Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Predicting the 2021 NHL Awards

For last week’s WWYDW, we took a look at the wild and wacky All-Canadian Division and tried to predict how that would all shake out. This week, let’s try to predict who’s going to take home the major awards when the 2021 season is all said and done.

The Hart Trophy

2019-20 winner: Leon Draisaitl

Leon Draisaitl was the big winner at last year’s NHL awards. Draisaitl led the NHL in scoring by a pretty wide margin and beat out Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon for the league’s most valuable player. In doing so, Draisaitl became the first German ever to win the award and the fourth Oiler to do so, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and teammate Connor McDavid.

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We haven’t seen a player repeat as Hart Trophy winner since Alexander Ovechkin won in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009, so Draisaitl winning again would be a very impressive feat. Earlier this month, OddsShark had Draisaitl with the fifth-highest odds to win, behind Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, Artemi Panarin, and Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov, of course, will miss the 2021 regular season due to injury.

It feels like MacKinnon is due to win a Hart soon. He finished second in voting in 2018 and 2020 and sixth in voting in 2019 and the Avs looked poised for a big season.

The Art Ross Trophy

2019-20 winner: Leon Draisaitl

An Oiler has won the Art Ross Trophy in three of the past four seasons. Connor McDavid won back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, Nikita Kucherov led the league in scoring with an insane 128-point season in 2019, and Leon Draisaitl won in 2020 with a 110-point showing that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Oilers have more depth this year than they have in recent years but they’re still going to lean heavily on their dynamic duo. If the team’s power-play can be dominant again in 2021, there’s certainly reason to assume that either McDavid or Draisaitl can win yet another Art Ross.

I would have had Kucherov as another favourite for the scoring crown this season on a loaded Tampa Bay squad, but an injury has thrown that out the window. Some other names to consider are Panarin, MacKinnon, and Jack Eichel, who finally has some help in Buffalo now that Taylor Hall is in the mix.

The Rocket Richard Trophy

2019-20 winner: Alexander Ovechkin and David Pastrnak

Last season, Alexander Ovechkin won the ninth Rocket Richard Trophy of his career after a 48-goal performance. He shared the trophy with Boston’s David Pastrnak, who had far and away the best season of his career offensively.

Ovechkin is obviously always a good bet to win the Rocket Richard, even though he’s getting into his late-30s. The Capitals have built a strong offence around Ovechkin and nobody has figured out how to stop his one-timer shots from just inside the blueline.

Elsewhere, Auston Matthews came close to leading the NHL in goals for the first time in his career in 2019-20. He finished with 47 goals, just one behind Ovechkin and Pastrnak. If he can stay healthy, this could be the year Matthews finally takes the NHL scoring crown.

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You also can’t ever count out Draisaitl for this award. He finished last season with 43 goals, only five back of Ovechkin and Pastrnak. Given the way Draisaitl’s production has increased over the past few seasons, him winning a goal-scoring title wouldn’t be at all surprising.

The Norris Trophy

2019-20 winner: Roman Josi

Unlike in the 2000s when Nicklas Lidstrom won nearly every season, the Norris Trophy for the league’s top defenceman has been a crapshoot in recent years. There have been seven different winners over the past seven seasons and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators took home the honours for the first time in his career in 2020.

It’ll again be a very open field in 2021. Josi could certainly win again or we could see a different repeat winner, like Victor Hedman. There are also plenty of names who could win for the first time, like last year’s runner-up John Carlson, soon-to-be free agent Dougie Hamilton, Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, Alex Pietrangelo, and so on.

There’s a long list of great defencemen out there so this is really anybody’s guess.

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The Vezina Trophy

2019-20 winner: Connor Hellebuyck 

Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy for the first time in his career last season with an MVP-calibre performance for the Winnipeg Jets. Two years ago, Hellebuyck had a great season but came up short to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

Like with the Norris, it’s been quite some time since we saw a back-to-back winner for the league’s top goaltender. Martin Brodeur dominated in the 90s, winning the Vezina four times, and his wins in 2007 and 2008 are the last back-to-backs we’ve seen.

If Hellebuyck wills the Jets and their atrocious defence to the playoffs again, he could certainly win another Vezina. Other names to consider are Tuukka Rask, who’s set to become a free agent at the end of the season, 2019 winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Carey Price, who could really shine in a shortened season.

The Calder Trophy

2019-20 winner: Cale Makar

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Finally, we have the Calder Trophy for the league’s top rookie. Last year, it was a coin flip between defencemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, and the former ended up winning despite having three fewer points than the latter.

This year, the odds-on-favourite would be 2020 No. 1 overall pick, Alexis Lafreniere. Not only is Lafreniere a spectacular talent, but he’s also joining a solid team in New York and he could get quite a bit of playing time alongside MVP candidate Atremi Panarin.

Other names to consider are Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin, a couple of phenoms in New York who could become the first goalies to win rookie of the year since Steve Mason did so back in 2009.

What say you, Nation? Who do you predict to take home this year’s NHL awards? Let us know in the comments… 

WWYDW Presented by EPCOR

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