hughes puts up slightly better numbers, Makar is my choice because he can play all situations and his game displays an amazing maturity that belies his rookie status. If we’re not just awarding points (which happens more than I like) Makar was the best freshman.

Norris Trophy – Defenseman of the Year

Winner: Victor Hedman (TBL)

Runners Up: John Carlson (WSH), Roman Josi (NSH)

Speaking of awards where the winners tend to put up gaudy numbers, we have the Norris Trophy. The award should be for the best all-around defenseman but several times in recent years that has not been the case. That said, I think the contributions of Hedman to the Lightning are so important that he wins a close one against Carlson. Josi is an excellent defenseman and I love his game, but actually think he’s had better years previous to this when he deserved more recognition and possibly even a win. He deserves the recognition and winning would be a major step for markets like Nashville.

Vezina Trophy – Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Tuuka Rask (BOS)

Runners Up: Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL)

Rask’s numbers are hard to ignore. He posted 26 wins, a 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage. If we’re talking most valuable goalie to his team, Hellebuyck wins. Vasilevskiy is hampered by his slow start. Next year we might have a whole new crop of names here, but for now the old guard reigns.

Ted Lindsay Award – NHLPA-voted MVP

Winner: Leon Draisaitl (EDM)

Runners Up: Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Artemi Panarin (NYR)

The doubt about whether Draisaitl was riding the coattails of Connor McDavid were removed this season when the latter went down with an injury and the former just kept right on scoring. Draisaitl finished the year as the league’s scoring leader and showed he has indeed broken through as an impact player on his own. If the playoffs counted, MacKinnon might have won instead.

Hart Trophy – NHL MVP

Winner: Leon Draisaitl (EDM)

Runners Up: Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Artemi Panarin (NYR)

See above, because I think these two awards will match up this year. Players obviously see things differently because they’re on the ice, but I think both parties can agree on the monster year Draisaitl had.

Let us know who you think wins the NHL Awards in the comments!

 

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Golden Knights Gameday: Drop That Puck!

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Vegas Golden Knights VGK opening night

The Vegas Golden Knights are ready to drop the puck and start the 2021 NHL season tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. Golden Knights Gameday will be a recurring feature giving you the rundown for that day’s game.

Vegas Golden Knights 0-0-0 vs. Anaheim Ducks 0-0-0

Vegas comes into the season after a playoff run that lasted until the Western Conference Final where the lost to the Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights made big waves this off-season by signing top free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and trading center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets, as well as dealing defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. This will also be the first full season for head coach Pete DeBoer, who took over midway through last season. Still boasting one of the deepest lineups in the NHL, the Golden Knights look to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in three seasons.

Anaheim finished last season out of the playoffs at 29-33-9. The Ducks have a pleasant surprise on their hands after the emergence of 19-year-old Trevor Zegras at the World Junior Championships. Zegras led the tournament in scoring and captured MVP honors while leading Team USA to a gold medal victory over Canada. For a Ducks team that scored a fourth-worst 187 goals-for last season, the injection of offense is sorely needed. But questions will hover over the rookie including his readiness for the NHL, as the Ducks have assigned him to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls to start the season.

The Ducks have an aging core led by Ryan Getzlaf, and the team’s big off-season signing was 31-year-old Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Perhaps the biggest question for the Ducks will be what to expect from starting goalie John Gibson. As Gibson goes, so go the Ducks.

Keep An Eye On

Vegas – All eyes will be on Alex Pietrangelo in his debut for the Golden Knights. Pietrangelo signed with Vegas via free agency prior to the season and has won a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019. Last season Pietrangelo led the Blues in Time On Ice at 24:11 per game and power play TOI at 3:06 per game. Pietrangelo registered his fourth 50-point season last year with 16-36-52 and tied a career-high with six power play goals.

Anaheim – Josh Gibson. It’s not an exaggeration when I say he’s the reason the Ducks will sink or swim this season. The addition of Shattenkirk is nice for Anaheim, but Gibson has to return to Vezina-candidate form if Anaheim will have a chance at making the playoffs. The last four years Gibson has played 50 games or more and registered 20 wins in five straight seasons. Everything centers on him having an excellent campaign.

