The All-Star Game in St. Louis won’t be the only time this year the NHL’s elite will gather in one place.
Many on the ice Saturday could reunite after the season when the league hands out its annual hardware at the NHL Awards.
With the schedule barely half over, there’s plenty of hockey to be played when the season resumes next week. But already it’s clear who’s making a case for some of the league’s top honors.
Hart Trophy: player most valuable to his team
Front-runner: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Challenger: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Underdog: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
McDavid isn’t just leading the NHL in points (76) and dropping jaws with his blistering speed and highlight-reel goals. He’s helping the Oilers actually contend after they struggled to keep pace in recent years. But if Edmonton falters, that could open the door for MacKinnon — especially if the Avalanche catches the Blues for the top spot in the Central Division. The Bruins are deep, which could go against Pastrnak, but a 60-goal campaign might bolster his chances. He’s on pace for 59.
Norris Trophy: best all-around defenseman
Front-runner: John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Challenger: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
Underdog: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
The best defenseman on the NHL’s best team at the break, Carlson might have this award locked up; he averages top-10 minutes and has a league-high 60 points among defenders. Josi might be able to close the gap if he helps the Predators climb into a playoff spot. After that, the field is wide open because Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton suffered a broken leg. He was third in midseason voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Hedman could end up as the other finalist.
Selke Trophy: best defensive forward
Front-runner: Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
Challenger: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
Underdog: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
A four-time winner, Bergeron always seems to be in the running, and he’s back in contention with the Bruins vying for the top spot in the NHL. But keep an eye on Couturier, who actually finished first in the PHWA’s midseason voting. He’s having a productive season (43 points), is strong on faceoffs and very responsible in his own end. Barkov is still seeking his first nomination even though he’s long been deserving; maybe this is the year, with the Panthers a tough out under new coach Joel Quenneville.
Calder Trophy: top rookie
Front-runner: Cale Makar, Avalanche
Challenger: Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
Underdog: Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres
After an impressive NHL debut during last season’s playoffs, Makar continues to dazzle with his on-ice awareness and shot. But Hughes is only three points behind him and Olofsson just two. Buffalo’s struggles might hurt Olofsson’s candidacy, but Hughes could gain more attention if Vancouver stays in the playoff race. Already, he’s averaging 21-plus minutes a game.
Vezina Trophy: best goalie
Front-runner: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Challenger: Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
Underdog: Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
With 40 starts, 21 wins and four shutouts, Hellebuyck is among the leaders in net. Binnington has more victories and a better goals-against average, but Kuemper’s .929 save percentage is tops among all three. If he can regain form after getting sidelined with a lower-body injury last month, the former Wild netminder would seriously improve his chances.
Jack Adams Award: coach of the year
Front-runner: Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
Challenger: John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
Underdog: Travis Green, Canucks
After guiding the Penguins to an 18-6-4 record while captain Sidney Crosby was hurt, Sullivan will receive serious consideration — particularly if Pittsburgh remains dangerous without injured Jake Guentzel. Tortorella is making a similar case in Columbus, with the Blue Jackets in a playoff spot despite missing their starting goalie. As for Green, his Canucks are leading the Pacific Division at the break, and if they continue to battle for that spot, that should earn him kudos.
Sarah McLellan covers the Wild and the NHL for the Star Tribune. email@example.com.