Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down the NHL Award voting

Sports debates are a lot of fun. You can sit around with your friends, or sometimes strangers, and debate the merits of different players. When doing so I always remember the saying from: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.” Many philosophy professors use it.

It makes sense, but keep in mind there are differing levels of opinion.

Opinion can range from tastes or preferences, and then go a bit deeper into views about questions which concern most people such as prudence or politics, to views grounded in technical expertise, such as legal or scientific opinions. And of course there are sports opinions which are often an entirely different animal.

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You have strong opinions. It can include your preference for a certain type of player, a position they play and it will include statistics and analytics. And often there is a major emotional aspect, especially when a player plays for the team you love. That creates a bias, and it is difficult to suppress that emotion, which is why sports debates are often some of the fieriest and enjoyable.

It is rare we all see players the same, and some people might even interpret the voting outline differently.

With that, here are my votes for the NHL awards. These are the awards the PHWA voted on. I vote based on this year’s results only, and I try to eliminate bias from previous years or a player’s reputation. I also included the overall voting results. I feel the winners were deserving. I had a different winner for the Selke, but overall I thought the voters got it right.

I’m sure some will debate over a 5th place selection, but ultimately those votes didn’t cost someone an award. We see a lot of different 5th place votes, and while some are headscratchers, none cost a player winning an award.

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NORRIS TROPHY: Given to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.

  1. Mark Giordano (Calgary)
  2. Morgan Reilly (Toronto)
  3. Brent Burns (Brent Burns)
  4. Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay)
  5. Roman Josi (Nashville)

Giordano was consistent all season. He produced a lot of points, 74, but he also had an excellent GF-GA ratio of 79-51 at 5×5. I felt he separated himself from Reilly in the second half of the season.

Here is the voting…

CALDER TROPHY: Given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL.

  1. Elias Petterson (Vancouver)
  2. Miro Heiskanen(Dallas)
  3. Rasmu Dahlin (Buffalo)
  4. Jordan Binnington (St.Louis)
  5. Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa)

Petterson was the easiest winner to pick for me. He had the most goals, the most points and was incredibly dynamic most nights. He tallied 66 points in 71 games and his 0.93 points/game was the fourth highest among rookies in the past decade behind Connor McDavid (1.07), Matt Barzal (1.04) and Artemi Panarin (0.97).

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LADY BYNG TROPHY: Given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

  1. Alex Barkov (Florida)
  2. Morgan Reilly (Toronto)
  3. Ryan O’Reilly (St.Louis)
  4. Sean Monahan (Calgary)
  5. John Klingberg (Dallas)

Barkov played 1,833 minutes, 29th most in the NHL, and second most total minutes among forwards behind Leon Draisaitl’s 1,852. Barkov was 10th in NHL scoring with 96 points so he had a high standard of play. He only took four minor penalties all season. One holding, one hooking and two tripping minors. Reilly had an excellent year as well, and I’m perplexed why so many voters discount defencemen for this award. Their main job is to defend attacking players, and when a player can do that and rarely take a penalty, to me they are playing the game correctly. It still amazes me that Nick Lidstrom never won this award.

SELKE TROPHY: The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

  1. Sidney Crosby  (Pittsburgh)
  2. Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis)
  3. Alex Barkov (Florida)
  4. Patrice Bergeron (Boston)
  5. Brayden Point (Tampa Bay)

Crosby had an unreal season. He had the best even strength GF-GA ratio in the NHL at 82-43. He didn’t cheat to produce offence. He played solid with and without the puck. Again, I vote based solely on this season, and his defensive play was really good. Many elite offensive players get overlooked for their defensive attributes, and often that is valid, but watching Crosby, looking at his numbers and speaking with some players, I determined he had an outstanding season defensively.

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HART TROPHY: Given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.

  1. Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay)
  2. Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)
  3. Brad Marchand (Boston)
  4. Alex Ovechkin (Washington)
  5. Connor McDavid (Edmonton)

I’d much rather vote on the Ted Lindsay award for the Most Outstanding Player. It is more straight forward, but the Hart is still a very prestigious award. I found this year’s voting to be easier than last year. I had Kucherov as my clear #1. After that it was more difficult to find where to slot players. The difference between 2-5 was extremely small. Kucherov had an outstanding season. He had 36 more points than anyone else on Tampa Bay. They scored a lot of goals, but he was involved in a lot of them and having 29% more points than your next teammate is impressive.

The next four rankings could be interchanged and I’m sure you could make a strong argument why you had one player ranked higher than the other. I found it more difficult in most cases to rank them 2-5 than it was to slot someone in at #1.

In previous years I’ve had tougher decisions determining who was #1 for the award, but this year I found myself debating more about the second to fifth slots.


  1. Connor McDavid (Edmonton)
  2. Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)
  3. Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado)

McDavid is the most exciting and explosive centre in the game. He had an incredible season with 116 points. Best player is slightly different than most valuable in my eyes.

Right Wing

  1. Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay)
  2. Patrick Kane  (Chicago)
  3. Mitch Marner (Toronto)

Left Wing

  1. Alex Ovechkin (Washington)
  2. Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton)
  3. Brad Marchand (Boston)

You might wonder how I could have Ovechkin ahead of Marchand here, but have Marchand one slot higher in the Hart. Because of the wording “valuable to the team”. Marchand produced even when David Pastrnak (66GP) and Patrice Bergeron (65GP) were out of the lineup. That was my deciding factor in slotting him higher.


  1. Mark Giordano (Calgary)
  2. Morgan Reilly (Toronto)
  3. Brent Burns (Brent Burns)
  4. Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay)
  5. Roman Josi (Nashville)
  6. John Carlson (Washington)


  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay)
  2. Carey Price (Montreal)
  3. Ben Bishop (Dallas)


Forward –

  1. Elias Petterson (Vancouver)
  2. Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa)
  3. Andrei Svechnikov (Carolina)


  1. Miro Heiskanen(Dallas)
  2. Rasmu Dahlin (Buffalo)


  1. Jordan Binnington (St.Louis)


Who would you have voted for? Explain why you had a player winning an award.

You can see view each individual PHWA votes here.

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