Notes:

VGK

  • Vegas named its first captain in team history yesterday, announcing Mark Stone will wear the “C” this season. Stone’s alternates will be Alex Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith.
  • Last year Vegas went 3-1 against Anaheim, the only team the Golden Knights played four times in the shortened campaign. Mark Stone led the Golden Knights with two goals and nine points in those four games.
  • A major question was answered earlier this week when the Golden Knights waived veteran defenseman Nick Holden to get under the NHL’s salary cap.

ANH

  • Anaheim has not played a game since March 11, 2020 when they suffered a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. That’s a total of 309 days.
  • The Ducks are 2-8-2 all-time against the golden Knights and 1-4-1 in Las Vegas.
  • Should Ryan Getzlaf lead Anaheim in assists this year, he will establish a new NHL record for most consecutive years leading a team in that category at 14 seasons. Currently Getzlaf shares the record with Anze Kopitar, Joe Thornton and Wayne Gretzky.
  • Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller enters the season two wins behind Dominik Hasek (389) for 14th on the NHL’s all-time wins leaderboard, and needs 13 wins for 400 in his career.

 

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Are The Golden Knights a West Division Underdog?

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West Division Vegas Golden Knights Gold Jersey

The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a run to the Western Conference Final last season. The majority of the core from last season is intact and healthy, and they upgraded on defense by signing Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Yet there are many hockey observers who do not consider the Golden Knights a favorite to win the Honda West Division this year.

Blame the Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado seems to have become this year’s media darling, the sexy pick to win a Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001. The Avs are a great team, led by arguably the league’s best all-around player in Nathan MacKinnon. Colorado’s forward depth is impressive. They got even better on defense when they took advantage of the New York Islanders need to move Devon Toews for a ham sandwich and a bag of pucks, then inked him to a new deal. Oh, and he’s now playing on the top pair with 2019 Hobey Baker winner and last year’s NHL Rookie of the Year Cale Makar.

So I get it. The Avalanche are a force to be reckoned with, and no one will overlook them on the schedule in the west division. There is a feeling that had this team not run into the injuries they sustained last season, perhaps they win it all. I can’t argue with how good the Avs are. But I can tell you I think Vegas is better than people realize.

Maybe it’s a little bit of fatigue with the Golden Knights because they’ve been front-and-center for four years now. Perhaps outsiders see that Paul Stastny is gone and wonder if Vegas has the depth at center needed to keep scoring. Or you see two starting-caliber goalies on the roster and wonder how they can co-exist peacefully. Or… you get the idea. Whatever the reason, there’s no need for VGK fans to feel slighted. I think it will play as an advantage for the Golden Knights.

If you’ve watched Chandler Stephenson play with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, you know he looked more than capable between them. It’s easy to write that off as Patches and Stone making everyone look good (which they certainly can do). Credit is due to Stephenson for stepping up his game when centering the dynamic duo. And if this sticks for the season I think Stephenson is due for a monster year.

Don’t forget, Cody Glass is starting as the third line center and is a very bright spot in the middle for Vegas as well in seasons to come. So question the depth at center all you like, Vegas is just fine there.

In fact, with the upgraded blueline chipping in offensively as well I don’t see goal scoring being an issue for this Golden Knights team at all. When they match up with the Avs, the real question will be keeping the puck out of the net. Matching up with other teams’ top six forwards should favor Vegas as the Golden Knights boast one of the best top four defensive groups in the league.

The other big advantage for the VGK this season is all the attention being focused on the Avalanche. Not since the inaugural season has the weight of external expectations been lighter. There’s something freeing about that, whether players admit it or not. There’s also some motivation in there, knowing that you have something to prove every time you take the ice. It can be a real mental edge to this team to feel like the underdog as well.

Vegas fans shouldn’t mind the Colorado Avalanche getting all the attention in the Honda West Division to start the season. The Golden Knights are still dangerous, still talented, and still hungry to win a Stanley Cup. It will just feel that much better to prove people wrong along the way.

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Vegas Golden Knights Name Mark Stone First Captain

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Mark Stone captain Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights named Mark Stone as the first captain in team history today. Vegas has never had a team captain in its previous three seasons, instead choosing a rotating cast of alternate captains.

Stone served as an alternate captain last season after coming over via trade with the Ottawa Senators.

Via a team statement Stone said:

“We have so much leadership in this group. We have guys who have been here since Day One creating a culture. I think I’ve helped add to that culture and a lot of the guys who have come later on have helped add to the culture.”

Alex Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith will don the “A” for Vegas this season.

Here’s the reveal video if you prefer the drama:

 

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